New model suggests scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere

October 27, 2016 by Blaine Friedlander
In this test plot of biochar, carbon is amended to the soil - where it stays - where it can be used as a fertilization substitute for crops. Credit: Charles Hyland/Provided

New Cornell research suggests an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart runaway, point-of-no-return global warming.

The researchers propose using a "bioenergy-biochar system" that removes from the atmosphere in an environmental pinch, until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical. Their work appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications.

"If we continue on current emissions trajectories, we will need to draw down excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if we're going to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change. We're offering a mitigation model that can do that. It's not a silver bullet, but it may be among the tools we need in a portfolio of carbon dioxide mitigation strategies," said Dominic Woolf, Cornell research associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author on "Optimal Bioenergy Power Generation for Climate Change Mitigation With or Without Carbon Sequestration."

Among the recent ideas to cleanse the atmosphere of carbon is to plant huge regions of forests – called reforestation or afforestation. Scientists have also considered bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), in which bioenergy power plants capture their own , and then store them underground or in the ocean. BECCS is very expensive and impractical now, but could become a more viable option toward the end of this century, according to this research.

The new study suggests a system using biochar, carbonized plant matter made by charring organic material – burning without using air – in a process called pyrolysis. The bioenergy-biochar system, called BEBCS, is stable and lowers sequestration losses when carbon is captured. After the organic matter is turned into carbon-sequestering biochar, it can be placed into the soil as a fertilizer substitute and improve crop production.

Although it has been omitted from major atmospheric mitigation scenarios until now, the new model shows that including biochar in a suite of options unlocks the ability to achieve cost-effective carbon dioxide removal earlier and deeper than would otherwise be possible.

Woolf sounds a hopeful note: "We need a full suite of . It's quite possible to scrub the atmosphere and remove carbon dioxide to avoid runaway climate change – where we could transition to manageable ," he said. "This isn't purely about advocating completely for biochar, but we need to recognize that we have technologies in place that can help our atmosphere, and we should create an optimal portfolio for ideas."

Explore further: Using soil to lock up carbon could help offset global warming

More information: Dominic Woolf et al. Optimal bioenergy power generation for climate change mitigation with or without carbon sequestration, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13160

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21 comments

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MR166
5 / 5 (6) Oct 27, 2016
From what I understand, biochar is a good idea regardless of it's CO2 sequestration potential. It absorbs water and fertilizer then releases it slowly to the crops reducing runoff.
barakn
3 / 5 (2) Oct 27, 2016
It also appears to decrease the albedo of the soil, increasing the amount of solar energy it absorbs, meaning it has the potential to increase warming. This idea needs careful scrutiny.
jeffensley
3 / 5 (4) Oct 27, 2016
Silliness.... we have billions of natural scrubbers already and they don't require wasting energy charring organic matter to accomplish it. The ultimate irony of this system would be is they chose to harvest living plants to provide for the char material.
gkam
2.7 / 5 (9) Oct 27, 2016
There is evidence biochar was used in South America and the Amazon Basin long ago for building the soil.
Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (4) Oct 27, 2016
There is evidence biochar was used in South America and the Amazon Basin long ago for building the soil.

Where is that evidence?
And used by whom?
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2016
Are you doubting me?

Look up Jock Gill, the interesting polymath who worked with it. He has provided the background, among others, I assume.

Or look it up yourself, as I just did. Go to http://www.css.co...ain.html and to the readings.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2016
Are you doubting me?

Look up Jock Gill, the interesting polymath who worked with it. He has provided the background, among others, I assume.

Or look it up yourself, as I just did. Go to http://www.css.co...ain.html and to the readings.

A little on edge today, I see, George...:-)
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2016
Sorry, WG, I am defending myself from "Ira" and "Stumpy" again.

I do not know why people would assume someone using his real name here would intentionally lie. Is it because they do not think it out? Is lying in defense of a charge their automatic reaction?

I left myself open to attack by those who hide their identities, and therefore have no credibility. Once again, I thought this would be a more professional and moderated forum. Instead, it is infected with folk who apparently do not have satisfactory lives and are pissed off about it. Or they are playing "games" as "otto" admitted he is here to do.

Let's get back to the topic
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Oct 27, 2016
I left myself open to attack by those who hide their identities, and therefore have no credibility.

