British soil is losing carbon — and may be contributing to global warming

Dirt may be one of the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitters — and that could throw a very heavy wrench into efforts to fight climate change. In the journal Nature, researchers report that as the soil in England and Wales has warmed over the past quarter century, many millions of tons of carbon trapped there have vanished. They say much of it has likely been released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, as higher temperatures have increased the rate of organic decay in the soil. “The warmer it gets, the faster it is happening,” said lead researcher Guy Kirk of Cranfield University. The study results indicate the same phenomenon may be happening in temperate zones across the globe. According to another article in Nature, the amount of carbon released by British soil now completely offsets the gains the country has made in curbing industrial CO2 emissions. “Our findings suggest the soil part of the equation is scarier than we had thought,” said Kirk. Indeed.