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April 13, 2023

Soil: An Invisible Crisis and Massive Climate Opportunity

Hear from Professor Jo Handelsman on the threats and opportunities that arise from soil – a vitally important resource that many of us take for granted and yet is at significant risk.

Humans depend on soil for 95% of global food production, yet it is eroding at unsustainable rates.  Climate change is making this worse, for example as rainstorms are projected to become more frequent and intense with a warming planet.  This poses severe risks to our ability to feed a growing population. Yet, soil is also the largest terrestrial repository for carbon, containing three times as much as the Earth’s atmosphere and four times as much as all plants combined, meaning that it has the potential to be a significant mitigant in the fight to stop to climate change.

Given its critical importance to humanity, we wanted to use this episode to dive into the threats and opportunities that arise from soil.  We’ll discuss:

  • Why and how soil is so vitally important for humanity;
  • The scale of the risks from soil erosion and what can be done to stop this;
  • And how the financial sector can respond to help address this ‘silent crisis’.


For more information on climate risk, visit GARP’s Global Sustainability and Climate Risk Resource Center:

If you have any questions, thoughts, or feedback regarding this podcast series, we would love to hear from you at:

Links from today’s discussion:


Speaker’s Bio

Dr Jo Handelsman is the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is also a Vilas Research Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.  Dr. Handelsman was appointed by President Barack Obama as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she served for three years until January 2017. She has been editor-in-chief of various academic journals and is the author of many books, including the co-author of the recently published book ‘A World Without Soil: the past, present and precarious future of the earth beneath our feet.’

She received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama in 2011 and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.


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