Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reforestation--A Third Way Technology

C. Coimbra photo


Editor's Note:  This is part of an excerpted series of a Yale Environment 360 interview by Richard Schiffman, with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and author.  He discusses how “third way technologies,” that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing climate change.


e360: You write about two categories of third way technologies, the biological and the chemical. Could you talk about the biological approach? 

Flannery: For example, reforestation is really basic. Trees are just congealed carbon dioxide. So when you plant a forest, what you are doing is you are using the power of the sun harnessed by photosynthesis to draw C02 out of the atmosphere and congeal it as living trees. You can also then take some of those plant products that you grow and turn them into a form of carbon that will last longer, that won’t rot away as quickly by converting it to biochar. Biochar is a form of charcoal derived from various plant products. You can plow it into your agricultural soils or store it somewhere and it will stay there as a mineralized form of carbon for many years. The biochar industry is still very small. In 2013 it was only producing a thousand tons of salable product, so it is an option that is yet to grow to scale.

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