BY RACHEL SMOLKER 18 September 2013 Earth Island Journal
There’s little basis for claims that biochar could solve our energy, food, and climate woes
Widespread doubts about geoengineering have resulted in a push to accept “more benign” technologies, including large-scale biochar and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
Both biochar and BECCS require burning lots of biomass — trees and crops, as well as municipal solid waste. Staggering quantities would have to be harvested and burned to have any measureable impact on the global atmosphere.
Clearly it is not very helpful to reduce the whole affair of climate change to counting carbon molecules. Forests, soils, ecosystems all are far more than agglomerations of carbon. They are intricate, multidimensional, interconnected, and complex beyond our imaginings and hence beyond our ability to measure, manipulate, and control.
The reductionist mindset that carbon accountants engage with is a dead end that only serves to blind us to the full scope and range of Earth as a whole. It fails to see that this planet is more than the sum of its parts. If we are really serious about preserving life on Earth, we will have to relearn how to envision the whole, embrace humility in the face of our ignorance about how life-supporting earth systems work. No amount of biochar, no climate geoengineering tricks, no technofixes or markets or “private sector engagement” or fancy carbon accounting will be a “win win win” for us. By far the winning strategy would be to allow Earth to restore, regenerate and recover, on her own terms.