Greenhouse gases created by humans are the leading cause of the changing climate and unprecedented weather conditions we are experiencing today. Reducing our carbon emissions to net zero is the first step to ensuring we can reverse the effects of warming.
Once we have overcome this hurdle, the next step is to drawdown the carbon that still lingers in the fragile atmosphere of our Earth. How do we do this? There are many ideas out there on how we can use technology to draw carbon out of the atmosphere, and one way is through using land.
Plants naturally absorb C02 from the atmosphere, transform it into nutrients which allow them to grow and then store remaining carbon in the soil, all through the process of photosynthesis. On a larger scale, this is known as "carbon sequestration". The word, "sequester" is used more widely in the agricultural industry as it refers to the use of carbon to encourage crop growth, but it's pretty similar to the cycle of photosynthesis.
There is unending potential for using the carbon in our atmosphere to enrich global environments, here's how farmland and forests can be used to help reverse global heating.
Traditional agriculture practices have reversed the natural carbon storage process of the land, but there is a solution in the world of regenerative agriculture.
We gave Helen McCosker a call , she's the co-founder of Carbon 8 and has been practicing regenerative techniques on her farm for years. She explains how a carbon cycle works on a farm where nature takes its own course:
"The thing about carbon in the soil, it's actually all about diversity and the biggest, quickest way that you can actually get carbon in the soil is through plants, the breakdown of plants. It feeds the soil and that's actually how you get the carbon working...The other thing about soil and increasing carbon in soil, it's also about biology. So the little critters, the bacteria and the fungi, they all speak to each other in the soil. They communicate with the plants to draw more nutrients."
"Basically carbon is just organic matter. It's a breakdown of plants, or the breakdown of manure and as a result of that drawdown, we increase carbon in the soil."
Farming in a way that promotes carbon storage, isn't just good for our atmosphere, it also has benefits for food security!
"So that's another really amazing benefit about high carbon soils, that they actually create plants and food that is nutrient dense food. If you've got low carbon soil levels that have been stripped of all of their nutrients, then basically you have plants that don't have that same high level nutrient content ." Helen told us.
Helen also described the role that cattle can play in this way of farming, explaining that cattle can also contribute to storing carbon in the land and can 'fast track' the system.
"To keep it really simple. Cattle basically move their manure and tread their manure into the soil and smash it down. The soil then takes that manure and draws it down and creates that extra diversity and moves it together in a powerful way."
For cattle to benefit the land in this way, the land must not be overgrazed with the cattle mimicking natural migration patterns.
The Amazon rainforest is often called the "lungs of the planet" because of the way it absorbs and stores so much of the world's carbon and its capacity to turn that into a fifth of the oxygen we breathe.
When the Amazon burned last year, ancient carbon that has been stored in the trees, was released into the atmosphere in the form of C02. The age of the trees is important because the older they are, the more carbon it has had the ability to store. Natural reservoirs that store carbon like this, are known as "carbon sinks".
But the more trees that are burned, the less there are to absorb the carbon emissions. What's more, they also release all the carbon they've stored up over the years. Ecologist Thomas Lovejoy estimates, the world's atmosphere is currently holding about 415 parts per million of carbon, and the destruction of the Amazon would add roughly 38 parts per million, or 10%.
If we value the Amazon for the important air cleaning processes it produces naturally, we need to end deforestation and begin investing in saving forests.
Reforesting is a huge step we can take towards regenerating natural carbon sinks. Far beyond planting trees, protecting our forests means planting a diversity of species, including natives, and creating nature reserves with associated tourism jobs.
By Madeleine Achenza