Preventing the climate crisis will firstly require drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels and thus greenhouse gas emissions, and secondly protecting and enlarging the spaces in which greenhouse gases are stored. Soils, forests and oceans are vital “sinks” for greenhouse gases such as carbon, methane and nitrous oxide. Soils contain more carbon than all plants and the atmosphere combined.
Climate change accelerates soil respiration. As a result, greenhouse gases escape into the atmosphere more quickly, in turn accelerating global warming. In addition to the climate, it is above all the form of agriculture that determines whether greenhouse gases remain in the soil or not: Must rainforests give way to oil palm plantations? Are synthetic fertilizers or organic compost applied to fields?
Studies show that while carbon sequestration in soils or forests is important, it cannot be an alternative to massive emission reductions. Keeping oil, coal and gas – i.e. highly concentrated carbon – in the deep layers of the earth is much more effective than concentrating on the storage of surface carbon in soils or trees, as there is no guarantee that surface carbon will remain in the soil in the long term. Moreover, the scientific community disagrees on consistent and sound methods of calculating soil storage. Storage capacity varies greatly depending on the climate zone, geological conditions, soil composition, weather conditions and agricultural methods.