Comment on Panel: Biochar by James Bruges by Patrick Noble

Thanks James – Sequestration & carbon sumps are bees in my bonnet. I’ll try to keep my bees under control – they are confrontational in that they oppose some central first principles of the IPCC, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 and most university departments! A little geezer becomes passionate in proportion to the mass of his opposition.

Firstly I must say that we concur in just about everything but for that founding first principle. For instance, bio char is certainly beneficial to soils. It undoubtedly retains carbon in a stable form, helps water retention and so on. Moreover you are absolutely right in the case of burnt deseased materials.

First principes first. This is the false founding equation used for Zero Carbon Britain 2030 calculations. It is particularly convenient because the coefficient for burnt bio mass can simply be entered as zero! Here it is (from the authors of the report)

“If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO2 and water) are released. There is then no net gain or loss of CO2, which is why biological fuels are considered to be Carbon neutral.”

Every gardener can immediately and pragmatically refute that version of “the carbon cycle”

If we grow a crop, burn it and then return nothing to its soil but gas and ashes, will the subsequent season’s crop yield be maintained? Moreover will the same area of leef be presented for photosynthesis? IPCC & CAT say that they will.

The proposition is self-evidently ridiculous and yet it is accepted over the world by nearly every authority.

I think the problem has risen, because life does not follow laws of physics. The components of life do – they exist forever as either matter or energy – but life can diminish to nothing – re-appearing as lifeless physics. Death is a part of life, but lifelessness is something far more chilling.

Carbon does not cycle. Life (or if you like complex proteins) cycles. Life flows from life to life in the same manner as a river, in that increasing speed, indicates increased mass. Speed (the coefficient of time) has been omitted from carbon calculations.

The speed of cycles can only increase to an optimum mass – that optimum being achieved (I speculate)by the most happy symbiosis of a complexity of functions of a diverse complexity of species!

If we consider speed in practice – of, say a city and its surrounding agricultural land, then we consider the cycles of crop yield and the return of wastes. Cycle too fast (return too much waste to a field)then crop yield rises for that field, but nutrients leach to water courses and gas to the air. This means that a neighbouring field will be short of nutrients so that its yields will fall. The total yield to supply the city becomes less than optimum. So judiscious return of wastes is the whole art not only of husbandry, but also of civic justice.

With regards to climate change and the power of photosynthesis, the same applies. Cycles can increase to an optimum mass – optimum mass is also optimum speed.

To bury living material in a carbon sump slows living cycles, reduces biomass yield and also the pumping capacity of Earth’s lungs. Because climate has been disbalanced by the release of millions of years of sequestered photo synthesis through a few decades, does not mean that we can reverse the process by the reduction of living biomass.

The effect is to the contrary. Of course we must do all we can to keep carbon in soil humus, peat bogs, coal, oil & gas undisturbed, where they lie. But we cannot create such “sumps” ourselves without reducing the mass of life.

Here we go – BIO CHAR sequesters carbon in a stable form and while gardeners may be pleased with the result, it reduces complex proteins to much less than their original state. It reducues both the total mass of bio and the power of its respiration. It pleases some, while removing fertility from others and so, like our example in the inequity of city wastes it is a matter of civic justice.

To fight climate change and also to provide optimum crop yields we (conveniently) follow the same ends – that is to find ways through how we live, trade and farm to live in the most complete symbiosis with the total mass of life. – No fire – no charcoal.

Am I coherent?

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