Categories: News

Everything we know about soil science might be wrong

You may have heard the hype around soil’s capacity to store carbon. The subject has received a lot of attention in policy discussions about farms’ potential to mitigate climate change. (For the record, we’ve been skeptical about how long sequestered carbon actually stays in the ground.) This week, Quanta Magazine splashed even more cold water on the idea: New soil research has found that carbon-storing molecules, long thought to last hundreds of years underground, may actually break down and release carbon back into the atmosphere. It’s a paradigm shift writer Gabriel Popkin compares to quantum mechanics being overthrown in the field of physics. And the consequences are vast: Major climate models rely on this now-outdated understanding of soil science, and the algorithms used to quantify greenhouses gases mitigated by climate-friendly farming strategies “are probably overly optimistic.” 

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