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Thank you very much for your patient and reasoned reply to my recent impatient and unreasoned rant. Although to my amazement it has elicited a large number of personal emails thanking me for saying what needed saying, I want to apologize to you for my intemperance.
What first struck me while reading your response was how much I was learning about a world of modeling and so on, stuff I had never heard of. What then really hit me hard was that we live in entirely different worlds. It is not simply that I do not know about all of these major international study groups and studies that are going on, but that I could never afford to belong to them if I did. Once this occurred to me and I sat back to count on my fingers, I realized how very small these two worlds we inhabit are. There simply are not very many people engaged in the big endeavor and I know very few engaged in the little endeavor. The question is then: would greater good follow from cooperation?
This is an excellent question. Needless to say, we could all do with a world less roiled by uncivil voices like mine. But your real question goes much further and suggests that at base, I undermine the very cause I seek to promote by railing against those engaged in report writing, standard setting, and so on. The suggestion is that if you and yours succeed, the small farmers I care for will be at least provided access to the climate change money pool, and perhaps even embraced.
I have two reservations. The first is simple: time. By your own admission, you do not anticipate rapid progress on the biochar certification and recognition fronts, etc. (And, yes, I do recognize that the European Certification was meant for Europe, but where do poor countries look for the lead on such subjects? The EBC is today the de facto global standard. Your comment on PHAs is generally apt: Bureaucracies are not fine instruments. They tend to mash not slice.) So what happens to those on the margin in the meantime? Even if all of this were ultimately to deliver some form of financial support, how many will die waiting? My trainers work in villages that are down to a meal a day of corn gruel. Time is not on our side.
Second, the notion that once everything is in place politically and scientifically, all that will remain is to get these small farmers to figure out a foolproof, verifiable and certifiable system for counting their char burials overlooks rather a lot of the reality of life in the rural areas of much of the developing world. Take CarbonFuture, for example, how in the world could anyone provide SBC certification of the char produced by tens of thousands of small farmers using TLUDS, troughs and trenches - there being no certification for "whatever" biochar? How in the world could anyone provide blockchain verification of what happened to the char - not least when no one recognizes any agency to deal collectively for large numbers of individuals over whom it does not exercise physical control? Without power or cell phone coverage, for example, most rural people we work with don't have phones. When we ask farmers to text us pictures of their crops or the biochar they make, we get blank looks. And we should know. This is just the surface; it gets much worse. Did I mention the corruption of officials unpaid for months at a time? Or....
What if we came at these related questions from a different, more utilitarian point of view, the greatest good for the greatest number. We know from the research that there are feedstocks that provide better chars for specific purposes, that different residence times and temperatures result in chars better for this or that, that the same is true with quenching. All of these tweaks are readily available to anyone in the OECD who wishes to make char. None of them are available to small, rural farmers. These farmers must use whatever feedstock and whatever low-rent technology they have to produce whatever biochar comes out. OECD biochar is easy to standardize and certify; small farmer "whatever" biochar is another matter.
Does the fact that 2.5 billion small farmers with 500 million farms and limited access to ag chemicals, rising temperatures and falling precipitation suggest that addressing this sort of "whatever" biochar should not be our primary focus? I mean, on a person to person basis, the developing world is much bigger than the developed. With population growth flattening or falling in the EU and US while it continues to grow in the developing world, isn't there a Benthamite reason to look South? Am I being American because of the Big Orange One and his wall? I think not. Orange is also the color of the life vests the hunger migrants from Africa wear as they attempt the Mediterrainian wall. (Ach, yes, "someday you, too, will have your Trump" to paraphrase (badly) Haile Selassie before the League as the Italians invaded his country,)
Should we cooperate more? Absolutely. How? I have no idea. I cannot fly around the world to attend conferences in Europe and the Antipodes. I know few real scientists who are comfortable sleeping on the floor with the flees, ticks, lice, goats and entire family. It is a big gap. Maybe we should just recognize that we have common, humanitarian goals.
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Dr. D. Michael Shafer
Founder and Director, Warm Heart
I have read that there was more discussion from the side of Michael Shafer (Schäfer?) lately, condemning standards like the EBC (which
was never made for developing countries but for Europe, like the name says), but at the same time, rejecting negative emission shemes like BECCS. It is right to be afraid of those, they would likely lead to land grabbing, if this strategy does make it through
to global politics. The global politics, however, are mostly advised by earth system modeler scientists when it comes to climate change, mostly people doing IAMs (Integrated assessment models) that are rather economically driven. In other words, „let’s throw
money this way and things will be fixed (regarding the necessary negative emissions)“. This would leave out or even endanger the existence of smallholder farmers to an extent that you wouldn’t like to think about, believe me…
This is one of the reasons why we tried to get the earth climate modeller community doing assessments on Negative Emissions to acknowledge
that biochar is a tool in a large diverse Negative Emission Technologies (NET) toolbox that they have so far overlooked. By working with them, which was a mutually enjoyable process of learning from each other. And this is how PyCCS as a NET came to be, why
it was included in the 1.5°C IPCC special report. Our hope was to raise awareness that this tool in the NET toolbox can be applied everywhere, from small-scale rural for everyone, made by low-cost efforts, to industrial-scale when it comes to Europe or North
America. (The EBC guidelines helped a little with the legislation in some European countries because they included all the rules, silly or not, that existed already around fertilizer laws and soil protection regulation and so on. Ignoring these would have
resulted in zero legal way of using biochar. These regulation guys don’t care how logical things are, or if PAHs (if they exist) would even be bioavailable. If they are present, they just give you a fat „no“ and that’s it for you.)
