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Warming Soil Will Release Billions of Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide

17% is the percentage by which carbon in the ground will increase carbon in the atmosphere by 2050, warming the planet and ending life as we know it.

Now this isn’t good news for South African soil. Only 14% of the country has good enough soil to farm on, and only a fifth of that gets enough rainfall to allow agriculture. The rest has to be fed through irrigation, which uses 60% of the country’s water.

But soil is susceptible to change. The National Climate Change Response White Paper warns that it is “vulnerable to increasing temperatures that adversely affect soil biology, chemical and physical properties”. With carbon still going into the atmosphere, that warming is a given. The white paper projects that the interior will be up to 3.5°C hotter by 2050, and double that by the end of the century.

To be fair, it isn’t the soil’s fault. We started this by digging into the earth so we could scoop out dead plants and dinosaurs and burn them. That mix drove the creation of what we call civilisation. It also pumped hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This traps heat and warms the world — this year is to be the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Association.

Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

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