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It has been hard to find agreement in Congress on the issue of climate change, but one new “fertile” area of discussion is engaging the agriculture sector and finding financial opportunities to sequester carbon in soil and plant life in the form of marketable carbon offsets or credits. There is a proposal with “growing” bipartisan support that would give the Agriculture Department a certification program to help farmers monetize their sustainability practices. And a UN report issued this week highlighted the potential of coastal seagrasses whose meadows are highly efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18 percent of the world’s oceanic carbon. Finally, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District is spending $375 million to implement one of the largest ag reuse projects in the U.S.
Why This Matters:Agriculture is carbon-intensive — it would be great to flip the paradigm and make it one of the major solutions to our climate crisis. And we should not stop on land or just with plants. We can make the ocean a better place to sink carbon and also reduce our water use. In the great re-set that we need now, this is the kind of innovative thinking and doing that we need. Can we please have some more?
Making Carbon Storage Pay
Farmers are already buying into renewable energy by installing wind and solar fields on their land. They have also seen the impacts of more severe weather — floods and droughts — and increasingly want the government to deal with the climate crisis. Providing financial incentives for them to farm in ways that create value beyond the crops themselves is the next step. The proposal would be to create a carbon credits market that would be sold to companies that want to offset the impacts of their operations — it could be a reliable revenue stream that would significantly help them through good and bad years.
Ground Water Over Draft
If groundwater were a bank account, in many parts of the country like California, we would be seriously overdrawn. The new program for water re-use in Sacramento will significantly reduce the need to pump groundwater for agricultural use in that area and result in the recovery of groundwater levels (in-lieu recharge). Using recycled water will enhance and expand riparian habitats and wetlands by elevating groundwater levels, while also improving in-stream flows in the lower Cosumnes River. And it is good for endangered species too — it will implement wintertime application of recycled water to help improve habitat for Sandhill cranes and other wildlife.
The Storage Power of Sea Grass
The latest report, this one on the importance of seagrasses as a nature-based climate solution that can be applied in coastal areas worldwide, corresponded with World Ocean Day. According to the UN, “an estimated 7 % of seagrass habitat is being lost worldwide each year, and at least 22 of the world’s 72 seagrass species are in decline. Since the late 19th century, almost 30% of known seagrass area across the globe has been lost. The main threats to seagrass meadows include urban, industrial, and agricultural run-off, coastal development, dredging, unregulated fishing and boating activities, and climate change.” The report, entitled Out of the Blue: The Value of Seagrasses to the Environment and to People, explains the many reasons why seagrasses are important beyond their carbon capture benefits — they provide valuable nursery habitats to more than 20% of the world’s largest 25 fisheries, filter pathogens, bacteria, and pollution out of seawater, and are home to endangered and charismatic species such as dugongs, seahorses, and sea turtles.
by Julia Fine Last month, we wrote about the outbreak of locust swarms traveling from East Africa to the Indian subcontinent. Now, as the New York Times reported yesterday, the locusts have made their way to New Delhi. The capital region’s fields, metro stations, suburbs, and more are now teeming with swarms. We previously noted […]
Our nation is in the midst of a moment where statues and monuments celebrating our racist past are being reevaluated and taken down. However, some on the political right have begun calling into question the validity of this conversation. Conservative media personality Meghan McCain wrote in a tweet that we’re “one week removed from entire […]
The House was set to vote to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide nearly $1B annually for parks and other conservation, but a group of Western Republicans has raised procedural hurdles that will delay final passage until late July, The Hillreported yesterday. And, a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) urges the United States to launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature” — to help the nation’s agricultural producers, who are facing a bleak economic future, by increasing opportunities to pay them for their conservation efforts.
Why This Matters: As the CAP Report explains, “Family farmers and ranchers need lifelines…Bold and swift investment in nature conservation can provide one.”
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