We tried and still try to embrace the topic of biochar in research from this broad perspective, „Global and political governance“ and
„local-rural for everyone“: The one who initiated the EBC (Hans-Peter Schmidt) also developed the Kon-Tiki Pyrolysis together with Paul Taylor as far as I know, back in 2014. They immediately put everything online, so that no one would go and put a patent
on it; that it can be freely used by whoever wants to use it. Hans-Peter applied that newfound knowledge in a project in Nepal where the intention was to replace mineral (expensive) fertilizers in rural Nepal villages, which showed the potential for small
doses of urine-biochar and manure compost as a root zone fertilizer. We published the results of 21 field trials with on average 100% yield increase back in 2017 in Land Degradation and Development, which may be seen as proof of this broad spectrum of ours
of approaching biochar. We/he also published the only review out there on animal feeding of biochar (Schmidt et al. 2019 in PeerJ). The latter work was financed by the same project that helped us to develop PyCCS, by the way…. I can sent both papers in case
someone is interested (from a
Thus, to shoot someone first, verbally, calling them „gurus who’s approval no one needs“, and to ask questions later may be a little
bit…. An American thing to do…? (Imagine me smiling, this is not said with spite.)
I just want to make sure, within this discussion, that a fight against certification schemes (that were meant for Europe) is simply
not needed. In my view, a waste of energy. Rather, mutual discussions about how to improve approaches, in particular for trading C sinks (Negative emissions) globally, will be much more helpful and always warmly welcome.
We developed such a scheme lately and intend to develop it further, the starting of C sink certification you can find it here if you
https://www.european-biochar.org/media/doc/26/c_en_sink-potential.pdf. It already enables trading C sinks (see
https://carbonfuture.earth/). I would be highly interested in schemes that can make sure that smallholder farmers can be included and that the biochar that is produced and used can be counted and certified. How to enable
that and make sure it’s fool-proof? That no one can betray it and count „air C sinks“? I haven’t worked there, I have no idea about it. But solutions will only come with open-minded discussions.
Let’s all try to find solutions, not to do bashing or condemnation of each other‘s work
Von: main@Biochar.groups.io [mailto:main@Biochar.groups.io]
Im Auftrag von d.michael.shafer@...
Gesendet: Montag, 3. August 2020 11:59
Betreff: [EXTERN] Re: [Biochar] You may already have seen this, if not, it is a good read
You are absolutely correct about the potential instability of injected, liquid CO2. I, however, have never considered this a carbon removal technology but only an emissions reduction technology. Collecting CO2 from power plant stacks does
no more than reduce the about of new, fossil CO2 being emitted.
As for your comment about the term "burying" I agree, but think that we should go further. If you read the Chinese paper on the long-term impact of biochar in soil that Tom just recommended, you will see that the addition of biochar to
soil dramatically increases soil's capacity to grab and sequester more CO2. Adding biochar to the soil results in increasing CO2 removal; it is not a static removal number.
sadly the chart prepared by the © NewClimate Institute 2020
Authors Louise Jeffery, Niklas Höhne, Mia Moisio, Thomas Day, Benjamin Lawless
Disclaimer This paper was funded by the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G) which is an initiative of the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs.
is quite wrong in positioning Biochar
without questioning the risks connected with injecting CO2 in underground storages that could fail in massive and deadly outbursts of CO2,
the permanence (sequestration time) of biochar is for sure higher that the one provided by forests
and biochar is made also from crop residues not only Forests
also the wording "burying" used at page 4 in the bicohar chapter is, at least to my non native english sensibility, quite wrong !
should we suggest to change the word burying into
adding or mixing
Biochar involves sequestering carbon in charcoal by interrupting the natural plant decay carbon cycle using pyrolysis and, typically,
burying the biochar in soil.
Once added to soils, biochar can improve soil quality – notably water retention and fertility.
Tom Miles & Co, could IBI send a formal letter asking to correct these simple errors ?
if not I will try sending an email myself
all the best from a sunny scorched and stormy Italy
i just found the attached study from Carnegie. it says vey nice and useful things about biochar.