The Grassroots Carbon team was extremely excited to co-sponsor a 3 part webinar series with Global Affairs Associates, LLC. With panelists from Marathon Oil, Shopify, BCarbon, & participating ranches.
Below is the second webinar in our series Measuring, Verifying and Certifying Soil Carbon Credits” along with a transcript of our conversations. Be on the lookout next week as we publish the final recording!
Okay, great good morning everyone I’m Caitlin Allen with Global Affairs Associates a boutique ESG and sustainability consulting firm based in Houston Texas. I’m really pleased to be presenting here, the second conversation in our three-part series entitled Soil Carbon Conversations. We are just delighted to have today a very esteemed panel of technical and scientific experts that are here to inform us and educate us about soil carbon storage. The measurements verification a technology used to do so we’re so pleased to have each of you I’m going to start by just giving a few short bios on each panelist so that you can know who they are but I’m going to be quick because we want to get right into the conversation. We only have 45 minutes today and we want to use every minute we can with them so let me begin with Dr. Alan Williams a regenerative grazing consultant. We are very honored to have Dr. Williams on this panel he is one of the top regenerative grazing consultants in the world and is a sixth-generation family farmer he’s also the founding partner of Grass-Fed Insights understanding ag and the soil health academy he has consulted with more than four thousand farmers and ranchers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America and other countries next we have Steve Applebaum he is an ecologist and the founder and chairman of applied ecological services a large environmental consultancy organization it is a privilege to have steve on this panel he’s one of the top ecologists in our country. He’s studied the impact of grazing on ecology and soil carbon for decades inside and outside the us he’s contributed his unique creative scientific expertise and enthusiasm to over seven thousand projects throughout North America and beyond he has measured soil carbon on numerous farms and ranchers and has authored hundreds of technical studies peer-reviewed technical papers books and reports on this topic. Third, we have Professor Jim Blackburn another esteemed panel member Jim is a professor at Rice University an environmental lawyer and the co-and a co-leader of the new b-carbon soil carbon standard Jim is working on novel and pragmatic environmental solutions now and has been for over four decades he’s known and deeply respected for creating solutions that work for many parties and stakeholders he’s also been the recipient of a number of prestigious environmental and public service awards and finally last but not least we have Megan Parks who’s a co-founder of Grassroots Carbon. Megan is an environmental engineer with two decades of experience managing environmental programs for both large and small corporations she worked at BP for 17 years and at Grassroots Carbon she’s responsible for the quality of the carbon capture and storage credits she oversees the soil carbon measurement campaigns and the interactions with the soil carbon standard organizations ensuring that Grassroots Carbon customers receive the highest quality soil carbon credits available today.
Thank you to each of you for being here so let me just start with a quick recap of regenerative grazing and soil carbon. Alan if we could if you could have two minutes to explain what this is how would you explain what regenerative grazing is and how it leads to soil carbon storage?
You bet so regenerative grazing is a method of grazing that allows us to be able to follow and mimic ecological principles uh basically what we do is we have studied the way that wild ruminants used to roam across the continents of this world and how they impacted the building of fertility the building of biomass and the building of entire ecosystems and so what we’re doing is we’re simply employing eco-mimicry and biomimicry and utilizing the same types of methodologies that in impacts that those wild ruminants have but today because we no longer have that in place for many many different reasons we use our domesticated livestock as our proxy and we have found that we can use those highly effectively to be able to take quite frankly very degraded land and to restore it to a very high level of ecological and profitability function.
Excellent and Steve could you help us make that link then between um the regenerative grazing and how that leads to soil carbon storage?
Yes, Allen has provided a foundation it’s the relationship between the animals and the plants and the microbes and the uh fungi and the soil and the atmosphere which provides the co2 and oftentimes a large quantity of the nitrogen uh that becomes uh available through the plants and the bacteria and fungi, uh to build plant material and some part of that annually the bacterial microbial turnover and plant biomass especially root systems underground uh become part of various fractions of soil carbon uh organic carbon and then eventually some percentage of it becomes part of a mineralized carbon which is called inorganic carbon so it’s that system that Alan and the great Alan has mentioned the grazing animals and their interaction with the whole system and the willingness and the availability of co2 from the atmosphere that makes this all happen and good decision making by human beings when we’re trying to emulate nature and we’ll talk about that I’m sure.
