Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More Tools May Be At Hand To Combat Global Warming

Date:
January 25, 1999
Source:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Summary:
Farms, forests and grasslands around the world can play an important role in combating global warming in the 21st century by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing (sequestering) it in the soil.

Contact: Mike Berriochoa, (509) 375-2460

ST. MICHAELS, Md. - Farms, forests and grasslands around the world can play an important role in combating global warming in the 21st century by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing (sequestering) it in the soil. That was the major conclusion of a recent workshop in St. Michaels, Md., organized by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.

Scientists have calculated that over the next 50 to 100 years, agricultural lands alone have the potential to remove anywhere from 40 to 80 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

“By making modest changes in farming and forestry practices, plants and soils can be used much more efficiently to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This not only cleans the atmosphere but increases organic matter in the soil where it is beneficial,” said Cesar Izaurralde, staff scientist with the global climate change group at Pacific Northwest. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is believed widely to be the chief cause of global climate change.

Workshop participants also concluded that:

• There are practical and economically viable farming methods that increase carbon storage in soil, but research is needed to develop methods that increase the amount stored and the length of time it remains in the soil.

• It is possible to monitor changes in soil carbon content, but current methods are crude and expensive. Technological development could provide new and widely applicable methods at a reasonable cost.

• There are vast areas of degraded and decertified lands throughout the world, many in developing countries where improvements in rangeland management, dryland farming and irrigation can add carbon to the soil. These changes also will stabilize the soil against erosion and increase its fertility and productivity.

Deforestation and the use of fossil fuels release about eight billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually in the form of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Most is removed from the atmosphere by plants or by the world’s oceans, but a significant portion remains airborne. Consequently, atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase at the rate of 3.5 billion tons every year. Reductions can be achieved by applying tried-and-true land management practices such as reduced tillage, increased use of rotational crops such as alfalfa, clover and soybeans and by an efficient return of animal wastes to the soil. Forests and grasslands afford additional capacity for carbon sequestration when established on former crop lands.

“Changing farming practices won’t solve the problem, but it will buy us time until technology is on line to reduce the generation of harmful greenhouse gases,” said Dr. Norman Rosenberg, chief scientist with the global climate change group at Pacific Northwest.

“When croplands are planted to perennial grasses under the Conservation Reserve Program, as much as a half ton or more of carbon per acre can be returned to the soil annually. And when agricultural land reverts to forest, soil carbon can accumulate at even greater rates, especially in the tropics,” Rosenberg said.

The recent Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change would, if ratified, require developed nations to reduce their net carbon emissions in the period 2008-2012 to less than was emitted in 1990.

Not everyone, however, supports using soil carbon sequestration in the calculations that are used to determine a country’s net carbon emissions.

“I think one reason for opposition to this idea is a perception that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to verify claims from around the world that carbon actually is being sequestered in soils. This is an issue that we will have to resolve,” said Wilfred “Mac” Post of Oak Ridge.

Uncertainty about the costs, benefits and risks of new practices will make producers reluctant to adopt new technologies to increase carbon sequestration. However, Drs. Gregg Marland of Oak Ridge and Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University said that financial incentives could increase the adoption of such practices and potentially provide an addition to farmer income. This could be accomplished through government payments, tax credits and/or emissions trading within the private sector. They said programs designed to accomplish these objectives should be explored.

The workshop was attended by nearly 100 U.S. and Canadian scientists, practitioners and policy-makers representing agricultural commodity groups and industries, Congress, government agencies, national laboratories, universities and the World Bank. They addressed scientific and policy problems associated with soil carbon sequestration. Support was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, the Monsanto Company and NASA.

Pacific Northwest is one of DOE’s nine multiprogram national laboratories and conducts research in areas of environment, energy, health sciences and national security. Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, has operated Pacific Northwest since 1965.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "More Tools May Be At Hand To Combat Global Warming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990122180841.htm>.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. (1999, January 25). More Tools May Be At Hand To Combat Global Warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990122180841.htm
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "More Tools May Be At Hand To Combat Global Warming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990122180841.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Obama: No Nation Gets Pass on Climate Change

Obama: No Nation Gets Pass on Climate Change

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) — In a forceful appeal for international cooperation on limiting carbon pollution, President Barack Obama warned world leaders at the UN Climate Summit on Tuesday that the globe's climate is changing faster than efforts to address it. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Protesters Stage Wall Street Climate Sit-in

Raw: Protesters Stage Wall Street Climate Sit-in

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A day after over 100,000 people marched against climate change, more than 1,000 activists blocked parts of Manhattan's financial district. Over 100 people, including a person wearing a white polar bear suit, were arrested Monday night. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday warned about the potential "catastrophe" if global warming was not dealt with in a "powerful" way. Duration: 01:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins