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DRC’s carbon bomb is ticking

Gruelling talks are unfolding in Bonn for implementing the United Nation’s Paris Agreement on climate change, but thousands of kilometres away, there are fears that any progress may be wiped out by a lurking carbon dioxide (CO2) threat.

Scientists and green campaigners say Central Africa’s peatlands hold gigatonnes of CO2, a stockpile that poses a grave threat to hopes of limiting global warming to 2°C.

The product of vegetation decay that occurred aeons ago, the CO2 has been safely locked in the soil for thousands of years but risks being released by farming, they say. Freed into the air, it could add dramatically to greenhouse-gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

“We have a map of the central Congo peatland we published for the first time this year, which shows that they cover around 145 000km2, an area a bit bigger than the size of England,” said Simon Lewis, a scientist from Britain’s University of Leeds, on a soil-sampling mission to the remote northwest Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

photo credit: CIFOR

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