Carbon Farming

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= "Carbon Farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter". [1]


David Bollier:

"The central idea of carbon farming is to move the animals frequently—as once happened with wild herds chased by predators—so grasses are not gnawed beyond the point of natural recovery and plant cover remains to fertilize the land and sequester carbon. The sequestration process works like this: The grass takes in carbon from the atmosphere; the animals trample the grass into the soil, where the carbon is absorbed; new grass sprouts and the process is repeated over and over again, absorbing more and more carbon.

This was the natural cycle before the enclosure of the commons. Bison roamed the great American plains, as did other large herds in wild lands throughout the rest of the world. Even in places where livestock farming prevailed, the grazing lands were still held in common and animals wandered freely under the watch of shepherds or small farmers. With the privatization of grazing land, this ecological system was disrupted to the point where today raising livestock is rightly seen as one of the most environmentally destructive industries.

Carbon farming is an attempt to recreate the natural conditions of a commons even under the structure of private property in order to reverse the effects of global climate disruption." (


Details in the essay at

"“The hamburger makes a good symbol of what can be done with carbon farming,” Collins says. So he reasons that eating grass-fed beef from sustainably-managed herds will contribute in a small way to reversing global warming. Any large hoofed animals like sheep, goats, bison, elk, antelope or horses can be used in carbon farming, and raising meat isn’t essential to the process. Collins after all is a dairy farmer.

But what about the argument that meat-eating is a major cause of global warming due to massive emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and other greenhouse gases from livestock operations? John Wicks answers immediately and forcefully, “That’s absolutely correct about feedlots and absolutely wrong about grass-fed livestock. Sustainably-raised grass-fed beef is a natural system and the methane and other greenhouse gases are mitigated by the carbon sequestration in the soil. We see this as a way to phase out feedlots.” Collins adds that nitrous oxides are in huge part the product of chemical fertilizers, which don’t make any sense in a farming system based on restoring the soil and halting global warming.

On The Commons’ Peter Barnes is looking into the idea of carbon farming. “We saw the Arctic melt last summer and Greenland glaciers slide into the ocean,” he says, “and scientists realize that climate change is happening faster than in their models. We seem to be a tipping point right now, and that’s the context for ideas like carbon farming and planting trees. Sequestration is not a marginal idea but central to any effort keep the planet from tipping into disaster.”

One reason why carbon farming and other sequestration methods have gotten far less attention in the fight against global warming than efforts to reduce emissions is because they represents something new in environmental policy—the idea that solving our ecological crisis means not just stopping human interference with nature, but also on humans taking positive steps to undo the damage already here.

“The days of hands-off environmentalism are over,” declares John Wick. “Humans are part of nature, we are part of ecosystems. We can be part of the solution." (


See: [2]

"In an initial research study by Dr. Marcia deLonge of UC Berkeley’s Silver Lab, it was shown that sheep grazed on compost-applied rangelands produce wool with a net carbon benefit; and subsequently moving this wool through a regional and renewable energy powered supply chain would produce a garment with a negative CO2 footprint. Comparing conventional to Climate Beneficial production shows a carbon footprint differential of over 150 pounds of CO2 per garment." (


Why is Carbon Farming important?


"The carbon cycle is a critical natural process that moves carbon through Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, pedosphere, lithosphere, and oceans. Human activity has tipped the balance of the carbon cycle through extracting enormous quantities of deeply sequestered fossil carbon as fossil fuels. These dense forms of carbon, when burned, release massive amounts of energy and carbon dioxide.

More carbon dioxide is now being released than the earth’s land-based plant life and oceans can naturally reabsorb. The excess carbon dioxide has formed a blanket in our atmosphere—trapping the sun’s heat and changing our climate, as seen in shifts in our earth’s jet stream, ocean currents, and air temperature. Rainfall patterns are changing and glaciers (water storage for many communities) are melting quickly.

