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Climate Change and Soil

What is climate?

Climate is an average of weather

(temperature, rainfall...) over a long
time (more than 2-3 weeks).

What makes climate change?

Changes in the sun

Changes in the earth's orbit

Changes in the clouds

Changes in ice sheets

Volcanic eruptions

Changes in the gases in the atmosphere

Internal Wiggles (for example El Nino)

Climate changes can be natural or human caused.

Humans can affect the climate by changing the gases
in the atmosphere (greenhouse effect)

The Greenhouse Effect

The most important human-affected greenhouse gases are:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Methane (CH4)

Life Span in the

2-30 years
6-11 years

Heat-Trapping Effectiveness
(1 is lowest)
20-30 (21)

Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

Fluorinated Gases

120-150 years
65-111 years


Greenhouse Gas

Human influence on climate:

the Greenhouse Effect

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas

Human burning of fossil fuels, and plants releases CO2

Sources of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal),
solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of
other chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement).
Methane (CH4): production and transport of coal, natural gas,
and oil; livestock and other agricultural practices and by the
decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O): agricultural and industrial activities, as
well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.
Fluorinated Gases: (Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons,
and sulphur hexafluoride): synthetic, powerful greenhouse
gases from a variety of industrial processes.
Sources: EPA, IPCC

Have we changed the climate?

Changes in global temperature over the last 125 years

Have we changed the climate?

Changes in global temperature over the last 1,000 years

Have we changed the climate?

Glaciers are retreating all

over world

The South Cascade glacier
retreated dramatically in
the 20th century


Climate change: Vulnerability to sea level rise

Bangladesh is projected to lose about 17% of its land area with

a sea level rise of one meter - very difficult to adapt due to lack
of adaptive capacity


Summary of Projected Climate Changes

Temperature to increase 3oC by 2050 and 5oC by 2070 over

land areas
Lower increases in temperature in maritime environments
Precipitation increases in high latitudes (temperate) but a
drying in mid-latitudes (sub-tropics) over Asia
Equatorial tropical zone uncertain but little mean change
No increase in cyclone frequency but intensity could increase
by 10-20%
Accelerated melting of glaciers 65% of Chinas glaciers will not
exist by 2050 with current and projected warming trends
Modest sea level rise (c. 50cm)

The thin layer on the surface of the Earth on

which the living beings of the earth survive since
it is the layer of materials in which plants have
their roots.

Soil provides us grains for our food,

cotton for our clothes and timber for
our homes. It is one of the most
important resources for mankind

The Lord infused His Light into the dust, and created the world
723 a

Soil is the most important natural

resource on planet earth

We know more of the celestial
bodies than the soil underfoot

Soil Formation
Soil is formed as rocks are
weathered and covered with
organic material.

It takes about 500 years for 1 inch

of topsoil to form.

The simple maths behind Soil Carbon

One hectare = 10,000 sq. metres

Soil 33.5 cm deep (1 foot approx)
Bulk density = 1.4 tonnes per cubic metre
Soil mass per hectare = about 4,700 tonnes
1% change in soil organic matter = 47 tonnes
Which gives about 27 tonnes Soil Carbon
This captured 100 tonnes of atmospheric CO2

Are agricultural soils the answer to climate change ?

CAPACITY: Soil organic carbon is the largest
reservoir in interaction with the atmosphere
Vegetation 650 gigatons,
Atmosphere 750 gigatons,
Soil 1500 gigatons

COST EFFECTIVE: Enhancing the natural

processes that remove CO2 from the
atmosphere is thought to be the most costeffective means of reducing atmospheric levels
of CO2

Soil is a part of the solution for climate change

Soil plays a pivotal role in global carbon and nitrogen
The amount of carbon stored in soil organic matter is
nearly 2.5 times higher than that in the above ground
biomass and around 2 times as high as in the
Thus even small changes in soil organic carbon content
can have great impact on carbon dioxide (CO2)
concentrations in the atmosphere.
The maintenance of existing carbon reservoirs is among
the highest priorities in striving for climate change



Only soils can sequester significant

amounts of atmospheric Carbon in the
next 30 years. Every other solution will
take 30 years to start shifting
meaningful volumes

Soil may not be beautiful

but it does beautiful things

Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it

will grow our food, our fuel, and our shelter and surround us with
beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity
with it
from Vedas, the Sanskrit Scripture, 1500 BC