Okay great um let me just move to to Steve why are you I’m sorry to Jim uh why are you interested in soil carbon capture and storage?
Well I originally became interested because we were looking for ways to get landowners to set aside land for a buffer down on the Texas coast from hurricane search flooding and we knew we weren’t going to regulate in Texas so we needed to find ways to pay landowners to basically set these lands aside and then really not develop them and the carbon market was what we found as being the best available means for paying landowners uh for taking photosynthetic uh carbon dioxide out or taking carbon dioxide out of the air by photosynthesis and putting it in the soil but what we found was that the current carbon market really wasn’t functioning like we felt that it should and we’re very concerned about working with landowners and in the process got a project going at the Baker Institute at Rice University. We formed a group of stakeholders and set about creating our own soil carbon standard to try to create a market and to try to liberate this huge potential for both photosynthetic carbon dioxide removal and for the pavement of landowners frankly for practices that should prompt massive ecological recovery so I’m fascinated now that this is potentially the solution not only a piece of the portfolio for climate change solution but could be one of the most important ecological tools that we’ve ever seen and will also help restore the agricultural uh economic market so it’s a win-win-win across several different areas and the b-carbon standard that we’ve created hopefully will be a key to liberating that market. You know as a Houstonian who suffered a number of hurricanes and natural disasters um a native Houstonian so many um I think it’s very interesting that the way you arrived at the discussion on soil carbon as is actually just here’s an elegant market-based solution to preserve land and set aside land for the flood mitigation issue here so that’s very interesting.
Um let me move quickly to Megan why are you with grassroots carbon advocating for soil carbon storage as a carbon footprint reduction solution.
Yeah um well we work with corporate clients um who are looking to decarbonize and so you know bringing online soil carbon as a potential tool in companies decarbonization toolbox it’s it’s all kind of converging at a really important time um when the world is facing trying to deliver a paris agreement and it doesn’t look like government action will be uh soon enough or at the scale that’s needed and so you know companies have a lot of options when they’re looking at how to decarbonize um in terms of going beyond just reducing their own emissions it’s pretty clear that they’re going to need to also invest in carbon removal and so the options on the table for carbon removal when you’ve reduced your footprint as far as you can from your direct emissions are many of them have yet to be developed and they’re being developed at great technical cost so there’s these big industrial scale solutions like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture they require enormous amounts of capex and rnd and there’s a wait time and so we one of the reasons we started Grassroots Carbon is to work with entities um like some of the people on this panel to help ensure that soil carbon storage can scale up at the time frame and on the scale that’s needed so that this becomes a material option for companies to invest in as they decarbonize because it comes with so many more benefits beyond just carbon removal and because we know we can measure the carbon storage.
So I think we’ll probably get into some of those additional benefits as we go thanks Megan, Steve did you want to add something to that?
Oh it’s just good I was nodding my head so you’re pretty good with the body language clues there Catelyn um Caitlyn um you know photosynthesis is a long time tested product of nature and we don’t have to experiment all we need to do is follow nature’s leads like Alan suggested and like Jimmy suggested and there’s no better way to jumpstart a marketplace than work with nature and align with nature as a friend rather than come up with some contrived technological solution that takes 100 years to experiment with and and who knows at what cost and what opportunity cost the technology is ancient technology it’s ready now and I think the other piece of that is that the land is also ready now so even just looking at the U.S we already have hundreds of millions of acres in grazing use and so we don’t have to convert that land to a different use we simply simply we can get into that but you know we just have to change how that’s right how are we how we’re managing that land excellent thanks y’all.
