RICHLAND, Washington – As much as 12 percent of the world's human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be sustainably offset by producing biochar, a charcoal-like substance made from plants and other organic materials.
|Biochar made from dairy manure pellets at the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Station in Prosser, Wash. Photo courtesy of USDA-ARS, Prosser, Wash|
That's more than what could be offset if the same plants and materials were burned to generate energy, concludes a study published today in the journal Nature Communications.
"These calculations show that biochar can play a significant role in the solution for the planet's climate change challenge," said study co-author Jim Amonette, a soil chemist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
"Biochar offers one of the few ways we can create power while decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And it improves food production in the world's poorest regions by increasing soil fertility. It's an amazing tool."
The study is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis to date on the global potential of biochar. The carbon-packed substance was first suggested as a way to counteract climate change in 1993. Scientists and policymakers have given it increasing attention in the past few years.
The study was conducted by Dominic Woolf and Alayne Street-Perrott of Swansea University in Wales, U.K., Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., Stephen Joseph of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Amonette.