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Tech & Science The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it

05:26  15 june  2019
05:26  15 june  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Last month carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. Environmental experts say the world is increasingly on a path toward a climate crisis. The most prominent efforts to prevent that crisis involve reducing carbon emissions.

Last month, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the ambitious goal of removing 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify their

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Last month carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the very ambitious goal of removing one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify

Last month carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the very ambitious goal of removing one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify

It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it, breathing carbon dioxide and then depositing it via roots and decay into the soil. That’s why consumers and companies often “offset” their carbon emissions by planting carbon-sucking trees elsewhere in the world.

The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it© Melina Mara/THE WASHINGTON POST A crop farmer plants corn for the first time of the season, in 2011. (Photo by Melina Mara/ The Washington Post) But an upstart company, ­Boston-based Indigo AG, now wants to transform farming practices so that agriculture becomes quite the opposite of what it is today — a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

By promoting techniques that increase the potential of agricultural land to suck in carbon, the backers of Indigo AG believe they can set the foundation for a major effort to stem climate change. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the ambitious goal of removing 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify their practices.

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Last month carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the very ambitious goal of removing one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify

Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. The New York Times climate team emails readers once a week with stories and insights about climate change. Sign up here to get it in your inbox. This week: Are we ready to remove carbon dioxide from the air?

Called the Terraton Initiative (a “teraton” is a trillion tons), the company forecasts that the initiative will sign up 3,000 farmers globally with more than 1 million acres in 2019.

David Perry, the company’s chief executive, says he has lined up a group of buyers who will buy carbon credits — nonprofit groups as well as consumer-focused food companies that could claim their products are not merely carbon neutral, but carbon negative. Farmers will be given training and tools to institute what are known as “regenerative” practices. Indigo scientists will test soil samples for carbon content and farmers will be paid accordingly.

“It’s completely outcome-based,” Perry said. “We don’t really care how you get there. There’s no requirement to be big or small, organic or conventional.” At the core is the idea that plants breathe, and through the process of photosynthesis turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugars that become leaves, stems and roots.

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Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) refers to a number of technologies of which the objective is the large-scale removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere . Among such technologies are bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, biochar, ocean fertilization, enhanced weathering

Those trying to suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air include not only Lackner but also a number of startups. One firm, Carbon Engineering When the plants regrow , they would pull carbon dioxide out of the air again, and the net result would be a removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere .

When a plant dies, decay brings organic material, a component of which is large carbon-based molecules called humic acids, into the soil and binds them to the soil’s molecules. Thus the carbon is “captured” underground. The healthier and more fertile the soil, the more carbon it can store.

The Rodale Institute, a major agricultural think tank, predicts that more than 100 percent of current annual global carbon emissions could be captured with a switch to widely available and inexpensive farming practices — such as not turning the soil over through tilling or plowing; replanting with cover crops after a main crop has been harvested; and rotating through different crops to put a variety of nutrients back in the ground.

The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it© Getty KLITTEN, GERMANY - JUNE 02: A woman is pictured during stand-up paddling in front of the lignite-fired power station of Boxberg on June 02, 2019 in Klitten, Germany. (Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images) Merely planting trees won’t get the world very far. Large and slower-growing trees can sequester more carbon than smaller plants, but the world faces dramatic deforestation and has enormous agricultural needs. Farming seems like a practical focus for how to mitigate growing atmospheric carbon.

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Above all, the new technique is noteworthy because it promises to remove carbon dioxide cheaply. As recently as 2011, a panel of experts estimated that it would cost at least 0 to remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere . The new paper says it can remove the same ton for

We are terrestrial beings so we think about forests. So everybody on the planet knows about the plight of the Amazon rainforest, and it is a global cause As soon as the plankton bloomed, we observe that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere declines. It repurposes the CO2 into ocean life which

Whether they can get to 1 trillion tons of carbon is unknown, Perry says, but this represents one of the largest agricultural experiments lately, with software and satellite tools available to every farmer who signs up. The goal is to find out which crops, practices and geographic locations have the ability to drive more carbon into the soil. To start, Indigo will pay farmers $15 per ton of carbon, using venture capital raised by the company.

Some farmers have already embraced the techniques. Russell Hedrick, a regenerative grower who farms non-GMO and heirloom corn, soy, barley, oats and triticale in Hickory, N.C., has been measuring the carbon in his 1,000 acres and the best he’s ever done is 1.5 tons per acre. He says the Indigo incentives could prove strong, especially at a time when farm bankruptcies are high and crop prices are sagging.

Hedrick says that in 2018, an American farmer on average lost about $60 per acre before subsidies, and made just $20 per acre after federal subsidies. So, if a farmer can put a ton and a half of carbon in each acre of soil and get paid by Indigo, they could double their profits. “For me, that would be $22 per acre, and we farm close to 1,000 acres,” he said. “This is $22,000 for doing what I’m already doing. That’s pretty huge to me as a farmer.”

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Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have pumped an estimated 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere , causing the current climate Now an ambitious new plan called the Terraton Initiative by the agricultural company Indigo Agriculture is trying to pull all of this excess carbon out of

Sequestering one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the world’s agricultural soils will require effort from stakeholders around the world and across industries, from technologists and investors to consumers and growers. To encourage innovation and participation in the effort, Indigo is

Hedrick, a first-generation farmer, learned these practices from books and online videos from regenerative farmers. He doesn’t till or plow, and he plants a cover crop within 10 days of harvesting a cash crop like corn or soy, mostly small grains with roots that can go down six feet and reduce soil compaction and help retain moisture.

The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it© Getty ALTLIEBEL, GERMANY - MARCH 11: The lignite-fired power station of Boxberg is pictured on March 11, 2019 in Altliebel, Germany. (Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images) Indigo is not the first organization to encourage farmers to prioritize putting carbon back in the soil. Iowa farmers tried it in the 1990s and the California Healthy Soils Initiative has an incentives program that funds farmers who use practices such as compost application, mulching, no-till and cover cropping.

What makes Indigo’s initiative different is the scale of the project and its multipronged approach, said Mark Bradford, an expert in soil and ecosystem science at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

“In soil science, there are all these initiatives to rebuild carbon in soil. The problem is measurement and verification — how do we make this economically and logistically feasible?” he said. “What I’m impressed by is [Indigo] has data science PhDs and they’re trying to do peer-reviewable, credible science.”

That said, Bradford said the scientific community has far from a consensus on whether this is the right approach. Some wonder whether it is feasible to change farmer practices to such an extent and whether herculean efforts will result in meaningful atmospheric carbon reductions.

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Atmospheric carbon dioxide today exceeds 415 parts per million, an increase of roughly 1 trillion tons of carbon since the pre-industrial level of 280 Increasing carbon in soil back to native levels of nearly 3 percent could sequester 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere , claimed

, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. Environmental experts say the world is. Read full, original article: The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere : Bury it (Behind Paywall).

Other scientists worry that a focus on carbon in soil will redirect attention away from minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. And still others think that building up carbon could produce more nitrous oxide gas, which is even more warming than carbon dioxide.

“No one has the models or the data to determine who is right yet,” Bradford said. “We have a lack of measurements. [Indigo is] doing the work on the ground to ask if this is feasible.” Perry said that while most farmers are sustainability-minded, it’s hard to ask them to make sacrifices to sequester carbon for the good of the planet, especially in the face of so many other financial and climatic challenges. Paying them to make this a priority, he said, is the answer.

“It is the only action we can take today whose impact matches the scale of the problem,” he said. “Instead of reducing the speed at which we approach the climate cliff . . . this enables us to start backing away from the climate cliff entirely.”

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The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it

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