Some jugglers of the climate circus are tossing up charcoal to catch it again but now with a fancy name. The proposal of turning residues into fine-grained charcoal and ploughing billions of tonnes of it into the soil every year convert charcoal into “biochar”.
The charcoal is produced through a process called pyrolysis, whereby biomass is exposed to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. This produces two types of fuels in addition to the charcoal (syngas and bio-oil), which can be used for heat and power, or further refined into agrofuels for cars or, potentially, for aviation.
Biochar advocates say it might “cool the planet”. Billions of tonnes of biomass mainly from trees and crop residues would be turned into biochar. They neglect the fact that this would require manyfold millions of trees to be planted... Up to 1 billion hectares of tree plantations would be needed to grow the trees necessary for biochar production on a scale large enough to impact climate.
Where would this major “geo-engineering solution to global climate change” take place? Not in the United States, nor in Europe: Africa is a particular target for biochar.
Conveniently perceived as a continent with abundant land available waiting for “development”, Africa is already experiencing massive land grabbing for agrofuels production and foreign agricultural investment. Indigenous communities, forests, water resources and food production have been heavily impacted by evictions, food insecurity and land conflicts that add up to the impacts of climate change.
Though biochar is clearly in no position to gain UNFCCC accreditation as a solution to climate change, the atmosphere of climate urgency makes the advocates of this reductionist tech-fix hope that their product will be fast-tracked into the carbon market and gain accreditation through international climate negotiations. And the climate circus might like the product.
Information source: “Biochar Land Grabbing: the impacts on Africa”, at