The 1000 Year Question: Understanding Biochar Permanence

Home / The 1000 Year Question: Understanding Biochar Permanence
16 Feb. 2023 12:00 – 1:30 pm ET (US)

Explore recently published research about biochar permanence with IBI partners at the Ithaka Institute for Carbon Strategies.

Longevity of carbon sinks and especially biochar based carbon sinks is discussed with intensity and often without common ground. To compensate a CO2 emission that causes a global warming effect for thousands to millions of years, a carbon sink must persist for equally long time periods. However, to avoid accelerating climate change we need climate action now. A carbon sink that persists for 10 years has a global cooling effect during these ten years as carbon sink that will persist for a thousand years. If such a 10 years carbon sink is renewed after those 10 years with an equal or higher sized carbon sink, the global cooling effect of the first short term carbon sink continues for as long as the second carbon sink persists or is renewed.

Short term carbon sinks are as important to save the climate as long term carbon sinks. The Ithaka Institute developed a certification method that allows a correct accounting of short-, mid- and long term carbon sinks and their accumulation in C-sink portfolios. Biochar, rock, forest, and material carbon sinks can thus be combined to marketable global cooling services. We expect that global cooling services and not CO2-compensation will become the base of the new carbon sink economy.

The presentation given by Hans-Peter Schmidt, lead developer of Ithaka Institute, will introduce to the principles of global cooling services, the combination of various carbon sinks in C-sink portfolios, the accounting of global cooling services to balance private or cooperate global warming effects, and the principles of C-sink registry. The new approach of C-sink portfolios eventually allows to account for all carbon contained in biochar.


Hans-Peter Schmidt – Ithaka Institute for Carbon Strategies

Hans-Peter Schmidt has been a pioneer in the field of biochar since 2008.  He has worked on all aspects of biochar including the creation of a wide variety of biochar production equipment, biochar production in high and low technology scenarios, application techniques, field trial design, biochar characterization, and biochar education (creator of the Ithaka Journal).  In addition, Hans-Peter has designed and used biochar plaster as a building material and developed nano-biochar for the skiing industry. He has extensive experience working across Europe and has worked on developing world projects as well including Nepal, Bangladesh and Cuba. He is the lead developer of the Global C-Sink certification methods.

Prof. Dr. Samuel Abiven, Professor

Dr. Samuel Abiven is a professor for terrestrial biogeochemistry at the Ecole supérieure in Paris, and science director of the Ecotron Ile de France. He studied agronomy and biogeosciences in France (ESA Angers, Université Paris VI / ENS Paris) and received a PhD in Agronomy and environmental sciences in 2005 from Agrocampus Rennes. He then moved to Zurich, first as post-doc researcher on a project looking at lignin molecules in the plants and soils. In 2008, he received a Ambizione grant from the Swiss National Foundation for Science to work on the persistence of fire-derived organic matter in soils.

Among his many peer-reviewed published papers, Dr. Abiven is a co-author on the recently released paper, “Permanence of soil applied biochar.”

Moderator:  Kathleen Draper

Kathleen is the Board Chair of the International Biochar Initiative. She is also the US Director of the Ithaka Institute for Carbon Intelligence. The Institute is an open source network focusing on beneficial carbon sequestration strategies which simultaneously provide economic development opportunities both in the developed and developing world. In 2020 she helped launch C-interest, a start-up focused on creating biochar based composite materials. She has written extensively about various topics related to biochar and is a co-author of the book “Terra Preta: How the World’s Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger” and “BURN: Using Fire to Cool the Earth”.