This Mortal Soil

A new UN report on the Earth's land offers dire consequences. But one solution is right under our feet.

August 27, 2019

11:36 am

We all know that the climate crisis presents existential threats. But one challenge of getting people to respond to the impending danger is that, sometimes, it can be hard to visualize the actual impact of the crisis.

Now a new report issued this month by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on how land will be impacted by rising global temperatures offers some dire — and specific — warnings, on everything from food security to soil degradation, and even to the ability of humankind to sustain itself.

If humans ignore the challenge, “Food will become scarcer, grocery prices will spike, and crops will lose their nutritional value due to the climate crisis,” was CNN’s takeaway from the report.

Fast Company concurred, noting that “the food system will also be hit particularly hard if climate change isn’t addressed. Farmers are already seeing a reduction in yield as climate change drives heat waves, droughts, and flooding.”

The report — officially titled “IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land” — was two years in the making and the result of cooperative work by 107 leading scientists from 52 countries. Issued after a week-long meeting of the IPCC in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this month at the World Meteorological Organization, it covers “climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.”

When presented with such an overwhelming challenge, it is also sometimes difficult to know precisely what to do next. But one solution to counter the land-based challenges presented by rising global temperatures is regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture aggressively targets climate change by facilitating carbon drawdown from the atmosphere and capturing it in the soil. That’s a carbon win-win.

“Carbon is not our enemy,” notes Larry Kopald — Founder and President of The Carbon Underground, an Earth’s Call Fund partner whose mission is to educate about how soil can fight climate change — in the video “The Soil Story.” “It’s the building block of life.”

In an article about the latest IPCC report, the Guardian noted that “Soil, upon which humanity is entirely dependent, is being lost more than 100 times faster than it is being formed in ploughed areas, and lost 10 to 20 times faster even on fields that are not tilled.”

So solutions that target soil regeneration, such as those suggested by The Carbon Underground, are particularly relevant — and urgent.

As Fast Company noted, “We have to completely transform how we use land and grow food.”

Sometimes, the answer can be right under our feet.

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