I want to get a little bit more technical here so talking about soil carbon measurements and I know that that’s an area that you know a lot of folks say well is it really real right can we really measure it we touched on that in the previous in the first soil carbon conversation but this is the technical panel to get really into the details so let me start with Jim I’m going back to Jim you’re leading co-leading b-carbon which is this new soil carbon standard could you explain how measurement plays a role in creating the soil carbon credits why not use modeling? I know under other standards use just standard models and you know kind of repeat but you guys are saying to use actual measurements right?
Yeah, that’s correct Caitlyn and there’s a very good reason for that I think as I hinted when I first when I spoke just a minute ago we’re creating a different type of carbon market than what currently exists. I’m an environmental lawyer regulation has always been the way we have done things but it is we’ve never thought about market as being an environmental solution to the extent it’s going to be an environmental solution for carbon dioxide and we’ve got to uh basically in kind of nurture this market without very many oppressive regulations and so the measurement of the carbon going into the soil is the key here that’s really the principle that we’re operating on we’re saying. If a landowner stores carbon and can prove it by testing that they have the right to sell it just like you could sell potatoes if you were growing potatoes or any other type of product it is a property right concept that we’re working with and so proof that the carbon is actually going into the ground is one of really only two requirements that we have the second one being to maintain the carbon in the ground for a minimum of 10 years for every transaction and that’s a rolling 10-year commitment but that quantification the knowledge that there’s actually carbon that has been added to the soil year after year after year that is the basis for a fungible market a vibrant market for carbon transactions and it’s something that a company can depend upon is something that the outside third parties can depend upon because it is in fact measured and that it’s real and that’s about as good as it gets.
Great um thank you for that let me ask Steve can we get a little more technical for a moment so how do you actually measure soil carbon in a reliable way soil carbon measurement techniques have been documented for over a hundred years?
The US Department of Agriculture the soil conservation service the predator of the natural resource conservation service i’ve got right behind me on the shelf I can pull down about 4 000 pages of technical manuals they have thoroughly documented vetted tested deployed at all sorts of scales you know from the whole country down to the individual parcel to a garden scale or a paddock scale how to do that and all we had to do was write a method that brought it into the into the marketplace language but basically uh every farmer knows how to do this except there’s a little more rigor around sampling for the carbon market than there is for farm fertility measurements we sample down to a one meter depth and we do that so that we always tie into the subsoil so we always know what’s happened from the subsoil one meter down up to the surface because when you just measure down from the surface and goes six inches down you don’t know what’s whether you’re dealing with the same surface every time whether there’s been erosion or deposition and whether that’s been the primary reason for the measured changes in carbon but from going from the subsoil to the surface and measuring each strata and measuring the density of the carbon in each strategy using a measurement called bulk density when we send the samples to the laboratory they tell us what the carbon is in each layer and then we add that all together and we can follow very very statistically robustly how the carbon is actually changing and the way carbon is actually uh measured in the laboratory is by burning the soil sample uh it’s the combustion and the co2 that’s given off as you combust like a piece of wood in your fireplace you don’t have fireplaces in Houston. I’m sorry like up here in Wisconsin we have wood stoves we heat with wood and the gases given off include co2 and the amount of co2 correlates with the amount of carbon that’s in the wood that you started with so that is what the laboratory measurement does so the real trick though is not going out where you want to sample carbon on a landscape and gaming potentially gaming the system choosing the best places in other words what we do is we statistically randomly sample the landscape and that is a really big part of the defense ability and trustability of the science the whole process then is delivered that Megan can talk about to a verifier the verifier confirms that the protocol was followed exactly the way it had to have been done and that the results are in fact represented representing factual findings and then that that is used to recommend to be carbon or the protocol owner how many credits are available are being generated.
