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Carbon-Free or Free-Carbon?

July 1, 2009

Why we need to take a radical new approach to Climate Change.

The first is that, despite relentless media coverage, the issue has barely won the day-to-day attention of the majority of the general public. Indeed, as we look out of our windows on a pleasant day, or gaze across a green meadow, we could be forgiven for thinking that everything’s rosy in the garden. There is a reason for this. Let me take you back to your experiments in the physics lab at school. Perhaps you plotted the temperature as you heated a beaker of iced water? At first the temperature remained fairly constant, as all the energy was being used to change the water from a solid into a liquid state. As soon as the last ice cube melted, however, the temperature started to climb.

And so it is on planet earth. The ice caps are melting. When all the ice has gone, in six years during the summers, then the oceans will really start to warm, and sea levels will rise rapidly, not only because of the melted ice, but also due to thermal expansion. Even more sinister is the resulting weaker sinking of cold water at the poles, causing the system of ocean currents to falter. The last time this happened in earnest, 250 million years ago, the resulting stagnant decaying organic matter released huge quantities of hydrogen sulphide, killing off most of life in the seas, and then on land. Studies of crystalline layers in ice cores drilled from the poles indicate that earth’s climate flipped in a single season, so when it does happen, it may well not be a gradual process!

A second reason is the huge mis-match between science and politics. Leading hazard research scientist, Professor Bill McGuire, gives us just six years to the tipping point of dangerous climate change, making the government’s Climate Change Bill aiming to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 seem hopelessly inadequate. Meanwhile our usage of fossil fuels continues to soar.

So here’s the radical solution: If we are not on course to become carbon-free in the very near future, then we must opt for free-carbon. In fact there is nothing wrong with using carbon freely. What has gone wrong is that we are meant to live in a symbiotic relationship with plant life. Plants take our carbon dioxide and convert it into carbohydrates, such as food and fuel. But, because we take much of our carbon from underground and we have decimated plant life by turning most of the land into virtual desert, we are now complaining of excess carbon dioxide and insufficient food or fuel. The answer is obvious – we need more plants. Where can we grow them? In the massive deserts that we have created.

In very simple terms, the proposal is to turn CO2 and sea water back into rain-inducing trees and plentiful energy crops and high-nutrient food crops in deserts, re-fertilised with fast-growing marine algae. The algae can be composted in the absence of air (anaerobicially digested), also yielding bio-gas for additional energy as a by-product.

This solution can be launched step-by-step from the UK. Problematic organic waste can be diverted from landfill and anaerobically digested in order to move UK communities towards becoming self-sufficient in food and fuel. Algae occurring naturally in lakes and coastal waters can then be added in order to swell the biomass. Finally, trace minerals from the sea can be introduced in order to produce ultra-fertile land, exceptionally nutritious foods and safe, biodegradable, renewable fuels and materials. This model can then be rolled out globally as described above, using marine algae to reclaim deserts for bounteous agroforestry, locking away vast amounts of CO2 and resolving the food, energy, waste, pollution and economic crises, all in one go.

Want another reason for doing this? The current Climate Change Bill will force us all to (a) tighten our belts, (b) pay opportunist green taxes during the run-up to (c) our extinction. I would sooner pressure governments to back an approach that would make a, b and c all unnecessary. Wouldn’t you?

This is a transcript of a presentation given to the Environmental Population Green Business Network by Greg Peachey, Founder and chair of Watford -based FREdome and C-green Solutions  

For more information email or ring 0845 225 3005

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