Carbon Farming has the potential to restore balance within the carbon cycle in a way that will ameliorate climate change, build resilience to drought and increase our agricultural productivity naturally." (


==Grasslands Are Key==\

"Initial research was conducted on actively grazed rangelands. There are 23 million hectares of rangeland in California alone, and it is the largest land type on our planet today. Grasslands co-evolved with ungulates (hoofed animals) over millions of years. Properly scaled in space and time, grazing stimulates plant growth through a variety of mechanisms, resulting in increased carbon capture by the grazed ecosystem. Grasslands have great potential to function as a sponge for carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. However, test plots where grazing alone was measured continued to lose more carbon than they sequestered, illuminating that our rangelands might require a practice in addition to grazing to restore their natural carbon cycle balance. Test plots where compost was applied showed the greatest carbon sequestration gains. Not only has compost applied to grazed lands been demonstrated to be an effective way to increase soil carbon sequestration, it is also a proven method for avoiding emissions related to the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste material in landfills.

Efforts are now underway to adopt the compost protocol at state, national and international levels to support the financial incentivizing of this practice for the benefit of the landowner and the climate. The non-profit organization known as the American Carbon Registry (ACR) has approved a voluntary methodology for greenhouse gas emission reductions from compost additions to grazed grasslands. The ACR is a leader in creating high standards and protocols and has issued 37 million carbon off-sets since its inception." (

On the necessity of carbon sequestration in the soil

Judith D. Schwartz :

"According to Rattan Lal, director of Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, the world’s cultivated soils have lost between 50 and 70 percent of their original carbon stock, much of which has oxidized upon exposure to air to become CO2. Now, armed with rapidly expanding knowledge about carbon sequestration in soils, researchers are studying how land restoration programs in places like the polar jet stream former North American prairie, the North China Plain, and even the parched interior of Australia might help put carbon back into the soil.

Absent carbon and critical microbes, soil becomes mere dirt, a process of deterioration that’s been rampant around the globe. Many scientists say that regenerative agricultural practices can turn back the carbon clock, reducing atmospheric CO2 while also boosting soil productivity and increasing resilience to floods and drought. Such regenerative techniques include planting fields year-round in crops or other cover, and agroforestry that combines crops, trees, and animal husbandry.

Recognition of the vital role played by soil carbon could mark an important if subtle shift in the discussion about global warming, which has been A look at soil brings a sharper focus on potential carbon sinks. heavily focused on curbing emissions of fossil fuels. But a look at soil brings a sharper focus on potential carbon sinks. Reducing emissions is crucial, but soil carbon sequestration needs to be part of the picture as well, says Lal. The top priorities, he says, are restoring degraded and eroded lands, as well as avoiding deforestation and the farming of peatlands, which are a major reservoir of carbon and are easily decomposed upon drainage and cultivation.

He adds that bringing carbon back into soils has to be done not only to offset fossil fuels, but also to feed our growing global population. "We cannot feed people if soil is degraded," he says.

"Supply-side approaches, centered on CO2 sources, amount to reshuffling the Titanic deck chairs if we overlook demand-side solutions: where that carbon can and should go," says Thomas J. Goreau, a biogeochemist and expert on carbon and nitrogen cycles who now serves as president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance. Goreau says we need to seek opportunities to increase soil carbon in all ecosystems — from tropical forests to pasture to wetlands — by replanting degraded areas, increased mulching of biomass instead of burning, large-scale use of biochar, improved pasture management, effective erosion control, and restoration of mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses.

"CO2 cannot be reduced to safe levels in time to avoid serious long-term impacts unless the other side of atmospheric CO2 balance is included," Goreau says.

Scientists say that more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life. And compared to many proposed geoengineering fixes, storing carbon in soil is simple: It’s a matter of returning carbon where it belongs." (

How are products determined to be Climate Beneficial?


"Carbon Farming Practices can be measured and monitored for the enhancement of permanent soil carbon storage, and therefore material coming from these landscapes can be verified as Climate Beneficial.

In an initial research study by Dr. Marcia deLonge of UC Berkeley’s Silver Lab, it was shown that sheep grazed on compost-applied rangelands produce wool with a net carbon benefit; and subsequently moving this wool through a regional and renewable energy powered supply chain would produce a garment with a negative CO2 footprint. Comparing conventional to Climate Beneficial production shows a carbon footprint differential of over 150 pounds of CO2 per garment." (

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