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The biochar backlash

Cross posted from Heliophage

Interest in biochar has been building up in the UK recently. There was a cover story by Fiona Harvey in the FT a month ago with a familiar headline, Jim Lovelock and James Hansen have been extolling its virtues, it’s been on the Today Programme (text here on BBC News), there are new technologies being talked up and there’s an interesting looking workshop at the newly established UK Biochar Research Centre in Edinburgh on April 1st. And so of course there is also a backlash: last Monday George Monbiot, whose written on such subjects before, delivered a stirring oppositional salvo in the Guardian (and here’s the link to the version on his own site, same text but with references — a good habit more newspaper columnists should take up):

This miracle solution has suckered people who ought to know better, including the earth systems scientist James Lovelock(3), the eminent climate scientist Jim Hansen(4), the author Chris Goodall and the climate campaigner Tim Flannery(5). At the UN climate negotiations beginning in Bonn on Sunday, several national governments will demand that biochar is eligible for carbon credits, providing the financial stimulus required to turn this into a global industry(6). Their proposal boils down to this: we must destroy the biosphere in order to save it.

In his otherwise excellent book, Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, Chris Goodall abandons his usual scepticism and proposes that we turn 200 million hectares of “forests, savannah and croplands” into biochar plantations. Thus we would increase carbon uptake, by grubbing up “wooded areas containing slow-growing trees” (that is, natural forest) and planting “faster-growing species”(7). This is environmentalism?

Read the rest of the post — more Monbiot and responses to his criticism — at Heliophage —>


  1. Report this comment

    Ben said:

    Every farm owner and hobby farm owner can contribute their part to store carbon in their soil. Few months ago the temperature at Melbourne, Australia went up as high as 45 degree Celcius, never before in the history. We should take Climate Change seriously and do whatever little part we can to help save the planet earth

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    Mac said:

    Journalists like Monbiot give Climate Change a bad name……….and for that we should be truly thankful.

    PS I lived in Melbourne for 4 years, 40+ temps are far from unusual during the summer months.

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