Thank you Steve we’ve got some comments in here thank you that really helpful to walk through that um so it sounds like to me that there’s a couple of things that are say required that really help the credibility there one being the the statistically random sampling uh on on the land uh and then the the depth right the sort of meter deep and taking samples throughout the strata is that right and yes and and and the science behind that obviously but the other point is not relying on modeling modeling that you know bull manure in bull manure out I’m trying to align with grazing discussion here modeling is only as good as the data and unfortunately most modeling is based on six inches of soil sampling depth and it’s or 15 centimeters and that’s not particularly relevant because that’s the most volatile the it turns over the fastest it erodes the easiest and you you need a lot more samples to reliably statistically sample that upper six inches so by going down to that greater depth like we talked about you’re stabilizing your estimate of the soil carbon changes that have occurred rather than the whims of the upper six inches which change you know every year absolutely change every year quickly okay excellent let’s go over to alan um alan you’ve had a long academic career on this could you share your opinion about soil carbon measurements uh broadly speaking and anything else you’d like to add sure you bet uh first of all I agree with steve in the fact that you know we’ve got to have randomized measurements we certainly have to measure much deeper than six inches as steve alluded to that’s that’s just not going to get the job done as a farmer and rancher myself and also as as a consultant to many farmers and ranchers across north america and other countries the things that have concerned me the most relative to past efforts in this regard and even many of the current efforts are number one the fact that as steve said were they a lot of these entities are using modeling theoretical modeling and uh frankly not just in in this area but in many other areas of our agricultural science the theoretical modeling has led us to very erroneous conclusions that have been taken as fact now and and yet we can easily dispute those so-called facts so so we can’t do that we can’t get into theoretical modeling here it’s got to be real deal measurements on a routine basis the other is is that we it can’t be gamed and Steve you mentioned that as well gained or cheated and when you don’t have rat truly randomized measurements then it becomes quite easy for somebody to game or cheat this they can add carbon to the areas that are being measured by adding compost or purposefully concentrating livestock or bale grazing or whatever on just those measurement areas and and that would lead to all types of potential litigation and so forth in the future if if that were the case so we can’t have a program that that allows opportunity for gaming and cheating and then the third thing is as a farmer and rancher uh you know historically the fact of the matter is farmers and ranchers on any kind of payment usually get the short end of the stick and so we’ve got to have payment programs and systems put into place where the farmer truly gets adequately paid because they are the ones that are taking all the risk they own the land they’re making all the payments and they’re working 365 days a year every year so they should get the lion’s share of the value of that carbon and not just simply an aggregator or a marketer and and so those are the top three issues that you know i’ve always laid on the table for for carbon programs. Now I’ll make one other statement and that is as a regenerative farmer and rancher and consultant for almost any farmer and rancher there are some very simple ways to know if you’re either building and storing carbon or not beyond having to measure carbon all the time now obviously we have to for a program like this and get paid but if you want to know on a day in day out basis as the operator of that farmer ranch whether you’re building or losing carbon it’s this simple guys are you growing enough plant biomass and have enough plant species diversity to be able to maximize photosynthetic capacity are you seeing more or less insects and insect species diversity if it’s less you’re not building carbon that’s just a fact are you seeing more or less bird species and bird total bird population numbers. If you’re not you’re not building carbon if you are you are building carbon so there’s very simple ways that we can determine this and if you uh do a simple single ring water infiltration test on your farm and you are improving and increasing your water infiltration rates you’re building carbon if you’re not you’re not building carbon so you know there there’s a number of ways that as farmers and ranchers we can know that on a day-in day-out basis without having to guess what’s happening really helpful did go ahead caitlyn i was just going to add one thing to what just to build on what what alan just said um i think the um one of the important things about measurement is that it also needs to really translate the science into rancher information to affirm and help the rancher understand and and help them in their decision making that fart modeling doesn’t really do that nor does not as shallow sampling nor does inadequate or games allocation of sampling over a landscape a really honest true sampling is what the ranchers farmers need and it will help them make really good decisions like Alan’s talking about.
Thanks for that um let’s talk really briefly we’ve we’ve got about 20 minutes left I want to talk about the b-carbon standard itself so what makes it different and why is it new why did we need it in your opinion and then how do we get from the measurement to certification so let me just start back with um Jim I know you mentioned starting uh from this place of how do we pay landowners on the Texas Gulf Coast to leave their land intact um Jim there are several existing carbon standards why did you decide to work with a large group of stakeholders to create a new standard and how is this one different if you could give us a brief overview Jim?