My name is pronounced gyre, just not spelled that way....
gkam
2.4 / 5 (9) Oct 27, 2016
Yes, you identified yourself before, I think. And you are not here to demean, criticize, or personally attack, but to discuss science and technology and their implications for the future. Most others are here for the same.
Captain Stumpy
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2016
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
I do not know why people would assume someone using his real name here would intentionally lie
1- i didn't ASSume

2- i proved you intentionally lied, or did you forget?
in fact, i proved it not only with the stolen valor claims, but also with regard to your engineer claims... let me repeat a quote of your own when you finally admitted it
Ira is correct that I am not a degreed engineer, nor a registered one.
http://phys.org/n...oad.html

i don't care if you publish pics of yourself, or that you post anything

i do, however, care that you intentionally lie, repeatedly, while not being able to provide evidence or references for your claims, be they nuclear, engineering or otherwise

gkam
2.1 / 5 (8) Oct 27, 2016
Trumpy, you admitted to me personally how you are hiding from someone or something. Shall I dredge up the email? Rub your nose in it?

You started this nasty battle when you got your little feelings hurt, and have been trashing me ever since. When I proved your attacks as lies, you got madder. Now, you are like Ira and otto, distorting, twisting, and perverting everything you can to get even. Sorry, but you did it to yourself.

Grow the hell up.
Caliban
4 / 5 (4) Oct 28, 2016
All the sniping and recrimination aside, the Amazonians did, indeed, develop and utilize biochar --extensively-- and for quite a while.

This was discovered in the Amazon basin only just a few years ago, when it was noticed that the soil in certain regions appeared different in color, composition and characteristics than other contiguous soils in this Laterite-dominated environment.

I'm feeling a bit too lazy to provide any citations here and now, but can and will assure all of you that it is so, and to express my shock that you aren't already aware of this fact, as the findings(or at least some of them) were reported right here on PORG.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Oct 28, 2016
All the sniping and recrimination aside, the Amazonians did, indeed, develop and utilize biochar --extensively-- and for quite a while.

This was discovered in the Amazon basin only just a few years ago, when it was noticed that the soil in certain regions appeared different in color, composition and characteristics than other contiguous soils in this Laterite-dominated environment.

Thanks, Cal. Googled it (couldn't sleep). Lots of articles...
Captain Stumpy
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2016
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
you admitted to me personally how you are hiding from someone or something
no, i didn't
quit changing the subject
Shall I dredge up the email?
sure, so long as you don't mind if i reciprocate

you don't remember what you told me, do you? LOL
... well, unlike you, i don't delete e-mails

i also know how to post proof and link evidence for my claims, you idiot, so consider that one

you have yet to post anything but your OPINION, and usually it is vastly different than reality and the science (see my links above for proof of that one)

so, per your own request... you get the idea, right?

yup
reported!

Captain Stumpy
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2016
@STOLEN VALOR cont'd
When I proved your attacks as lies
you have yet to prove anything i said is a lie

period

just because you say it doesn't mean it's true... and i never attacked you, idiot boy.

you got pissed because i wouldn't take your side in a conversation you were blatantly wrong about - and i can prove that one
http://phys.org/n...ess.html

so again, where is your proof?
other than your "claims" of proof... ya got nothing and have yet to provide any real scientific anything anywhere

Most of your posts are slogans regurgitated as a narcissistic sociopath geriatric in the hopes fo getting attention

last post unless you actually provide evidence for your claims
otherwise i will simply downrate your post and then report it for being pseudoscience and bullsh*t without evidence ... per your own requests to "clean up the site" and post science
EnricM
3.3 / 5 (3) Oct 28, 2016

Grow the hell up.


Why don't you just block him?
I just see the name and a message that says "ingored user". Trolls die out like ticks when they aren't fed ;)
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2016
Thanks to all for following up on the biochar. It looks like a great idea for poor soils, and may save us when the growing areas change due to AGW.

It was a real revelation for me as well to see the use of it ages ago in the Amazon Basin.
TrollBane
5 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2016
"we have billions of natural scrubbers already..." Don't tell DJT. He'll assume that you mean housekeepers because it's all a hoax by the Chinese...
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2016
I do not know why people would assume someone using his real name here would intentionally lie
Because george kamburoff has proven himself to be a compulsive liar and a psychopath.

Duh.

You have just stated your primary cognitive disconnect. And a very profound one it is.
yemethus
not rated yet Nov 04, 2016
We don't need one model, but a model of all models, with information about everything which can scrub, then add physical limitations, and try machine learning on it to find the best path to reduced CO2. But I'm thinking that maybe people don't really want to solve the problem, because they all believe it's in their national interest to let it runoff in just the right measure.

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