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Even though we know we have added enough CO2 to the atmosphere through industrial activities over the past 150 years to raise the temperature by more than 3 degrees, and will likely add enough more by mid-century to raise it to 5 to 7 degrees, we have not actually felt the warming very much yet, and so we are lulled into complacency about the urgency.
One reason it is changing so slowly is because of all the heat and CO2 being absorbed by the ocean. This is not reassuring. Instead, it means that drawing back the carbon dioxide will not quickly fix our dilemma. In fact, for every ton of CO2 we remove from the atmosphere, the oceans push slightly less than one ton back into the atmosphere. That is because atmosphere and oceans are coupled systems. Between them, they attempt to maintain carbon equilbrium. For that reason, it is not enough to plant forests and make biochar on land. We also must plant kelp forests and create marine trophic cascades at sea. Also, we must double down on our targets for removal.
Global Village Institute has been making these calculations and running these scenarios since 1985.
We estimate that if we had initial funding of from 100 million to 1 billion dollars, or roughly 0.01 to 0.1 Ford-class aircraft carriers, we would profitably employ one to ten million people performing drawdown functions within the first 5 years, and those activities would further benefit 100 million.
The world now spends 7 trillion dollars annually to subsidize fossil fuel production with tax revenues. One hundredth of one percent of that would be enough to get us going.
After 5 years, using the methods we outline here on these pages and in our reports, books, and educational materials, we could expect the program to be self-funded with revolving returns from the seeded projects. The program is designed to be self-sustaining into the indefinite future by creating robust, antifragile circular local economies. It can achieve all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
To reach equilibrium of greenhouse gases with current emissions the program intends to restore 3 trillion trees to the available places on Earth that can sustain mixed-age, mixed-species forests in this era of challenging climate transition. There are approximately 4.4 gigahectares of such available places that do not intervfere with food production, commerce, or bodiversity goals. By the time we have planted 1.5 gigahectares of that area, we will have removed all the legacy atmospheric carbon from the fossil fuel era.
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As we told the scientists gathered at the Drawdown conference in Pennsylvania in 2019, we have an ace up our sleeve. Carbon farming in all its forms, holistic management, and biofertilizers using biochar that boost nutrient density and growth rates for food crops and vast new agroforestry ecosystems on marginal lands, although needed and important, are not the only way to move carbon underground. There is as much or more potential for carbon drawdown by biochar amendments to cement, asphalt, biocomposites and new geotextiles. Our new book entitled, Burn: Using Fire to Cool the Earth (Chelsea Green Publishers, 2019), describes this emerging industry and the potential that it holds. It is a roadmap to the New Carbon Economy we must all be living in soon if we are to survive.
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