Carbon – the connection between the atmosphere, soil, and plants

Eddie Smit, Tercia Strydom, and Prof Johan van Tol testing the hydrophobicity of soils directly after an experimental fire.

The main driving force behind climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases through human activities, says Prof Linus Franke, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences at the University of the Free State. “Carbon dioxide is the biggest culprit, accounting for 72% of the global warming effect, followed by methane and nitrous oxide.” 

Too much carbon in the atmosphere
Human activities are the main driver of climate change, mainly by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil, with the energy sector, industries, transport, buildings, and agriculture as the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. 

According to the United Nations, the burning of these fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that wrap around the earth like a blanket, trapping the heat of the sun and resulting in raised temperatures. According to Prof Franke, it is important to mitigate climate change and prevent a global temperature rise of more than 1,5 degrees Celsius. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we are looking at a temperature increase of around four degrees Celsius by the end of this century, if there are no drastic changes.

With an increase in global warming, we are expecting more disturbances in weather patterns, resulting in further extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods, and extremely cold/hot conditions. Annually, millions of people lose their lives, livelihoods, and homes due to the effects of global warming.
“The latter has been predicted for a long time, but today it is a common phenomenon. Twenty years ago, climate change was about analysing trends in data sets. Today, to observe climate change, one can just look out of the window. In the past 10 years, climate change has become a reality,” says Prof Franke. 
Although carbon dioxide is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, it has an important role to play in soil health. 

Read more from the ufs website


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