| Press Release

New analysis: California’s working lands could absorb up from atmosphere equivalent of one-quarter of the state’s annual carbon emissions

Cattle Grazing Pasture

Santa Rosa, California, January 25, 2022 — A new report from California-based policy nonprofit The Climate Center finds that California’s working lands can sequester up to 100 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. That’s far more than previously estimated and enough to absorb almost one-quarter of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. 

“California’s incredible diversity of landscapes is one of our greatest tools in confronting the climate crisis,” said Jock Gilchrist, Research and Initiative Manager at The Climate Center and lead author of the report. “Now the work must begin to translate this research into smart policies and results on the ground. Given the damages climate change has already imposed on California, we can’t afford to delay any further.”

Every scenario in which we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris agreement, involves removing carbon from the atmosphere. Rather than rely on unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) that prolong fossil fuel reliance, California can look to its millions of acres of cropland, pastures, ranches, parks, and urban spaces to sequester carbon. 

“This analysis from The Climate Center shows that California’s working lands have the potential to sequester far more carbon than previously thought,” said Dr. Jeff Creque, Director of Rangeland and Agroecosystem Management at the Carbon Cycle Institute. “That’s encouraging news. Now, we need to ensure the deployment of climate- and soil-focused agricultural practices and technical assistance at scale, which can simultaneously address the climate crisis and improve the health of fenceline communities.”

Proven techniques like compost application and agroforestry not only draw down carbon, but also improve water security, reduce air pollution, and enhance crop resilience to extreme weather. 

“Nature-based carbon sequestration solutions have the potential to address several crises at once,” said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. “In these times of drought, they improve water security. They help contain the spread of catastrophic wildfires. And they can even replace chemically-intensive agriculture techniques that pollute communities and endanger farmworkers.”

The Climate Center’s analysis calculates the cost of implementing nature-based carbon sequestration policies at scale in California to be roughly $30 billion over ten years, but the economic impact of climate disasters in the state is far greater. For instance, the 2018 wildfire season inflicted $150 billion in damages.

The full report, Setting an Ambitious Climate Goal for California’s Working Lands: Analysis and Recommendations for Net-Negative Emissions by 2030, is available for download here


Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Communications Director, The Climate Center: ryan@theclimatecenter.org, (415) 342-2386

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative.