The concept behind biochar is a bit complicated but very interesting. Based on an ancient Amazonian practice of burying carbon in the soil, the industry plans to sequester vast quantities of carbon in the soil and sell the latent emissions as credits on the worldwide carbon market. The theory is that if terra preta (charcoal enriched soil) is created on a global scale as much as 6 billion tons of CO2 would be prevented from entering the atmosphere every year. Although this is only about half of the 8 to 10 billion tons of carbon emitted yearly by human activity it is still substantial enough to be investigated. In fact, scientists around the world are saying that burying biochar would not only slow the rate of global warming it would also enhance the soil and make a side dish of sustainable biofuels as well.

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Now, here’s the thing. I’ve always wondered if the solutions to all these problems might be simple. After all, that’s the way it works in my own life; I spend endless hours and energy running through mazes and jumping through hoops only to discover that the solution was down a straight and simple path. Perhaps this is what we are doing to ourselves in the matter of planetary warming. Perhaps there is a lot of money in making it complicated. And be it not me who would deny people work and income. Yet, I can’t help but think about something I heard.

The sad part about our abilities to move ahead on this problem is the global economic crisis, which has taken precedence. The cost of proposed green initiatives is becoming a huge factor as world governments consider drafting environmental policies. This shift in priorities was evident in the last round of U.N. climate talks in Poland. After a full two weeks of negotiation, it looked as if participants were no closer to consensus on the terms of the treaty that will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. The current treaty, created in 1992, requires most developed nations to reduce their carbon emissions. But, currently, overall cost is one of the main reasons for this persistent stalemate on emissions caps.

But there was one interesting solution presented. The IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a report that notes that if governments worked to exploit the natural capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide and deliberately aimed to increase the carbon sink that forests create, as much as 40 to 50% of human carbon emissions could be offset. I think this is fantastic and should be done like now. Please refer to my previous post on carbon sinks. Still, to my mind, the even more astounding fact is that this extraordinary possibility has been largely ignored.

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There is an alarming environmental situation surrounding the popularity of ‘ultra-soft’ toilet paper. In order to obtain the soft, fluffy, quilted texture that has become preferable to many consumers, manufacturers use fiber from standing trees and not recycled material. This disturbs me greatly because it means that toilet paper is made from ancient forests, old growth forests, virgin forests, second growth forests, natural forests, high conservation value forests, temperate forests, tropical and sub-tropical forests and boreal forests. All areas of the planet in great peril of decimation and which will have profound effects on the air quality of the environment.

The New York Times has reported: “Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them… Although brands differ, 25 percent to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in this country comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. The rest, environmental groups say, comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. In addition, some of the pulp comes from the last virgin North American forests… Greenpeace, the international conservation organization, contends that Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.”

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Online at Reuters.com, last summer, I saw a report from Mexico City. It is reported that the Mexicans have planted more than 8 million trees as part of a push to correct it’s reputation for environmental indifference. It has become well known that Mexico has been poor in their environmental management, even to the extent of rampant mismanagement and continuously ignoring the rampant illegal logging of trees.

The government uncharacteristically supplied the saplings and large groups of volunteers trekked up and down Mexico wielding shovels and wheelbarrows. They actually planted a 8.3 million trees, according to the environmental ministry.

Illegal logging in Mexico destroys some 64,000 acres (26,000 hectares) of Mexican forest each year, according to government reports, putting Mexico near the top of a U.N. list of nations losing primary forest fastest. Worldwide, environmental activists say the figure is much higher.

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The IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) is in the process of releasing the first of the 2008 assessments on how climate change is affecting species populations. The first results of that assessment have been published and these show that 35% of the worlds’ birds, 52% of amphibians and 71% of coral reefs in warm water areas are particularly susceptible to the vagaries of climate change.

The assessment is done every year and leads up to the yearly Review of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, long considered the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plants and animals. This years publication, entitled a “Review of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, was released this month in Barcelona, Spain.

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I got this item from Science Daily online and I wanted to pass it along because of how I feel about old forests. If I can do anything, write a letter, sign a petition, post it on my blog, I feel like I should. The tearing down of the rain forests and other old growth forests throughout the world for the silly use of making paper that ends up in a landfill is a sad reality I find disturbing. And this article makes the argument for old forests viable and alive.

According to Science Daily, old growth forests are “carbon sinks”, in that they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries. Yes, I said centuries. And this is contrary to 40 years of “conventional wisdom”, which was largely based on findings of a single study done back in the late 1960s which has since been disproved. Did you know that old growth forests are not protected by international treaties and have been considered of no significance in the national “carbon budgets” as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol?

The world is changing around us, it’s about time we changed, too.

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FROM THE TELEGRAPH.CO.UK

Read the Original Article Here

Most people are ignorant of the crucial role the rainforests play in keeping the global climate stable, a survey has revealed.

More than 60 per cent of people questioned thought air travel and domestic heating produced more greenhouse gases than the destruction of the forests.

Deforestation releases huge volumes of CO2. In fact deforestation releases more CO2 into the atmosphere each year than all of the world’s planes, trains and automobiles put together.

The survey commissioned by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) revealed that 62% thought more CO2 is produced by the UK’s housing stock each year than by deforestation. The truth is that cutting down the rainforests for agriculture and grazing produces more carbon emissions than all the UK domestic energy use. …Read More…

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