Sure I mean there’s many different ways to answer that question let me just simply start by saying that the market has never developed under the existing standards there is not a vibrant uh soil carbon market and it’s been out there for 20 years uh so one we just don’t see any evidence that there is a market developing with the existing standards of we took these standards to the landowners and we started a stakeholder process because we really feel like credibility comes from stakeholders and from the involvement of a wide range of interests we invited landowners to come and talk with us about these existing standards and to a person they told us they were not interested in joining under the existing standards that they needed something that was different that was really that worked for them and frankly if we’ve got a soil carbon concept and if it doesn’t work for landowners in the United States you’re not going to be seeing a significant amount of soil carbon accumulation and certainly know you know the increases that we’re hoping to see so one we’ve formed a stakeholder group one to get input two to get credibility the buyers are telling us what they need is credibility credibility and credibility we are not a pay-to-play system we are an open to all system we started off with about 40 individual stakeholders representing maybe 20 corporations institutions of landowner corporations things like that associations we’re now up to about 70 institutional members and about 170 on our mailing list anyone is welcome to join uh my my last name is Blackburn take the n off i am blackburr at rice.edu. If you want to participate in the b-carbon stakeholder process um send me an email I’ll get you signed up it’s that easy to participate we now have I think buy-in from a number of states we have a buy-in from a number of the corporations or that are emitters are comfortable uh but more importantly we’re working with non-governmental organizations to get them comfortable with this standard. We are additional in the sense that we’re measuring increases in carbon that is our concept of additionality uh the permanence that we’re looking at is a 10-year time period we will set up buffer accounts we will basically have enforcement mechanisms under contracts to make sure all of these obligations are in fact maintained it’s a formidable undertaking to initiate a new standard like this and we have done it almost entirely with volunteer effort so from that standpoint i would say it’s a one it’s been an amazing process to be a part of but secondly it is something that was both kind of almost demanded to be developed if we were ever going to make progress in this area so i feel very proud to be a part of it it is probably going to be somewhat controversial because it is a departure but i think it’s a needed departure thanks for the overview Jim Steve uh you’ve got a lot of experience with different carbon standards what is your opinion about this new b-carbon standard?
Foundationally it’s absolutely the right path to be on the b carbon approach if the soil storage battery as a carbon storage system has more room to store more carbon any acre in that condition should be eligible and any farmer any ranch or any landowner should be incentivized to participate that’s fundamentally what i see foundationally different and applaud of the b carbon standard all of the other standards are predicated on lack of trust and predicated on systems put in place to ensure that the land and the intentions of the landowner it’s all about second guessing the intentions of the landowner if you’re only in it for the carbon revenue that’s not good enough if you started if you started doing uh this grazing that alan talked about that emulates the way bison herds historically grazed if you started doing that five years ago even though the storage battery the soil on your system still has a lot of room for storing more carbon you’re not eligible to participate and in the agricultural community it’s the early adopters that are the people the farmers that are experimenting are the people that every other farmer looks at across the fence and the if you don’t let the innovators in and the early adopters in you’re shooting your entire process in the foot and that’s one reason why the other protocols will not work and have not worked and why b carbon is the right pathway because early adopters and everybody are encouraged to incentivize. I’m sorry encouraged innovate uh and make the world a better place starting from the ground up.
