Global Warming: The Biochar Solution
The Ode team that is distributing our special issue with solutions to global warming in Copenhagen (you can get a free digital copy of this issue here) ran into an old friend– Thomas Harrtung, who was recently named by Time magazine “hero of the environment.” We featured Thomas Harttung in our November 2008 issue. Harttung established an organic produce delivery service in Denmark that now has 45,000 members (about 1 percent of the Danish population) and annual revenues of about 55 million dollars.
Harttung had come to Copenhagen for various meeting around the current UN Climate Conference. He has an interesting story about a solution to global warming. His new solution is, in fact, a very old one: biochar. Biochar is a charcoal-like product made from organic waste. It has been used for thousands of years to create rich, fertile soils in the Amazon by the natives there.
“Terra Preta de Indio” or black earth of the Indians in Portuguese, was made by the Pre-Columbian Indians. They produced it by setting fire to organic waste, then piling earth on top of it and allowing it to smolder. Today, the biochar that they created is still in the earth. Evidence from soil samples in the Amazon shows large concentrations of biochar remaining after they were abandoned thousands of years ago. Moreover the tests show that the biochar has retained its ability to store nutrients and water.
The great thing about biochar is that it is good for both the soil and the climate: it fertilizes the soil and it captures carbon. In fact, it is probably the best method for carbon sequestration. A common estimate is that the CO2 that is captured is stored for centuries. Furthermore: biochar can be created from different sources of organic waste, so it can practically be made everywhere.
Thomas Harttung is producing biochar on his organic farm and he had come to Copenhagen to tell the story about this successful global warming solution. There is an International Biochar Initiative. Harttung’s story about the modern promise of ancient biochar is just one more example of the solutions that are available to fight global warming and clean up the planet. Whatever challenge global warming poses, there is really no lack of solutions.
Global Warming is a big topic, the Climate Change Conference is a big event, and there are many points of view on both: Be sure to check out Care2’s daily coverage of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference which is taking place now at Bella Center in Copenhagen.