Climate Change, Development & Aid, Environment, Food and Agriculture, Global, Headlines


Fighting Climate Change: We Must Not Forget the Soils

One way to tackle climate change is to start at the soil level. This is why.

ILLINOIS, United States, Sep 25 2019 (IPS) - Around the world, citizens took to the streets to demand their governments address climate change. In the U.S., this widespread activism illustrates the findings of a newly released report by the Chicago Council on Global affairs which found for the first time that the majority of Americans consider climate change a threat and the most critical foreign policy issue facing the country.

It is crucial to address climate change. Around the world, it is causing repetitive droughts, flooding events, deadly storms, sweltering temperatures, and crop failures. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, climate change and climate-related events are driving mass migration around the globe.

Furthermore, climate-related events can spur crises, and amplify conflict or accelerate terrorism in countries or regions already dealing with fragility and instability.

Affected too by climate change are our ecosystems and the organisms who are depended on these ecosystems, including birds, wildlife, insects, and soils dwelling organisms.  A recent study published in Science reported that the number of birds in North America has declined since 1970. Earlier this year, another study suggested that 40 percent of insect species are in decline.

What can we do? One way to tackle climate change is to start at the soil level. This is why.

First, globally, soils already hold three times as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere, and there is room for much more. According to a study in Nature, enhanced carbon storage in the world’s soils could reduce greenhouse gas concentrations by  50 and 80 percent.

Second, soil as an ecosystem is the home to billions of several microorganisms that are essential for fighting climate change and achieving an environmentally sustainable future. Unseen to the naked eye, these microorganisms that include bacteria, fungi are hard at work,  playing many critical roles in carbon and nutrient cycling and agriculture.

Thirdly, these microorganisms aid in keeping soil healthy. Healthy soils are essential in agriculture.  Globally, one-third of our soils are degraded and unhealthy.

According to research, soil-dwelling microorganisms can help restore degraded soils, increase agricultural productivity, and help revolutionize agriculture.

Revolutionizing agriculture and restoring the health of the soils is also crucial, especially in many developing countries, including African countries that are dependent on agriculture as a source of livelihood.

Increased agricultural productivity and income would power a virtuous cycle, enabling poor farmers to invest even more in the sustainability and productivity of their farms. These would also cut down on the number of migrants, since; many people migrate because the land in which they live can no longer support agriculture.

What is more, is that the use of soil microbes to improve soil health and mitigate climate change would be invaluable in parts of the developing world hardest hit by drought and rising temperatures.

Of course, taking it to the soil will not address all the climate change issues.

Accompanying efforts that focus on soils would be individual actions by everyday Americans. The truth is any action matters. If every person takes individual action, we can collectively make a difference. We all must take action. BIG or SMALL.

These actions must be aligned with the contributors to climate change. According to research, there are several key drivers to climate change, including fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes, land-use changes, agriculture, deforestation, and food waste.

Equally important is continuous activism to ensure that everyone has a chance to know the current realities of climate change. Climate Strikes last week is an excellent form of activism.

Climate activists must continuously seek creative ways to disseminate recent news about climate change, including sharing innovative approaches that stand to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

Fighting climate change is the most urgent and critical issue of our time. We must take every possible action. Lives and our ecosystems are at stake.


Esther Ngumbi is an Assistant Professor, Entomology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois,  Aspen Institute New Voices Senior Food Security Fellow, Clinton Global University Initiative Agriculture Commitments Mentor and Ambassador

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