Monbiot: Even greater than all the Biofools are the misguided advocates of Biochar

No matter how many times they lead to disappointment or disaster, the newspapers never tire of promoting miracle cures, miracle crops, miracle fuels and miracle financial instruments. We have a bottomless ability to disregard the laws of economics, biology and thermodynamics when we encounter a simple solution to complex problems. So welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the new miracle. It’s a low-carbon regime for the planet which makes the Atkins Diet look healthy: woodchips with everything.

Get full text; support writer, producer of the words:

Biomass is suddenly the universal answer to our climate and energy
problems. Its advocates claim that it will become the primary source
of the world’s heating fuel, electricity, road transport fuel
(cellulosic ethanol) and aviation fuel (bio-kerosene). Few people stop
to wonder how the planet can accommodate these demands and still
produce food and preserve wild places. Now an even crazier use of
woodchips is being promoted everywhere. The great green miracle works
like this: we turn the planet’s surface into charcoal. Sorry, not
charcoal. We don’t call it that any more. Now we say biochar. The idea
is that wood and crop wastes are cooked to release the volatile
components (which can be used as fuel), then the residue – the
charcoal – is buried in the soil.

According to the magical thinkers
who promote it, the new miracle stops climate breakdown, replaces gas
and petroleum, improves the fertility of the soil, reduces
deforestation, cuts labour, creates employment, prevents respiratory
disease and ensures that when you drop your toast it always lands
butter side up. (I invented the last one, but give them time). They
point out that the indigenous people of the Amazon created terras
pretas (black soils) by burying charcoal over hundreds of years. These
are more fertile than the surrounding soils, and the carbon has stayed
where they put it. 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

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? But that’s just
the start of it. Carbonscape, a company which hopes to be among the
first to commercialise the technique, talks of planting 930 million
hectares(8). The energy lecturer Peter Read proposes new biomass
plantations of trees and sugar covering 1.4 billion ha(9).

Get full text; support writer, producer of the words:

Comments (1)

PeaceFromTrees said…

My dear friend Lou, what has gotten into you? I guess this is the mental meander part of your site? And wow… you sure meander pretty well!

I mean WTF? I thought you were a forest defender Lou?

I mean look at the video… Advocating for the rainforest’s most fertile soils to be wasted and barren as flat square mono-crop farmland for human over-use while excluding use by all other species?

Why not integrate our food needs into Biodiversity’s recovery rather then further dismantle and destroy biodiversity to the exclusion of all beings except humans?

And if biochar is so sustainable what happened to culture who practiced this methodology and why are the still surviving indigenous cultures of the amazon predominately forest-based cultures who have fully-integrated their food needs into encouraging the fecundity of biodiversity?

Bio-char places no value, care, or concern on the restoration of ecologic diversity! It’s yet another better mouse trap that makes mass killing of living beings more valued, and more “climate-friendly.”

Bio-char places no value on locking up carbon as it already exists instead of unlocking the carbon to relock it up as yet another form of human over-exploitation of soil and the resultant overpopulation of humans, which in turn exterminates the diversity of life on earth as we know it…

Insanity and suicide perhaps?

Or maybe that’s what human ambition really is? Or maybe those of us like Lou and I who block logging roads and stop logging because it’s the right thing to know better than that?

Have you heard of the ten million malnourished children who live in garbage dumps in the Philippines for the sole purpose of finding wood scraps to create charcoal: ?

Thank goddess for Monbiot crying foul on these delusional do-gooders who advocate turning the whole planet into charcoal, ash and greenhouse gas:

Long live the trees, Deane

Blog index:
Linked In:

Leave a comment

Your comment