Alan I see you nodding go right ahead jump in well Steve’s absolutely right you know the vast majority of the programs out there uh for those of us that have been doing this for a long time you know for the Gabe Browns of the world and you know many others uh there there’s no there’s no recourse you know we’ve got people that have built incredible amounts of carbon over the last two to three decades and yet there there is absolutely no way under under many of the programs of them to ever be paid for that uh basically what you’re incentivized to do in that regard is you you almost have to go look for a a pretty degraded piece of land and buy that and start all over again you know to be able to realize any kind of revenue from from the carbon that you’ve built so there there has to be a way for those that have gone before those that have pioneered this uh to to be able to you know benefit from this and in my opinion that’s relatively easy because you can benchmark that against all the conventional farms or ranches in that same region uh if you’re substantially better it’s not because your particular farm just happened to have a lot more organic matter and carbon no it didn’t you know you built it you built it and and we have to get over that hurdle you know so that those that have been in this been doing this for a while can also realize benefit from being able to market their their prior stored carbon is this uh the additionality concept that you guys are talking about yeah I think it is very much concept and then the preconditions that are imposed. uh Which if Steve is exactly right it’s based on absence of trust it was the original system was set up between nations it was to ensure that there was not any type of fraud being perpetrated by one nation against another and it carried over to land owners and we have to trust the landowner and we’ve got to work with the landowner and that requires a different approach but yes this is generally caught up in the concept of additionality I think there’s a another point I’d like to add which is one of the other things about b-carbon which is why we also are choosing to use it is it’s really about outcomes not paying people for certain practices and that’s really important because some of the truly regenerative approaches are not a cookbook recipe for how what to do and what not to do they are it’s almost like a science and art or a bit of artistry mixed together because it relies on working with nature and so if you look at people like alan and others who are experts in this how they might farm and ranch might look different because every piece of land and every ecosystem is slightly different right just like a human body anything that’s alive it doesn’t fit that cookie cutter and so by by using a measured additionality and requiring actual soil measurements you’re focused on rewarding the outcomes of the work rather than assuming that if someone does a particular practice it will definitely lead to carbon storage and that’s I think what could make b carbon one of the most rigorous carbon credits available as it as it catches on saw a lot of nodding again from Allen.
So it just it sounds like that’s why Megan your company Grassroots Carbon decided to work with the b-carbon standard instead of an existing standard did I hear that correctly?
At the present time for 2021 we’re only offering credit certified under b-carbon in fact we’re one of the first to do some pilot certification projects uh with the carbon for some of our customers and and that was a critical reason and i think the other one of the other important reasons is about scale like jim mentioned because this is really about using carbon finance as a mechanism to help scale up land restoration and support the agricultural community it’s it’s beyond just the carbon removal aspect and you know it just hasn’t it hasn’t scaled under the existing standards for some of the reasons that have been discussed so that’s an important piece too caitlyn just one real quick point um megan is so right most of the farm program funding is predicated on behavior rather than performance and it’s so easy to change behavior or to use a behavior but what i learned about no-till drilling is there’s like 78 different ways to do no-till drilling and they don’t all produce the same results yet the presumption under the farm programs is that they do and a payment for behavior is a is a payment maybe maybe one out of those 78 methods for using a no-till drill actually performs as desired uh and 77 of them don’t perform but by calling it all no-till drilling and making it all legible eligible for payments we we’ve really diluted ourselves into thinking we’re accomplishing good and that that’s counterproductive to what we need to do now has been already for decades but now we’re it’s catching up with us so performance based is really a a big turning point here in the way where this be carbon is thinking as jim mentioned yeah the concept of performance standard has been an important concept that has really never been utilized as widely as I think it should have been in environmental practices all along so that’s exactly what it is.
