World Food Prize: Al Gore says farmers can make money with practices that sequester carbon


Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register (IA)

Oct 12, 2020


Midwest farmers have seen firsthand the impact of climate change, with millions of acres going unplanted last year due to flooding and the damage done this summer by drought and Iowa's destructive derecho, former Vice President Al Gore said as he kicked off a week of World Food Prize events Monday.


Speaking as part of a virtual roundtable for the Des Moines-based annual conference, Gore said last year's floods resulted in nearly 20 million acres not getting planted and cost Americans $20 billion, including $6.5 billion in crop insurance payments.


He said the world needs to stop using the Earth's atmosphere as an "open sewer" for its growing carbon emissions.


"We need to encourage as much carbon sequestration ... as we possibly can in soils, in vegetation and trees," said the Tennessee Democrat and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee. Gore shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his efforts to highlight the causes and costs of the shifting climate.


He said a team of researchers looked at flooded Midwest areas and found farms with the greatest ability to plant in 2019's extreme weather had adopted practices such as "sharply reduced tillage, cover crops that keep roots in the soil," increased grazing and greater crop diversity.


"We have economic evidence that in the wake of these more common extreme weather events, farmers can improve their bottom line and make their farms more resilient with regenerative agriculture practices," said Gore, who joined Rattan Lal, the winner of this year's World Food Prize, on a panel that explored agriculture's role in addressing climate change.


The prize honored Lal, a distinguished professor of soil science at Ohio State University, for his work showing how plants can pull carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil, preventing it from combining with oxygen and creating carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.


Though the international food and farm symposium is being held virtually to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it typically attracts 1,200 people from 65 countries to Des Moines, home of the World Food Prize.


Lal will be awarded the $250,000 prize in a virtual ceremony Thursday.


In Monday's discussion, Lal compared soil to a bank account...


more, including video [1:27 min.]