Daily Archives: October 4, 2013

The Next Thing We Need To Do About Carbon

Read the full post from the New Yorker.

This week, in its long awaited 2013 report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made the bold proposal that no more than a trillion tons of carbon should be burned and released into the atmosphere by humanity—with about a half trillion tons already having done so, and the remaining half trillion expected, at current rates, to be burned by 2040. Unfortunately, this bold proposal, already vilified by climate-change deniers, is not bold enough.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Carbon sequestration, Climate change


Passenger waste to be recycled at Miami International Airport

Read the full story in Airport World.

Environmental footprint at Miami International Airport (MIA) will be reduced after its recycling programme was expanded to include passengers’ waste.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Recycling, Transportation


Agricultural Innovation Prize

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the launch of the 2014 Agricultural Innovation Prize in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture.

The competition is open to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students across all academic disciplines and runs through spring 2014, when teams will compete for the chance to win $215,000 in prize money, with a grand prize of $100,000; making this the largest agriculture-focused student competition in the world.

The contest encourages student teams to develop innovative plans to address social and agricultural challenges within food systems, improving the standard of living and quality of life for the world’s population.

From the web site’s Scope page:

The Agricultural Innovation Prize was developed to boost the agricultural innovation ecosystem. It strives to connect various sectors and disciplines in an effort to better address the challenges of the 21st  century. These challenges include bringing our food, climate and social systems within a safe operating space. It hopes to identify ways to achieve food security while keeping us within sound environmental boundaries. The Ag Prize seeks students who are interested in transforming global food systems into one that facilitates sufficiency and resilience. This transformation will occur with the increased awareness and attention of the next generation of leaders, unbridled by any number of constraints. Local and global food systems directly and indirectly interact with numerous parts of our globalized world.


This graphic (derived from Community Food — illustrates the pieces of the food system where we are specifically seeking innovations. Competition materials should address challenges in one or more of these food system components and recognize the complexity within the system.


Trees On Top Of Skyscrapers? Yes! Yes, Say I. No! No, Says Tim

Robert Krulwich, over on NPR’s Krulwich Wonders blog, loves the idea of Bosco Verticale, the combination vertical forest and residential tower project currently under construction in Milan.

Tim De Chant, on the Per Square Mile blog, vehemently disagrees. In a post titled “Can we please stop drawing trees on top of skyscrapers?”, he asserts that the trees face an imminent, untimely death.

Architect's rendering of Bosco Verticale (which translates to Vertical Forest). Photo credit:

Architect’s rendering of Bosco Verticale (which translates to Vertical Forest). Photo credit:

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Environment


Is Sustainability Still Possible?

That’s the question that the Worldwatch Institute tries to answer in the 2013 edition of their annual State of the World report. It’s also the subject of the papers on the accompanying web site. Some of the highlights include:


Production Factors Controlling the Physical Characteristics of Biochar Derived from Phytoremediation Willow for Agricultural Applications

Ashleigh J. Fletcher, Malcolm A. Smith, Andreas Heinemeyer, Richard Lord, Christopher J. Ennis, Edward M. Hodgson, Kerrie Farrar (2013). “Production Factors Controlling the Physical Characteristics of Biochar Derived from Phytoremediation Willow for Agricultural Applications.” BioEnergy Research online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1007/s12155-013-9380-x

Abstract: Willow, a leading bioenergy feedstock, may be planted for bioremediation and has been used, more recently, as the biomass feedstock in the manufacture of biochar for agricultural applications. Here, we present a detailed study of the physical and chemical factors affecting willow char properties, where the feedstock is a by-product of bioremediation, potentially transferring pollutants such as heavy metals to the wood feed. Biochar samples were produced via pyrolysis of short-rotation coppice willow, grown on contaminated land, using several treatment times at heat treatment temperatures (HTTs) in the range 350–650 °C, under a constant flow of argon, set at either 100 or 500 mL min−1. The samples were analysed for yield, elemental analysis and structural characteristics, including surface area and pore size distribution, surface functionality and metal content. All chars obtained have high fixed carbon contents but vary in surface characteristics with a marked increase in basic character with increasing HTT, ascribed to the removal of surface oxygen moieties. Results indicate a minimum pyrolysis temperature of 450 °C is required to produce a defined mesoporous structure, as required to facilitate oxygen transport, HTT ≥ 550 °C produces total surface area of >170 m2 g−1 and, more importantly, an appreciable external surface area suitable for microbial colonisation. The data show that selection and optimisation of char properties is possible; however, the interplay of factors may mean some compromise is required.


Hormone Disruptors Rise from the Dead Like Zombies

Read the full story in Scientific American.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals may be far more prevalent in lakes and rivers than previously thought. Environmental scientists have discovered that although these compounds are often broken down by sunlight, they can regenerate at night, returning to life like zombies.


Effect of biochar on carbon dioxide release, organic carbon accumulation, and aggregation of soil

Z. Hua, Zhaoqing Lu, Hongrui Ma, Susu Jin (2013). “Effect of biochar on carbon dioxide release, organic carbon accumulation, and aggregation of soil.” Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1002/ep.11867

Abstract: The potential carbon sequestration ability of biochar was investigated. The results indicated the amendment of biochar to soil could reduce the CO2 emission and increase the organic matter of soil effectively. The influence extent enhanced as the increase of biochar and the influence extent on soil with lower organic matter content is much obvious than soil with higher organic matter content. After incubated 7 months, soil CO2 emission was suppressed significantly by the amendment of biochar. The CO2 release amount in soils with 8% biochar decreased 29%∼39% compared with control. Organic matter content in soils with 8% biochar increased 41%∼75%. In addition, biochar promoted the formation of soil aggregates. Mean weight diameter of micro-aggregates in soils with biochar increased obviously compared with the control, indicating that stability of soil aggregates improved as the increase of biochar. The research demonstrated that biochar had potential ability on soil carbon sequestration, which was realized by enhance organic matter content, suppressing CO2 release and improving micro-structure characteristic of soil.


Biochar quiets microbes, including some plant pathogens

Read the full story from Rice University.

In the first study of its kind, Rice University scientists have used synthetic biology to study how a popular soil amendment called “biochar” can interfere with the chemical signals that some microbes use to communicate. The class of compounds studied includes those used by some plant pathogens to coordinate their attacks.

Biochar is charcoal that is produced — typically from waste wood, manure or leaves — for use as a soil additive. Studies have found biochar can improve both the nutrient- and water-holding properties of soil, but its popularity in recent years also owes to its ability to reduce greenhouse gases by storing carbon in soil, in some cases for many centuries.

The new study, published online this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, is the first to examine how biochar affects the chemical signaling that’s routinely used by soil microorganisms that interact with plants.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Agriculture, Biochar, Publications


ACR accepting comments on biochar methodology for carbon credits

Read the full story in Biomass Magazine.

The American Carbon Registry has opened a public comment period on a new methodology to measure carbon reductions associated with biochar produced via the pyrolysis process. The methodology was prepared by The Climate trust, the Prasino Group, the International Biochar Initiative, and Carbon Consulting.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Agriculture, Biochar, Climate change


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