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    Taiwan's Feng Chia University has succeeded in boosting the production of hydrogen from biomass to 15 liters per hour, one of the world's highest biohydrogen production rates, a researcher at the university said Friday. The research team managed to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide (which can be captured and stored) from the fermentation of different strains of anaerobes in a sugar cane-based liquefied mixture. The highest yield was obtained by the Clostridium bacterium. Taiwan News - November 14, 2008.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Professor Flannery: emissions trading insufficient, world needs biological means to scrub CO2 out of atmosphere

A few days ago some of the world's leading climate scientists wrote that we need to be far more active in cutting carbon emissions, urgently. Currently, atmospheric CO2 levels are at 383ppm and we need to go back to 350ppm if we want to keep the planet liveable. This implies a range of technologies that actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere, such as biochar, reforestation and carbon-negative bioenergy (i.e. biomass coupled to CCS). Now professor Tim Flannery, chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council and the Australian equivalent of Al Gore, joins in saying we must use biological means to tackle a crisis that could otherwise end in a catastrophe much earlier than expected.

Professor Flannery recently addressed two global warming conferences, during which he warned that the world needs innovative, biological ways to reduce carbon dioxide as emissions trading by itself isn't nearly enough to address the climate crisis. Global warming risks presenting us with a sudden climate shift triggered by events such as a rapid release of methane from melting permafrost. If such an event happens, there is nothing man can do. This is why we need to act now. The potential costs of inaction are far too great.
I suspect that within the next decade, we are likely to see some dramatic climate shift [...] It will be swift and it will have many unintended consequences. The problem is a lot closer than we imagined.
Flannery, who is a professor of Environmental and Life Sciences at Macquarie University, and author of the best-selling book The Weather Makers - The History and Future Impact of Climate Change, urges us to begin applying, on a massive scale, technologies such as the creation of biochar that permanently stores carbon into soils, making them more resilient and fertile at the same time. Producing biochar and making soils double as anthropogenic carbon sinks, would sequester atmospheric CO2 in a stable form for hundreds or thousands of years and can be combined with the production of bioenergy:
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Professor Flannery said that biochar is one of the most straightforward, low-cost and low-impact strategies for mitigating climate change. The technique comes down to enhancing the world's vast natural capacity to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. "There is enormous potential here, and we need that potential if we are to have any hope of beating the problem."

Referring to the need to avoid dangerous climate shifts and their irreversible consequences - such as the feedback loops of a melting of the permafrost or a breakdown of major ice-sheets and loss of albedo - Flannery said that emissions trading schemes are "absolutely necessary" but "will not be sufficient" in themselves.

The new Australian government wants to implement an emissions trading scheme akin to the European ETS, but Flannery said this model has not proven to work optimally, nor fast enough. "There has been no impact in Europe and there is likely to be a small impact if any in Australia in my view," he said.

If we don't invest in biochar or other rapidly replicable carbon sequestration efforts, more radical potential solutions such as injecting sulfur into the atmosphere to lower temperatures may have to be considered to avoid catastrophic climate change, the expert concluded.

Professor Flannery's endorsement of biochar comes simultaneously with Professor James Hansen's support for the idea. This gives a boost to the small 'biochar community' that has sprung up in recent times, and which mainly consists of ecologists, conservationists, soil scientists, agronomists and bioenergy specialists.


Professor Flannery: The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change - dedicated website.

The Copenhagen Climate Council, a group of scientists and institutions drawing attention to the importance of next year's COP-15 in Copenhagen.

Bloomberg: World Needs Biological Ways of Cutting Carbon, Scientist Says - October 31, 2008.

The Herald Sun: Tim Flannery says emissions trading scheme too little, too late - October 30, 2008.

Biopact: Scientists suggest carbon dioxide levels already in danger zone - urge investments in carbon-negative energy, biochar - November 10, 2008


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