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Maybe with more CO2?

30 Oct 2019 | News Roundup

The UN just solved the climate crisis, for a mere $300 billion. Which is hardly chump change but at least doesn’t require major changes in lifestyle. And here’s the dirt on it: dirt. It seems we can just lock all the naughty extra CO2 into the soil if, Bloomberg News reports, we just grow more plants on about half of the 2 billion hectares of land “that has been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation and other largely human factors”. Say, what a great idea. Grow more plants. As apparently we have been doing since the 1970s by providing them with more of what they really need: CO2.

When climate change is under discussion even the rather lax rules for coherence imposed on public debate appear to be suspended entirely. For instance Bloomberg writes that “’We have lost the biological function of soils. We have got to reverse that,’ said Barron J. Orr, lead scientist for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. ‘If we do it, we are turning the land into the big part of the solution for climate change.’” We have lost the biological function of soils? Really? Our back yard still has stuff growing in it. Some of which we actually wanted. The world has more food than it has ever had, not just absolutely but per capita.

In saying so we are not defending all the world’s agricultural practices, from industrial monoculture in rich countries to desperate, soil-depleting subsistence farming in poor ones. Undoubtedly better care of cultivated as of wild land would be good for the environment and human well-being. Well, perhaps undoubtedly is too strong a word. The day before that Bloomberg piece, PBS reported on a new study claiming that organic farming could worsen global warming. No, really. According to PBS “a wholesale shift to organic farming could increase net greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 21 percent.” Is there anything alarmists aren’t against?

Including the carbon cycle. Because whatever the cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2 in the late 20th century, it increased crop yields on marginal land and helped reverse desertification. Surely that at least is good. Except to hear the CBC tell it, calling CO2 a building block of life is now proof that you don’t understand plant biology (see the jibe half-way down at the mayor of Medicine Hat) rather than being what you learned in Grade 5 unless you were asleep in class.

So we have to make more plants grow to get rid of CO2 rather than by giving it to them. What alien plant life will replace the stuff we now have remains to be seen.

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