July 13, 2024
Climate Change Mitigation

New Study Reveals Biochar’s Potential for Climate Change Mitigation

In a groundbreaking study, researchers have found that biochar, a form of charcoal made from heating discarded organic materials such as crop residues, has the potential to significantly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and mitigate climate change. Through the use of high-resolution global maps, which provide detailed information on crop residues, the study identifies regions where biochar production from these residues can be done sustainably.

According to the research, 12 countries have the technical capability to sequester over 20% of their current greenhouse gas emissions by converting crop residues into biochar. Bhutan leads the way with the potential to sequester 68% of its emissions through biochar, followed by India at 53%. The study, titled “Potential for Biochar Carbon Sequestration from Crop Residues: A Global Spatially Explicit Assessment,” was published in the journal GCB Bioenergy.

Co-lead author Dominic Woolf, a senior research associate at Cornell University, emphasizes the urgent need for innovative solutions to combat climate change. “We are entering an unprecedented era in which even a rapid and significant reduction in fossil fuel use will not be enough to prevent severe harm to both human beings and ecosystems,” he says. “We also need to draw down excess CO2, and making biochar from crop residues is one of the few tools we have that can achieve this on a large scale without competing for land.”

Biochar not only helps improve soil fertility and enhance plant growth but also offers a means to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. When biochar is added to soils, it sequesters carbon in the soil for centuries. The study estimates that if all the crop residues generated globally were converted into biochar, it could sequester up to one billion metric tons of carbon annually. Furthermore, 75% of that carbon would remain sequestered even after 100 years, effectively offsetting approximately 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

However, the study also acknowledges the limitations associated with sustainable residue harvesting and competing usage for crop residues, such as livestock feed. Taking these factors into account, the global biochar production potential amounts to around 510 million metric tons of carbon per year, with approximately 360 million metric tons remaining sequestered after 100 years.

The availability of high-resolution maps on crop residue production and biochar sequestration will be invaluable in supporting decision-making processes related to biochar production and investments in biochar production capacity, notes Woolf.

Funding for the study was provided by the Nature Conservancy and the Bezos Earth Fund, highlighting the growing recognition and support for innovative technologies like biochar in combating climate change. With its dual benefits of carbon sequestration and soil improvement, biochar offers a promising solution in the fight against global warming.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it