Hope and inspiration at NBI Summit

Climate change is not just a fossil fuel issue. It isn’t caused by fossil fuels alone, and there are many things we can do in addition to reducing fossil fuels that can reduce atmospheric carbon.

These facts were made crystal clear at the Northwest Biocarbon Summit, which took place Monday at the University of Washington. I left the event with greater hope and inspiration after a day of exceptional presentations and discussion among the full audience of almost 200. Here are a few tidbits to tickle your brain:

Some scientists now think that humans began causing climate change with the onset of agriculture ten thousand years ago, and that the Little Ice Age was triggered by natural reforestation that occurred after horrible genocide of native North and South Americans five centuries ago. Dr. Dominick DellaSalla emphasized that our Pacific Northwest forests are carbon storing champs.

We learned from keynote speaker Dave Montgomery, a UW Geology professor and MacArthur Fellow, that perhaps a third of atmospheric carbon increases result from mistreatment of soil. There are a bunch of ways to get carbon back into soil, from use of biochar to improved farm and ranch stewardship (that foster carbon storage in the enlarged roots of perennials) to fertilizing use of urban compost and human waste, aka biosolids. Each of these has multiple benefits to landowners and society besides just the carbon storage.

We must take on Big Oil and Big Coal. But we don’t have to wait for that victory to begin to fix the atmosphere. Earth’s climate is hugely sensitive to changes in soils and vegetation. So far we’ve moved that needle in the wrong direction, abusing the land and paying for it in the sky. But there are so many smart, easy and beneficial ways to move the needle back. Biocarbon is the second solution to climate change!

Author Bio

Mitch Friedman

Executive Director, Conservation Northwest, Climate Solutions

Mitch is a conservation biologist who founded Conservation Northwest (formerly Northwest Ecosystem Alliance) in 1989. He is founding board member of The Wildlands Project and American Lands Alliance. He has received awards from Sunset Magazine, Society for Conservation Biology, The Wilderness Society, Washington Environmental Council, and Northwest Jewish Environmental Project. He has published two books and produced eight video tapes on conservation issues.

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