Biochar: Woodchips With Everything

Posted March 24, 2009
Here comes the latest utopian catastrophe: the plan to solve climate change with biochar.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian, 24th March 2009

Whenever you hear the word miracle, you know there’s trouble just around the corner. But however many times they lead to disappointment or disaster, the newspapers never tire of promoting miracle cures, miracle crops, miracle fuels and miracle financial instruments. We have a bottomless ability to disregard the laws of economics, biology and thermodynamics when we encounter a simple solution to complex problems. So welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the new miracle. It’s a low-carbon regime for the planet which makes the Atkins Diet look healthy: woodchips with everything.

Read on…

Posted on 26 September, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.


    Biochar: is it any good?
    Sunday, September 26, 2010
    Last March, George Monbiot has an attack on biochar.

    It has just been circulated to me by email to an influential list.

    George Monbiot is using the old journalistic trick of totalising the discussion, setting up an Aunt Sally.

    He says it has been advanced as a “Miracle” and the “universal answer to our climate and energy problems”.

    Biochar is not a miracle, it is an interesting agricultural technique with carbon-storage spinoffs.

    Biochar is not, suddenly or otherwise, the “universal answer to our climate and energy problems” – it is an interesting pathway of remediation that should be investigated and evaluated by gardeners and agriculturalists, alongside other changes in the way we do things.

    The fact is that every day, solar energy acting on chlorophyll causes carbon dioxide and water to form sugars in leaves, some of which turn into xylem, are a store of energy and carbon. Left to itself, this store falls and rots, creating methane, thirty times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.

    If we can pollibly divert some of this process into a long-term carbon store, while at the same time increasing food production, then it is entirely reasonable to experiment to see how this can be done in a way that helps biodiversity, helps local economies and local communities, and makes a contribution to stabilising our environment and society, alongside the radical decarbonisation of our energy

    Sure, there may be un-green industrial scale plans for biochar that are ill-thought through, have adverse consequences, and should be opposed. This does not mean that I as a gardener should not experiment with adding charcoal to my soil. To be fair, George does admit of this possibility, so our disagreement is one of emphasis and approach, rather than of total difference.

    We must always remember that even if it were possible by magic to stop all CO2 emissions tomorrow, we would still need to find a way to draw sequester the excess CO2 that we have already put in the atmosphere.

    There is no merit in the argument “We must not try to sequester CO2 before we have fully decarbonised the economy”.

    We should also remember that it is possible to walk and chew gum at one and the same time.
    Posted by Monte at Sunday, September 26, 2010

    • withoutyourwalls

      If your not advocating Biochar on a grand scale, then why are you affiliated with the International Biochar Network, the biggest Biochar lobbying group on the planet who have called for 370 million hectares of land to be used in Biochar production?

      This land and the people already living there already play an essential role in maintaining biodiversity and regulating the climate. The virtual theft and subsequent conversion of it to Biochar use will do nothing whatsoever to alleviate climate change.

      And as you know every tonne of carbon “sequestered” will generate carbon credits to be sold to smokestack polluters creating permanent emissions and esentially cancelling out all theoretical climate benefits. Funny you dont mention that bit when you’re affiliated with a number of international PR networks whos aim it is to get Biochar into carbon markets.

      Perhaps you are too concerned about the logging industry in Tazmania for which you work to notice.


  2. Ohh dear –
    You are behind the times !!
    “Posted March 24, 2009″ ??????????
    Do your homework blogmaster properly and you may come to realise that the Biochar topic is about doing the right thing also called a ‘whole lifecycle assessment process”.
    This goes well beyond a cost – benefit analysis, it is about doing good and doing well.
    To be simply negative is in fact not helping to find solutions.
    I am happy to discuss this complex topic with anyone in a respectful, constructive way, but the message the old UK story pushed is not what the world needs.
    Do your homework and lets together set the bar high.
    Cheers from Tasmania

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