New organic charcoal-like substance could offset global warming

London, Aug 11 : Biochar, a charcoal-like substance made from plants and other organic materials, could offset as much as 12 percent of world’s greenhouse emissions.

“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,” said Jim Amonette, a soil chemist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The carbon-packed substance was first suggested as a way to counteract climate change in 1993.

Biochar is made by decomposing biomass like plants, wood and other organic materials at high temperature in a process called slow pyrolysis.

It’s much more stable and can hold onto its carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Biochar can also improve soils’ ability to retain water and nutrients, decrease nitrous oxide and methane emissions from the soil into which it is tilled, and produce some bio-based gas and oil during pyrolysis.

“Using biochar to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at these levels is an ambitious project that requires significant commitments from the general public and government. We will need to change the way we value the carbon in biomass,” Amonette said.

However, the science community seems to be divided on biochar.

“Some think it’ll ruin biodiversity and require large biomass plantations. But our research shows that won’t be the case if the right approach is taken,” he said.

The study is published today in the journal Nature ommunications. (ANI)