Monday, September 21, 2020

And it's hard to get more boring than charcoal

Sometimes it feels like the more practical and promising an approach to addressing global warming is, the less interest it generates. Personally, for this and most other urgent problems, I'm pretty much only interested in boring solutions based on existing technology.

I'm not sure if there's a way to scale this to address our twin crises of  too much fuel in our forests and too much carbon in our atmosphere, but it's an intriguing thought.

From Wikipedia:

 The burning and natural decomposition of biomass releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane to the Earth's atmosphere. The biochar production process also releases CO2 (up to 50% of the biomass); however the remaining carbon content is stable indefinitely. Biochar presents a stable way of carbon storage in the ground for centuries, potentially reducing or stalling the growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Simultaneously, its presence in the earth can improve water quality, increase soil fertility, raise agricultural productivity, and reduce pressure on old-growth forests.

Biochar can sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years, like coal. Such a carbon-negative technology would lead to a net withdrawal of CO2 from the atmosphere, while producing consumable energy. This technique is advocated by prominent scientists such as James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, for mitigation of global warming by greenhouse gas remediation.

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