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The Path to Climate Change Reversal
In3’s founder, Daniel Robin, Bio4Climate’s chief scientist, Jim Laurie, both spoke at a recent conference showing what is already working and within reach for profitably restoring our favorite planet, mama earth.
Mr. Robin gave several practical examples — success stories that show how conservation, carbon sequestration, and soil restoration go hand-in-hand with profitable business models.
Rebuilding what was lost, preserving and celebrating what’s left (20 min)
The economic case for building local self-reliance, for eco-restoration, and for using natural cycles (such as solar income and photosynthesis in plants, rotational grazing, or the “waste” of one process becoming the “food” of another) offers the optimal path to climate change reversal. Market forces often result in a kind of flourishing — the “multiplier” effect of ventures like Amazon and Facebook — though markets are inherently “ethics free zones” — whatever sells and makes money for the owners gets a price tag. At least for awhile.
But what’s truly valuable is often not valued in conventional economics, let alone in Western-style capitalism. Popularity does not equate to value. Innovations that tap nature’s endemic services and make money deliver the surest paths to reaching sufficient scale for climate change mitigation. Such solutions do not depend on subsidies, nor waiting for political leaders to “wake up.” Perhaps we are the people we’ve been waiting for?
On Day 3, in Pathways to a Restored Planet – Scenario 300 (~22 minutes in), Dr. Jim Laurie, a restoration biologist by training, laid out achievable scenarios for reaching at or below 300 parts per million (ppm) in atmospheric CO2 within several decades. How? Building up soils through regenerative and “no till” practices, because biologically-active topsoil is a massive carbon sink.
Among other moves, Dr. Laurie envisions at least a billion grazing animals (half wild herds) by 2039.
Here, biology trumps “quick fix” engineering in that we don’t have to reinvent or “mess with” nature — no need for the arrogant assumption that we know better — because the design already exists! Nature is the perfect model.
The one thing that’s certain: there’s no need to wait. The science is clear. That horse left the barn long ago. Indeed, greenhouse gases being emitted now will make the climate much worse before it begins to get better, per this chart, so adopting a longer-term view (30-40 years, not just quarterly returns), while acting now, will serve all of us as well as future generations.
And with known solutions like regenerative and “no till” agriculture, this rich set of economically-advantaged practices already commercially proven, we can reach the necessary scale … that’s on top of it being the right thing to do. Smart impact investors have already realized this. Smart entrepreneurs and farmers are decreasing the cost of their inputs (local self-reliance) while differentiating and increasing the value of their products.
Diving into Healthy Soils — and our own Psyches
For a fascinating look at the interplay between our food system and our capacity to sustain ourselves, and flourish as a species, be sure not to miss depth psychologist Tim LaSalle, Ph.D., co-founder and co-director of the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative at Chico State University:
Three Billion Years of Organic Agriculture
We continue to lose topsoil at an alarming rate. Traditional agriculture has slowly eroded and degraded the life of soil, an essential cornerstone for civilization, but it need not be that way — we can simultaneously reserve climate change (reaching legacy levels of green house gases), living within our constraints to invest in life, rather than ride out the extinction currently underway.
Dr. LaSalle show how food systems and agriculture need not be extractive or unsustainable, nor continue to be the cause of unintended consequences like fertilizer runoff (coral bleaching due to nitrogen), toxic pesticides that contaminate food and fresh water supplies, or through soil tillage that disrupts the biota (fungi and microorganisms) and in so doing releases massive tons of CO2 every year.
How Restoring Soils Can Reverse Global Warming
For a deeper understanding, watch Dr. Laurie’s 34-minute presentation from the start:
The first part sets the context, then he pinpoints specific scenarios for climate change REVERSAL starting at ~22 minutes in.
Why go beyond climate change mitigation?
Climate change mitigation — decreasing harmful emissions — is necessary, but is it sufficient?
Scientists now agree we must go beyond mere mitigation (returning to the CO2 levels of the 1990’s, for example) to approach climate restoration through climate change reversal. New Yorker columnist Elizabeth Kolbert (Nov 2017 article) points to a “trillion-dollar enterprise” in CO2 removal, offering “a way not just to slow the rise in CO2 but to reverse it.” But how, and how soon? Geoenergineering is not our best option. Returning to tried-and-proven practices like managed grazing, regenerative agriculture, “no till” conservation agriculture, and other holistic approaches through optimized combinations of these and other drawdown solutions.
That’s what we need to be talking about — how to draw down enough carbon, fast enough, but not too fast … we must sidebar the distractions of politics and other game-playing to instead engage in meaningful discourse about this. Discuss, debate and decide: what are the best pathways? Then “vote” with our investment decisions.
What will you tell your children and grandchildren you did in response while the US Federal government idolized coal, built more pipelines and dismantled environmental protections?
Why is 300 ppm (not 350) the target?
With all due respect to Bill McKibben’s 350.org and the good works of all grassroots movements for climate protection — needed now more than ever — most serious scientists now agree 300-325 ppm will result in an optimally livable planet. To quote Tim LaSalle, “We have no history telling us that 350 is a good target.”
Plus, why aim low? We definitely have the means to “get there from here,” even if only a handful of people are aware of it so far.
What can you do? If you are an impact project developer, get started here. If you are an intermediary (affiliate or adviser), or an investor, contact us for current opportunities. Otherwise, help spread the word!
All videos from the complete program “Climate Reckoning” conference, held Nov 17-19 at Harvard University are available online at: bio4climate.org/climate-reckoning-program
Summary: The Best News
In industries spanning energy, food, water and international development, there is no longer a tradeoff between “doing the right thing” for the environment, social justice, and economic prosperity! “No till” agriculture keeps carbon in the soil, and smart land use and management practices increase the value of diverse crops that are also used to rebuild soil fertility. The long-awaited “triple bottom line” has arrived!
Smallhold farmers can adopt these practices even more easily than commercial-scale farmers. Impact investments from In3 Capital Partners and others has already proven this in the US and overseas, from solar/PV and wind power to no till/regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and waste-to-value.
In3 Group managing partner, Daniel Robin, addressed this topic, the Role of Economics in Ecosystemic Conservation, in case you missed it, entitled: Conservation, Restoration and Regeneration Economics.
Contact us for information on project or venture development, impact capital raises, workshops or related services.
- Highlights of 2017 “Climate Reckoning” at Harvard University
- Workshop: Social & Environmental Aspects of Fundraising at “Climate Reckoning” Conference (Harvard)
- Water, Soil, Heat and Carbon — the shift hits the fan
- Impact Investing reaching mainstream acceptance — will it outpace financial-only returns?
- Panel Discussion: food, water and climate change mitigation