Collective inquiry on soil carbon opportunity

You are invited to join the collective inquiry process for April 2008, in which participants will answer online a series of 9 questions and share their answers. Kind of like a forum, only there's no debate. You must be registered with this site (free and quick) to participate.

The questions will begin April 27, one per day, and finish May 5.


How do you see bio char or terra preta technology fitting in with soil carbon opportunity?
Do you think that the closest sphere of concern that soil cabon opp. has that is commonly known would be carbon credits?
Any ideas on how soil carbon opportunity can be made friendly to the masses?

Soils represent the largest carbon "sink" that people can most easily manage, thus I see the technology has great potential as a carbon offset.

Carbon Credits would be one way to move the technlogy mainstream. I don't think many people are aware of the potential of biochar. let alone what it is, thus if it could be part of that exchange, more people would learn and look into it.

I'm not sure I understand that question. Never thought of "friendly" biochar... But if you mean how could more people learn it's potential, I think doing more research studies showing it's benefits and measuring the carbon stored in soils, measuring how and which toxins it could possibly adsorb reducing pollution in streams/aquifers, discovering which applications are most beneficial (in greenhouse farming? in compost blankets? buried in what type of soil?) how much energy could be produced... and including this information in educational seminars to farmers/homeowners, etc., could be beneficial. It's not a widely known topic or technology. Without lots of research behind it it looks more "faddish" even though it has far greater potential than many technologies promoted now.

I'm new to this. I am participating to learn more on the value of carbon sequestration. That said, my opinion about carbon credit or any type of pollution credit is that it exonerates the polluter instead of causing them to stop polluting. At the same time, education should lead to good stewardship that improves soil fertility vs. having to be paid to do it. Good management is its own reward. If it can make a difference, why aren't we doing it? Obviously there are other constraits which must be addressed. Economic incentives are artificial. Only when it makes sense and becomes heartfelt are people's actions sustainable.

1/. Biochar - as a rule - . . . is potentially a multi-yield option, and can provide :
a) substantial co-product syngas or liquid fuel outputs (methanol, biodiesel, etc) at village scale 'refineries',
b) the justification/incentivization of sustainable coppice forestry for feedstock (with its outstanding biodiversity)
c) the substantial raising of poor soils' fertility and water management capacity,
d) the sequestration of airborne carbon (potentially at up to 9.0 GTC/yr).

[Note; by coppice forestry I refer to the ancient and living sylviculture of harvesting native tree species cyclically at between 5 and 28 years' growth, and allowing them to regrow from the stump, in perpetuity].

None of the aspects above conflict with Soil Carbon Opportunity as I understand it, and some, such as the capacity
to provide additional village scale employment, and the use of coppice forestry as protective buffer zones around and between old growth forest enclaves, may achieve ends that are beyond farm-based SCO. In particular, the rate of global sequestration may be greatly raised by the parallel operation of Biochar projects.

2/. No, I don't share this perspective in general, as the commercial use of soil carbon sequestration (by the various means available) to provide carbon credits would seem to me an abuse of this unique capacity for atmospheric cleansing.
In my view the commercial and domestic emissions of GHGs need to be contracted rigorously asap; the proper client for the soil's carbon sequestration capacity is governments (not industry's brokers) sponsoring farmers' sequestration according to their national carbon debts (historical outputs) under a UN treaty of the atmospheric commons.
That sequestration is the only serious carbon recovery option available by which we may control the acceleration of the potentially ruinous positive feedback loops, and it seems critical that it should not be mis-applied merely to ease the commercial transition to a low-carbon economy.

3/. As to how soil carbon can be made friendly to the masses, direct experience as in tree-planting weekends and farm visits for school & Uni students, getting good songs written on the issue, and getting official prizes for outstanding projects on each continent - these are all worth pursuing.
One organization that has global reach, UN access, and a strong remit for sustainable development is each nation's 'United Nations Association', with its World Federation [WFUNA]. If they're not already being contacted, it would be well worth a try.