The New Carbon Economy

In the IPCC’s Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 °C (2018), biochar was listed as one of several promising negative emissions technologies (NET). Others, including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), afforestation and reforestation (AR), direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS), ocean sequestration, and enhanced weathering, may be technically and geophysically feasible, but their speed, scale, energy, and economic costs pose implementation challenges, even if the issues of public acceptance and absence of economic incentives were to be resolved. The large potential of afforestation and the co-benefits if implemented appropriately (e.g., on biodiversity and soil quality) will diminish over time, as forest carbon saturates. Soil carbon sequestration has co-benefits with agriculture and is cost-effective but likewise has a finite potential. Unlike these, biochar is safe, scalable and shovel-ready, supplies co-benefits that address a majority of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, can self-finance, and is not limited by either feedstocks or sink temporality. We show how farmer livelihoods have been improved; contaminated soils remediated; food made less toxic; wastewater cleansed and reused; cities cooled and freshened; electrosmog blocked; non-point-source pollution in lakes and oceans absorbed; renewable heat or electricity generated; and circular economies engendered by converting waste organic materials into dozens of new climate-friendly products—carbon concrete, asphalt, building materials, cosmetics, fabrics, polymers, fuel cells, and polymers. We conclude that biochar’s drawdown potential has been understated. We provide a timeline that more accurately quantifies its non-agricultural potential.

Tuesday Poster Session
Kathleen Draper
Albert Bates
Related Conference Themes
Built Environment
Electricity Generation
Land Use
Materials & Waste
Women & Girls