Great um let me just we have so many good questions and we want to try and get everyone’s questions but let’s just hit this last point which is getting from the measurement to the certification so jim let me take this back to you with b-carbon when you look at or receive measurement information what is the actual certification process part two is you retain a buffer uh why and how does that work um the certification process is at several stage one we require the initial round of testing uh that gets verified that it occurred according to the rules we have a procedural manual that has just been developed and then we have a essentially a process by which credits will be issued year one year two year three year four based on our knowledge of the kind of the physical surroundings based on literature uh based on whatever means we have of making estimates of what we think a reasonable yield would be and then credits are issued in year one two three four each year will have a ten year commitment along with it and around year four year five a second round of testing is done and we have what we call a truing up process and that is where essentially an accounting is done to determine exactly how much carbon was added what amount of credits have been issued and then we either issue more credits if there have been less credits issued than what was stored or we will have a reallocation process where most likely the landowner will participate without pay in year six and year seven to make up any shortfall that may exist and so it is essentially a quantitative process with a truing up endpoint and with transitional sales allowed primarily to offset the cost of testing which can be significant I mean that is the I think the one thing that’s that we absorb with this quantification is a testing cost that is substantial and that is something that um we feel is essential but it is a it is a factor we do require a buffer zone a buffer account I think it for soil carbon it’ll be 10 uh to begin with um we don’t think there’s a significant risk of loss I mean you don’t have the forest fire problem that you have with uh with forest uh our major concern would be conversion uh either back to row crops or to other type of land use um kind of beyond that what i would say is that fire is not an issue we’re only awarding subsurface carbon credits thanks jim so that answer is actually one of the questions in the chat about what if there is a bush fire for example um but this is all focused on subsurface storage long-term storage.
Okay yeah but Caitlyn just answered that bush fires usually contribute pyrolyzed organic carbon and that actually is uh a contributor to improved soil health and nutrient and water retention so it’s positive if the fire doesn’t mineralize the soil uh it’s a positive and we could not have time to talk about that any further right now but we give no credit to that green grass behind Allen right we’re all about what’s in the soil.
Yep interesting um okay I think we’ve answered these somewhat live but because I’m not an expert on this I’m going to just read the question and you can tell me um this question from Dominic says how does the b carbon standard deal with issues such as well I guess we’ve talked about permanence additionality and leakage am I right to say that instead of the usual permanence you look at a 10-year removal commitment and part b I think you already answered he said does the be carbon protocol mandate the use of buffer stocks against possible reversals and you already answered.
Well I would just simply say that the the lowest standard of permanence that we saw out there with the existing standards was 20 years we raised 20 years with the landowners that we’ve interviewed along the texas coast and in other places and most have most said they were not interested in a commitment of that type they would agree to 10 years there was a horizon that they could see to uh and they were agreed that they would renew it each time there was a transaction so if we can get this market growing we think permanence will be guaranteed by the long-term nature of this market and we’re going to be removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for a long time to come so we feel that permanence can be achieved a step at a time as opposed to making the commitment a hundred percent at the beginning that is a different concept it is a a bit of a trust concept not only in the landowner but in the concept of mark and then caitlyn the regulatory and the legal definition of permanence is very different than how nature treats permanence let me give you one example most of the carbon there’s two primary types of carbon fractions created as a result of this uh photosynthetic process one is uh particulate carbon that turns over pretty quickly you know with it within a decade it’s gone it’s it’s replaced and then there’s mineral associated carbon and we’ve done carbon dating which isn’t a dating service we’ve determined the age of the carbon in the soil and it it the average age in many soil areas up here in Wisconsin are 7 000 to 10 000 years of age when we get down where Jim is in Houston and get in into new Mexico uh several hundred thousand years of age is the average age of the carbon in the soil about below six inches to about a half a meter in depth and it even gets older than that when we get further west so nature has a different idea of permanence and and uh it’s very different than the legal and regulatory definition it’s better because it really works and it’s never worked legally to my knowledge there’s a lot of legal definitions that don’t work very well.
Yeah yeah sorry this has been so helpful um you know thank you all um it’s already we’re at the 45 minute mark so I know that um several of you may have commitments and I’d like to just give an opportunity to thank you but if anyone can stay on for a couple of minutes I’ll ask you the magic wand question which is if you had a magic wand which only works for soil carbon-related topics what would you change so um for those that don’t mind staying on a few minutes um you’re welcome to and for those that need to hop off we just really grateful that we had you here today um so it looks like our panelists are all able to stay on for a few minutes.
