The biggest driver of the climate crisis is that we took the coal out of the ground and burned it. What if we could reverse that process at world-changing scale? This novel approach to carbon removal uses the best process that exists for removing carbon from the air – trees; and enhances it. The biomass is actually returned underground – reverse mining! This locks the carbon safely away for hundreds or thousands of years.
Who is behind it?
InterEarth’s Dr Howard Carr is the inventor. Howard has had careers in both mining and agriculture and as a geologist understands the processes by which carbon can be locked up in the earth. Reverse mining is obvious – once you see it.
Why did we choose this project?
Keeping global warming to 1.5C is going to require us to launch and scale activities that remove carbon from the air and lock it away for 100s of years. Billions of tonnes of it. Getting funding to these vital projects is one of the biggest things we can do to tackle the climate crisis.
What do we most love about it?
It’s a game-changer in the truest sense. This is a truly scalable and cost-effective way to remove carbon from the air. With support, it can be one of the biggest contributors to a liveable planet that we have.
How does it work?
The process starts with planting of a suite of up to 13 different coppicing (able to regrow after thinning and pruning) high biomass production native Australian trees and shrubs adapted to low rainfall conditions and the different soil types. Those trees are then coppiced – thinned and pruned – to harvest the biomass. The biomass is then sequestered – compacted and then buried underground in a way that cuts off all pathways to decomposition – essentially reverse mining carbon dioxide! The biomass is monitored to ensure that it doesn’t decompose. This process will see the carbon safely locked away for hundreds of years, in fact indefinitely if the integrity of the burial sites is maintained. The trees grow back quickly after coppicing, meaning the process can be repeated, creating a rapid, direct carbon removal process that can make a huge contribution to stabilising our climate.
What broader benefits does it bring?
InterEarth’s EBS solution has a number of biodiversity enhancing features. The EBS solution is to plant native trees on degraded marginal, farmland, thus leading to a net increase in biodiversity. Each plantation module will have 10% of land area dedicated to native woodland conservation and restoration. No remnant vegetation on acquired land will be cleared and no equipment movement will take place on this land. Boundary and buffer zones will be planted with a view to restoring complex multi-species habitats characteristic of the area.
This solution will also bring increased employment and new career opportunities to hard-pressed local communities suffering long term decline as the current cereal cropping land use becomes less sustainable both economically and environmentally.
How will we know it's working?
One of the strengths of the EBS methodology is detailed and robust monitoring program that will take place. For those of you interested in the science part:
Once live, a statistically valid analysis program will be conducted to build a robust database of CO2 captured in the biomass. Most importantly, the condition of the biomass sealed within the subterranean chambers will be monitored by a biomass decomposition early warning system. Further, physical monitoring of the actual biomass will be conducted via periodic sampling. Samples will be analysed for carbon, with results compared with those of the biomass at deposition to calculated retained and lost CO2. The scientific projections are that between 0% and 3% of the stored carbon will ever be lost back to the atmosphere. The great thing is that we will be able to know for certain and take corrective action if any issues arise.
By the way...
The EBS solution mimics the way coal was originally formed hundreds of millions of years ago. That proved to be a great way to store carbon outside the atmosphere, if only we hadn’t started to dig it and burn it …