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Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Earthworms share blame for global warming

It seems we have to dig a little deeper to find the real causes for global warming. It turns out it’s not just industrial production practices, cooling of homes and driving cars that’s fueling climate change – researchers now reveal that another species are equally to blame.

Photo credit: CC BY ND 2.0: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Long believed to be industrious helpers in the garden, earthworms by their mere existance in soils increase carbon dioxide emissions by 33 per cent and nitrous oxide emissions by 42 per cent. But the worms don’t just release greenhouse gases from soil – they also help offset some other greenhouse gases. So what is actually relevant is the net effect.

In fact, by digging up the world’s soils those slick earthworms “increase net soil greenhouse-gas emissions,” researchers say.  That is why “global warming” has already been dubbed “global worming” in the media, implying that the worms not only contribute but rather “accelerate”  climate change.

But if you now feel tempted to take a deep breath of relief and happily pursue all your climate-damaging activities (such as eating tons of meat, using an extra dose of hairspray, switching air conditioning though it’s cool enough, taking the car to go to the supermarket  round the corner, use as much plastic bags as possible…) – hang on!

Compared to the 60 percent of global warming that humans account for by emitting greenhouse gases – the 16 percent increase in soil global warming caused by earthworms seems almost like nothing.


February 6, 2013



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