Steve let’s start with you you’re off mute if I could give you a magic wand that only works for soil carbon related topics what would you change oh I think I’m going to stretch the definition of what magic wands are capable of doing Caitlin but I what I would really like to see is soil carbon become the entree to a whole range of valuable revenue streams beyond carbon that ranchers and farmers could obtain you know water quality flood damage reduction you know climate health regrowing potable water supplies farmers are a lot more than just folks that raise beef and grow corn and we need to value what they do for the planet and identify what they do as an as being part of the reward system that we value and besides that I’d want to see about three and a half billion hectares of restored grasslands on the planet and that’s the number of degraded pastures on the planet right now about three and a half billion hectares so I want it all done in my lifetime.
Let’s go let’s do it great um Jim let’s go to you if i could give you a magic wand which only works on silica related topics or you can stretch it like Steve what would you like to change?
Well I don’t I’d like to see our attitudes change in the united states about this whole concept of of climate change and carbon dioxide kind of removal if you will I want to see the concept of market embraced market as a solution is a brand new concept uh iImean i’ve been an environmental lawyer my whole career and it’s always been about regulation we basically had a post-world war 2 economy that we had to patch to keep environmental problems under control or to bring them back into control clean air out clean water act all of those things we have to be creative to solve the problems of climate we’re going to be developing new economies what steve’s talking about is exactly where we need to be heading where we’re talking about basically paying for ecological services and rewarding landowners that cultivate those services and I think in the long term we will have an economy that reflects that and that is to get to that economy we’re going to have to do things differently than we’ve been doing about what is it einstein that said the world we’ve created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems we’re not going to solve by that thinking and that’s where we are and so we’ve got to take new opportunities and run with them and so my ideal is to see this concept of a carbon market truly embraced and unleashed and I think it will lead us to a lot of other very interesting things.
Now I actually think that’s possible too absolutely um Megan you’re next at the top of my screen I’ll let you go next.
Yeah well so adjacent to Jim’s magic wand wish my wish is that more companies you can’t have a market if there’s no customers for the product and so what’s really important is buyers for soil carbon storage because that’s injecting it’s like the five hour energy the catalyst for the market to develop and so the early customers that we’ve had at grassroots carbon are actually incubating a market by purchasing really what is to them you know a pretty small amount to test the waters and what that does is demonstrate to other companies that it’s possible we can deliver something that is uh scientifically robust and stands up to scrutiny but we just need a lot more of them to help this market develop um because I there’s no reason why we couldn’t be working with land managers on a hundred million acres you know in five or ten years and that’s the scale that’s needed uh and the acreage is there the people are there and i but i think landowners need to see that this is something they can trust they need full transparency of how much it costs how much they’re being paid you don’t even have to work with a broker if you’re working on pre-carbon if you can afford soil measurements yourself the landowner can just work directly with the standard so i think that the transparency will be there but we need the buyers to help this market develop.
Thank you Megan um Alan i’d like to give you the final word today um as both a landowner and someone that has extensively researched and worked on these issues um you have the final word jim brought up uh einstein and and a quote from einstein and i’m gonna give you another quote from Einstein and he said that a problem cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created it and uh so every first of all i agree with everything that has been said uh Megan Jim Steve absolutely correct uh but it all begins with education as a farmer as a rancher who are the people that are principally charged with being able to build and store capture build and store this carbon uh you cannot implement what you do not know and so there there is still a lot of misinformation and lack of of true knowledge out there among the farming and ranching community as well as many others about what regenerative principles and practices really are and and so you’ve you’ve got the first start the foundation of all of this is education if we can educate these producers then they can do what is needed to achieve what Steve Jim and Megan lined out in their comments.
Thank you Alan thank you very much um I want to thank all four of you this has been so enlightening um both for me as a non-expert in this space and I know for our audience we appreciate you and to get in touch, of course, everyone has the panelists names you can find them LinkedIn and also look at up their websites specifically there was a question about uh how to obtain the carbon credits and you can look I did answer that live but it’s billedgrassroots.com so thank you all thank thanks Kevin thank you and good to be with all of you likewise Jim thank you guys and keep that magic wand magic perfect way to end it’s like we’ve known each other our whole lives thank you.