Carbon farming has been practiced as a method of addressing excessive greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere today. Many nations have passed acts of legislation that restrict and reduce the quantity of greenhouses gases released by corporations; one alluring method of decreasing these gas emissions is carbon farming, which intends to effectively absorb greenhouse gases from the air through the farming of primarily vegetation. Despite the seemingly straightforward procedure and benefits of carbon farming, the question remains: exactly how beneficial is carbon farming in mitigating the detrimental impacts of climate change?
What Exactly Is Carbon Farming?
Carbon farming is a green technique where farmers address air pollution by typically increasing plant farming and improving soil conditions to in turn increase carbon sequestration in these plants and soils. In exchange for their environmentally conscious efforts, farmers are often granted carbon credits – which place a monetary value on pollution to discourage it- that they can sell to companies for personal profit. For a company, acquiring carbon credits allows it to increase its greenhouse gas emissions: as financial expert Will Kenton explains, if a company buys one carbon credit, it has the right to “the emission of a mass equal to one ton of carbon dioxide”. So, if carbon farming theoretically reduces the amount of harmful gas in the air and likewise benefits the farmers who take part in it, why do people hesitate to implement it on a larger scale?
The Drawbacks of Carbon Farming
There are various limitations to carbon farming, but perhaps the two most important ones are the sustainability and overestimation of results. Regarding sustainability, the foundation of carbon farming relies on increased production of plants, which would ideally absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. New Zealand news site Scoop sums up the issue: “if we are going to pursue this plan of “offsetting” our emissions, then we will inevitably wipe out the entire sheep and beef industry and be left with a countryside that consists largely of dairy farms and pine-trees.” Regarding the overestimation of results, agricultural analysts Alex Smith and Dan Blaustein-Rejto reveal that most of the trapped gases escape “when the farmer decides to till [his land] again, which happens on an estimated 30% of…farms.” They also explain that “some carbon from soils may also be released as global temperatures, and thus soils, warm.”
Overall, carbon farming does appear to be beneficial for the environment. How its alarming limitations are addressed, however, remains to be seen.