Many people know that there is a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of our planet, but the soil contains almost three times bigger amount of this gas. The soil absorbs about a quarter of all wastes related to the human activities every year. If global temperatures rise by 2 ° C, this vital carbon store could turn into a greenhouse gas fountain.
What Is the Problem?
According to the recently made study about the carbon dioxide in the soil, rising global temperatures could release around 230 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And only from the top layer of the soil where carbon dioxide is almost as much as in the Earth’s atmosphere. Modeling confined to a relatively shallow soil layer may seem to be a serious shortcoming of the study, but in this way the researchers were able to model the carbon cycle more easily in the soil. The chosen method also helped to reduce the uncertainty inherent in other similar models.
Scientists have reduced the uncertainty in climate change predictions in order to more accurately calculate the so-called carbon budget. This is the amount of carbon dioxide that can still enter the atmosphere so that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2° C. This information is also needed to successfully achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Although global warming accelerates decomposition of the processes and releases carbon dioxide more rapidly from the soil, it is not yet clear whether this metabolic cycle is highly sensitive to changes in temperature. In fact, the impact of a rapidly changing global climate on soil is one of the biggest uncertainties in our climate change models. The predictions of the latest study are not very threatening, but still do not promise anything good.
Inaccuracies of the Study
The conclusions of the study reject the most pessimistic versions, but nevertheless point to significant emissions of carbon dioxide from the soil as the world’s climate warms by just 2 ° C. In addition, the latest forecast of the same study does not include the amount of carbon dioxide that is hold in the soil of the Arctic areas. Other greenhouse gases, such as methane, which also accumulate in the soil and contribute much more to global warming than carbon dioxide, are not included in this model.
Of course, not every inch of soil has the same amount of carbon dioxide. The ground in some parts of the world could accumulate more of these gasses, but the potential of other areas is smaller. The highest amount of carbon dioxide is stored in peatlands and the Arctic areas. Unfortunately, global warming poses the greatest threat to the coldest regions. With the melting of frosted ground, scientists are worried that we will soon reach a critical point where the carbon dioxide released will further accelerate the melting of permafrost and make global warming unmanageable.