Walter Jehne, stop talking about carbon emissions and focus on restoring the water cycle

Storing carbon in our soil at scale is absolutely possible and crucial. This is not due to the carbon drawdown but because it restores the soil sponge and our water cycle. In this episode of Investing in Regenerative Agriculture, we talk about the impact of regeneration on cooling the climate. We should all get incredibly hopeful and encouraged as we discuss this with our guest, Walter Jehne. Walter is a forester and an agricultural scientist specialising in soil microbial ecology of plant diseases, nutrition, and land regeneration.


An eye opening interview where we discuss the impact of regeneration on cooling the climate and why we all should be incredible hopeful and get to work.

Focus On Soil

How did Walter end up working in soil with focus on agriculture? The longer he understood biology, the more he realized the importance of soil and how nature created the terrestrial biosphere. We can no longer fix the climate with CO2 emission reductions, since half of the carbon dioxide goes into the oceans.

“It will take centuries for us to even draw down or have negative net emissions to change the carbon in the atmosphere in a meaningful way that will change the greenhouse effect. So it’s actually the evidence that we can’t fix the climate anymore with CO2 emissions reductions because the ocean is such an enormous thing. – Walter Jehne

Key Pieces of the Water Cycle

We need to restore the water cycles. Carbon is a resource that we need to use to rebuild the soil and water in order to cool the planet. Water is taken from soil by vegetation and taken up into the atmosphere, it has to transfer from liquid into a gas water vapor. Thus, the enormous quantity of heat that is taken from the surface by vegetation transpiring and taken back into the atmosphere can help cool the surface as well. 

“We have heated the planet about three Watts per square meter, which is about 1% unbalanced. The earth transpiration, these latent heat fluxes to transpiration and evaporation, they naturally take 24% of the heat that we’re getting from the sun. They are taking them from the surface, back up into the atmosphere. It’s 2085 Watts per square meter globally, or 24% of the heat energy. This process is actually taking it from the surface. So theoretically, if we just increase the vegetation 4%, we can do that 1% cooling effect.” – Walter Jehne

Major Barriers to the Extension of Regen Ag

The industrial food system is currently generating trillions of dollars of diseases and health consequences to the public. These distort the relative costs and risks of regenerative options, thus, impeding wise investments and decisions. If we only focus on the real health consequences, this not only resorts to the creation of jobs and employment in regional revitalization, but it would also save trillions of dollars in disease consequences and social cost savings. Farms have the potential to be more transparent and enable consumers to view the changes on the ground. 


There are some case studies on the benefits of reforestation and how this can potentially help save the climate. There are also some case studies of vegetation and rainfall relationships since trees harvest moisture from the humid air flows that are induced by vegetation. The trees will then be able to deliver so many liters of rain that can help cool the environment. 

“These are the case studies, the evidence, the reality of nature. We don’t have to really do the experiments. We can go to the Sequoia forest in America, it is getting up to 80% of the moisture. This is due to the mist and fog harvested from the air flows.”  – Walter Jehne

Other Important Points Discussed

Koen and Walter discussed these points in this episode

  • What Walter would do if he were in charge of a $1 Billion investment portfolio 
  • What Walter sees smart investors should look out for
  • What Walter would do if he had a magic wand that could change one thing overnight in the agriculture and food space
  • What Walter is the key change needed in agriculture

To know more about Walter Jehne and how you can help with the climate change, download and listen to this episode.


Walter Jehne is an internationally recognised climate scientist, soil microbiologist and innovation strategist. He has immense field and research experience in forests, grasslands, agriculture and soils at national (CSIRO) and international (UN) levels. In addition to his science career Walter has worked broadly with the Federal government, leading transformation in industry. This diversity of experience has given Walter a unique and exceptional capacity to devise solutions to problems and to turn challenges into opportunities. He has a remarkable ability to explain complex science in easy to understand ways. Walter’s primary scientific focus is soil biology. Recently he was part of an invitation only UN FAO conference in Paris looking at including soil science into the next IPCC report.



Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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7 comments on “Walter Jehne, stop talking about carbon emissions and focus on restoring the water cycle

  1. Top of the morning to you Walter. The whole World needs to hear what you have to say about our present predicament. The soil is absolutely the key along with the herbage it supports and more importantly supports the soil. This gives the soil to hold water. Humus holds both nutrient and water where only the plants can access it. You expressed it better than anyone else at our conference last March. My very best wishes.

  2. David Dow says:

    I recently watched a documentary on the increase of the world population levels and the ability of our agricultural system to feed the increasing number of people in our world who are living on the edge of subsistence in third world countries/less affluent residents of developed countries. How can regenerative agriculture and holding more water in the soils via humus/plant fungi relationships feed 9 billion people on Planet Earth ? Here on Cape Cod Communities of Faith have organized monthly webinars on the “Climate Emergency and Environmental Justice-based responses” which focus on reduced consumption of non-essential goods by citizens in rich countries/increasing subsistence for folks living in underdeveloped countries. Will regenerative forestry and agricultural be able to overcome the increases in population size and needs to improve living standards for 5 billion poor people ? Industrial agricultural advocates invest a lot of resources to increasing the productivity of their crop production to feed increasing world population levels.

    1. Ken Bourne says:

      Sustainable organic farming practices can definitely feed the world- and grow healthy food , compared to the nutrient deficient stuff produced by chemical farming . If all in season food was produced locally there would be less diseases, hence less health care costs. The other benefit of nutrient rich food is that less is needed to get the required nutrients for good health.

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