Thursday, 28 May 2009

In today's Press

I was looking at a review of what is making the news of the Climate Change front.


The bright prospect of biochar

Enthusiasts say that biochar could go a long way towards mitigating climate change and bring with it a host of ancillary benefits. But others fear it could do more harm than good.

Tilling charcoal into the soil can promote lush plant growth as well as sequestering carbon, say biochar enthusiasts.

Jim Fournier wants to help save the planet, though in a most unlikely way: by burning biomass. At the forefront of a carbon-sequestration technology that proponents say offers a rare 'win-win-win' environmental opportunity, Fournier's company Biochar Engineering in Golden, Colorado, manufactures machines that turn biomass into charcoal, or biochar.

Spread on soil, biochar can keep CO2 out of the atmosphere while improving soil fertility and boosting productivity. In addition, gases released in the charcoal-making process can be used to make biofuels that are more sustainable than those currently on the market. "Char happens to be the one thing that represents a solution to all of these factors together. It's a unique opportunity," Fournier says.

But while enthusiasts are pushing to have biochar recognized as an official means of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, others remain cautious. At best we know too little, say critics, and at worst using biochar to sequester carbon could ultimately lead to unintended consequences, including the destruction of virgin forests to make way for plantations.

[2] REUTERS runs a piece on changes to the environment caused by rising temperatures

Tree-munching beetles, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and deer ticks that spread Lyme disease are three living signs that climate change is likely to exact a heavy toll on human health.

These pests and others are expanding their ranges in a warming world, which means people who never had to worry about them will have to start. And they are hardly the only health threats from global warming.

The Lancet medical journal declared in a May 16 commentary: "Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century."

Individual threats range from the simple to the very complex, the Lancet said, reporting on a year-long study conducted with University College London.

There will be more heat waves with "direct temperature effects" which will hit the most vulnerable people hardest, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, especially those with heart problems and asthma, the elderly, the very young and the homeless.

People who live within 60 miles (97 km) of a shoreline, or about one-third of the world's population, could be affected if sea levels rise as expected over the coming decades, possibly more than 3 feet (1 metre) by 2100. Flooded homes and crops could make environmental refugees of a billion people.

As it becomes hotter, the air can hold more moisture, helping certain disease-carriers, such as the ticks that spread Lyme disease, thrive, the EPA said.

A changing climate could increase the risk of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and various viral causes of encephalitis. Algae blooms in water could be more frequent, increasing the risk of diseases like cholera. Respiratory problems may be aggravated by warming-induced increases in smog.

Other less obvious dangers are also potentially devastating. eg …

Pine bark beetles, which devour trees in western North America will be able to produce more generations each year, instead of subsiding during winter months. They leave standing dead timber, ideal fuel for wildfires from Arizona to Alaska.

[3] China Is Said to Plan Strict Gas Mileage Rules

HONG KONG — Worried about heavy reliance on imported oil, Chinese officials have drafted automotive fuel economy standards that are even more stringent than those outlined by President Obama last week, Chinese experts with a detailed knowledge of the plans said on Wednesday. The new plan would require automakers in China to improve fuel economy by an additional 18 percent by 2015,

... some people are obviously taking Climate Change very seriously indeed.

1 comment:

Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;
"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".
Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
As one microbiologist said on the Biochar list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat".
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

This is what I try to get across to Farmers, as to how I feel about the act of returning carbon to the soil. An act of pertinence and thankfulness for the civilization we have created. Farmers are the Soil Sink Bankers, once carbon has a price, they will be laughing all the way to it.

One aspect of Biochar systems are Cheap, clean biomass stoves that produce biochar and no respiratory disease. At scale, the health benefits are greater than ending Malaria.
A great example;

The biochar Fund is also doing amazing work in the developing world;

The USDA-ARS have dozens of studies happening now to ferret out the reasons for char affinity with MYC fungi and microbes, but this synergy is solidly shown by the Japanese work, literally showing 1+1=3

Biochar data base; TP-REPP

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.