The years 2021 and 2022 broke climate records. Unfortunately, not for the better.

Tereza Zyklová
February 21, 2023
Climate and carbon credits

From time to time, some unwelcome climate news like that published in recent months reminds us why we do all of this. Why we at Carboneg are trying to change the engrained systems of farming, to talk about erosion and soil degradation and to encourage farmers to step out of their comfort zone and experiment with unconventional practices. Because we are not only interested in healthier, more stable and sustainable food production. We also care about the active removal of carbon (or CO2) from the atmosphere, through which regenerative farmers are helping to put the brakes on global warming and the rapid climate change we have been facing in recent years.

In this post, we've summarised some interesting recent climate data and statements. We've also added an explanation of the link between climate and agriculture.

Record concentrations of greenhouse gases in the air

Last October, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released an alarming report for 2021. The concentration of the main greenhouse gas (CO2) rose by 2.5 parts per million (ppm) to a total of 415.7. That level was last seen on Earth at least three million years ago. It corresponds to a significantly higher average planetary temperature, one which our ecosystems are not evolutionarily prepared for. The concentration of methane (CH4) is also at record highs. It has never risen as dramatically as it had in 2021 since systematic measurements began in 1983. Global methane concentrations are projected by the WMO to rise by 18 to 1,908 ppb in 2021, equivalent to 262 % of pre-industrial levels. As the WMO reports, all greenhouse gases combined have caused an increase of 1.1 °C in the average global temperature since the late 19th century.

Also in October, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a summary report showing that if the world does not change its attitude to the environment, the climate will, by the end of the century, warm up by 2.8 °C compared to pre-industrial times. In the past, countries have pledged to limit warming to no more than 2 °C. The AP reports that experts say the approach of the G20, which account for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, will be key.

Extreme glacier loss is not just a result of warming

Another disturbing testimony to a significantly warmer climate came from Neil Entwistle, a professor at the University of Salford, who said in an October report for The Conversation that the summer of 2022 was the worst on record for Alpine glaciers. They were melting faster than ever before.

“Over the 19 years that I have visited and studied the glaciers in Switzerland, I have not seen a summer like 2022. The scale of change is staggering.”

said Neil Entwistle, adding that glaciologists like him used the word "extreme" to describe an annual ice loss of about 2% of the total glacier volume. Swiss glaciers, for example, lost an average of 6.2% of their ice in 2022. This change is therefore truly staggering.

Several factors are to blame, he says. The Alps received very little snowfall the previous winter. The glaciers were therefore not well insulated against the coming summer season of melting. The spring was particularly harsh because natural atmospheric weather patterns brought Saharan dust into Europe and covered the Alpine landscape. Since sandy dust absorbs more solar energy than snow (which is white and therefore more reflective), the orange-coloured snow melted faster than ever before. Later that summer, due to global climate change, all of Europe faced unprecedented heat waves, which accentuated the situation.

However, this was not the case in the previous century. Since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-19th century, glaciers around the world have not been accumulating, but rather melting, but the annual protective layers of snow used to be thick enough to compensate for summer temperatures and the resulting loss. It is this protective mechanism of glaciers that is becoming less effective as warming and other climate changes progress.

Time is running out, but there are solutions. Decisions are being made now.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the continued rise in greenhouse gas concentrations, including record acceleration in methane levels, shows the world is heading in the wrong direction. "The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible. Time is running out," Prof. Taalas stressed. During a recent press conference in Geneva, he also said that the Russia-Ukraine war may even be a blessing from a climate perspective, as it will accelerate the transition and investment in green energy in the long run - despite the fact that fossil fuels are in high demand at the moment and their scarcity is putting us in many difficult situations. "From the 5 to 10-year time scale, it’s clear that the war in Ukraine will speed up our consumption of fossil fuels, but in the long-term,... it’s speeding up our green transition” and the search for more efficient solutions, stated Taalas, adding that the energy sector is responsible for three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions.

“A global transformation from a heavily fossil fuel and unsustainable land use dependent economy to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least US$4–6 trillion a year”, the UNEP report said. In doing so, UNEP has directly expressed its support for so-called carbon farming, or regenerative agriculture, whose practices, among other things, enable the sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere. It also called for greater involvement of financial institutions, such as central banks, in the transition to a low-carbon economy, or for the expansion and improvement of the greenhouse gas emissions fee system. Many of the upcoming steps were discussed by a number of world leaders at the world's largest climate conference, COP 27 in Egypt, where the Czech Republic, thanks to its EU Presidency, has a privileged position among the EU countries. The importance of this event is obvious. As it was said in an interview by Respekt with Deputy Minister of the Environment Jan Dusik and analyst Romana J. Březovská from AMO:

We now need to show the world that in the EU we are not only dealing with energy prices and the climate remains a priority. The Green Deal for Europe adopted in 2019 remains a timely, and perhaps even more relevant, EU target, as does the subsequent package of specific measures to reduce EU emissions by 55% by 2030 known as Fit for 55 in 2021.

The potential of regenerative farming to mitigate climate change

After the oceans, the soil is the second largest natural carbon sink in the world. Unfortunately, the way we have traditionally farmed the land contributes to a large release of carbon into the atmosphere. However, by changing our practices, such as implementing regenerative agriculture or carbon farming, it is possible to store carbon from the atmosphere in the soil. This is provided that the soil is alive and the symbiosis between soil microbiology and plants is functioning. All that is then needed is to exploit the great potential of the wonderfully efficient process of photosynthesis. In this process, green plants "just need" light and water to consume (otherwise problematic from our point of view) carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into useful substances. Photosynthesizing plants split CO2 into O2; the oxygen is released back into the atmosphere, which we then breathe, and the remaining carbon is used to build sugars. The plant expels some of these sugars through its root system into the soil, where they become the fertile building blocks of all living organisms in the form of humus. The carbon thus sequestered then remains in the soil as long as there is life in it and is not uncovered or disturbed by mechanical or chemical processes during intensive farming. It is exactly this minimisation of disturbance of the soil that regenerative agriculture is all about, which you can read about in our article on the 5 principles of regenerative agriculture.

Up to 52 % of the world's agricultural land is already degraded, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and unfortunately, the condition of the soil is similar in the Czech Republic, as evidenced, for example, by recent data from VÚMOP showing the potential threat of water erosion to Czech soil.

The total arable land area in the Czech Republic is 4.2 million hectares.

Therefore, in the Czech Republic alone, up to 42 million tonnes of CO2 can potentially be sequestered in the soil each year (at a sequestration rate of 10 tonnes of CO2 per hectare).

"Our goal at Carboneg is to get close to this number and thanks to the ongoing expansion of the project, to surpass it many times over," said Václav Kurel, founder of the Carboneg project, in a recent commentary for Ekolist.

Do you have questions or comments about the article? Let us know by e-mail at! We will be happy to discuss the topic with you individually.

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