The Biochar Debate
Charcoal's potential to reverse climate change and build soil fertility

By James Bruges

The Biochar Debate
Paperback, 128 pages £8.00
Published: 5th November 2009
ISBN: 9781900322676
Format: 210mm x 148mm


Series: Schumacher Briefings

Charcoal-making is one of the oldest industrial technologies, and in the last decade there has been a growing wave of excitement about its potential for combating climate change. This is because burying biochar (fine-grained charcoal) is a highly effective way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In addition it can increase the yield of food crops and the ability of soil to retain moisture. Some people are concerned that awarding carbon credits for biochar could have seriously damaging outcomes. The Biochar Debate agrees, but describes an alternative approach, called the Carbon Maintenance Fund (CMF), that avoids the dangers. This would give every government the incentive to enable businesses, farmers and individuals to increase their country's carbon pool. It is based on remote sensing by satellite, a tried and tested technology, and would be applied globally each year to measure the increase or decrease of carbon in plants, soil and roots. The Biochar Debate sets out experimental and scientific aspects of biochar in the context of global warming, the global economy and negotiations for the future of the Kyoto Protocol. It concludes by encouraging all gardeners and farmers to use biochar to help prevent climate change.

Introduction: Charcoal and biochar; A visit to India; The players.
An overall view: Carbon; The atmosphere; The land; Limited resources; Geo-engineering; Downsides; Predictions.
The Amazon civilisation: Dark soil (terra preta).
Biochar and agriculture: Soil; Productivity; Peak oil; Peak phosphorus; Pandemics; Introduction of biochar; Where, and how much?; Permanence in soil; Application.
Pilot schemes: The banana grower; SCAD; Southern France; Carbon Gold in Belize; Ghana; Poultry farm; Cameroon; Microwave; Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
Science: Photosynthesis; Carbon dioxide; Methane; Nitrous Oxide; Safe level for greenhouse gases; Biochar; Nutrient qualities.
Carbon credits: Cap-and-trade; The global economy; Experience; Europe; Biochar; Twin solutions; CMF: the Carbon Maintenance Fee.
Selected bibliography.

There is one way we could save ourselves [from global warming] and that is through the massive burial of charcoal. It would mean farmers turning all their agricultural waste – which contains carbon that plants have spent the summer sequestering –into non-biodegradable charcoal and burying it in the soil ... This scheme would need no subsidy: the farmer would make a profit.

- James Lovelock

James Bruges

James Bruges worked as an architect in London, Sudan and India before setting up an architectural practice with Howard Tozer in Bristol. His books include Sustainability and the Bristol Urban Village Initiative, The Little Earth Book, The Big Earth Book and part of What About China? With his wife, he keeps in touch with and visits Gandhian NGOs in southern India.

Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 128 pages
ISBN: 9781900322676
Format: 210mm x 148mm

BISAC Code:  BUS099000, SCI020000, SCI092000
Imprint: Green Books

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Creating Sustainable Cities
The Ecology of Health
Ecovillages - New Frontiers for Sustainability
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The Natural Step - Towards A Sustainable Society
Rekindling Community - Connecting People, Environment and Spirituality
The Roots of Health - Realizing the Potential of Complementary Medicine
Small is Beautiful in the 21st Century - The legacy of E.F. Schumacher
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Transforming Economic Life - A Millennial Challenge
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