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How Organic Farming, Carbon Ranching, and Soil and Land Conservation Can Help Solve the Climate Crisis

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Organic Transitions page.

Novelist Wallace Stegner once said that all books should try to answer an "anguished question." I believe the same is true for ideas, movements and emergency efforts. In the case of climate change, one anguished question is this: what can we do right now to help reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide from its current level back to 350 ppm?

Today, the only possibility of large-scale removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is through plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon sequestration activities. Strategies include: enriching soil carbon, no-till farming with perennials, employing climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat, restoring degraded watersheds, forests and rangelands, increasing biodiversity, lowering agricultural emissions, and producing local food.

Over the past decade, these strategies have been demonstrated individually to be both practical and profitable. The key is to bundle them into an economic and ecological whole with the aim of reducing the atmospheric content of CO2 while producing substantial co-benefits for all living things.

The climate challenge now confronting all societies on the planet is as daunting as it is straightforward: under a Business-As-Usual scenario, the rising content of heat-trapping trace gases in the atmosphere, principally carbon dioxide, pose a dramatic and potentially catastrophic threat to life on Earth.

The science of climate change and its correlation with industrial activity is clear. The challenge - and the opportunity - we face can be summed up in two pertinent graphs from the Scripps Institute at UC San Diego (http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/program_history) which chart the rise of the atmospheric content of CO2, a heat-trapping gas that has significantly contributed to the rise in the Earth's temperature since 1750.   


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