Updated: Jan 17, 2019
According to a recent blog from The Huffington Post "Nature Wants Her Carbon Back" the latest research from Ohio State University, Texas A&M, and the Rodale Institute, anywhere from one-third to one-half of manmade CO2 in the atmosphere comes from industrial agriculture. That's more than all the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels worldwide!
Unless we draw some of the carbon we have already emitted back down to Earth, we aren’t making much, if any, progress in reversing climate change. How do we draw back carbon?
Simple, we put it back into the soil! Doing this may actually be much easier than reducing and cutting emissions. Over the years, our mistreatment of the soil has prevented nature from doing what it is intended to do-- cycle carbon back from the atmosphere.
When we use chemicals on plants, we kill life in the soil that absorbs carbon. If we grow plants that sequester carbon and require less pesticides, we can begin to rebuild the soil and the atmosphere.
Hemp rebuilds the soil and is an excellent candidate to begin cleaning up our environment. It requires far less chemicals than traditional crops, keeping vital carbon absorbing life in the soil alive. Not only does hemp sequester carbon while it grows, it continues to sequester it in its final product form, until it is composted or burnt.
A study showed that net carbon sequestration by a hemp crop is estimated as 0.67 ton/h/year, which is compatible to all USA urban trees and very close to naturally, regenerated forests. (M. Pervaiz, M.Sain.)
Hemp can also produce products that can reduce or filter CO2 emissions from the air like hempcrete, insulation and fuel. A study conducted by a graduate student at the University of East London published in January 2010 concluded that:
"If organic hemp and clay binder were to be used to insulate the walls of all the UK’s approximately 7 million solid-walled dwellings, the carbon sequestered would be significant, equivalent to the embodied carbon in over 20,000 2MW wind turbines." Click here to read full study.
Now that Kentucky is allowing industrial hemp cultivation for research and development, we finally have the opportunity to discover the true potential, and feasability, of using hemp as a carbon reducer in our state and country. We know the facts, now let's put them to use!
M. Pervaiz, M.Sain. Carbon storage potential in natural fiber composites. "Resources, Conservation and Recycling" Volume 39, Issue 4, Pages 325-340
Note: A comparative life cycle analysis focused on non-renewable energy consumption of natural and glass fiber composites shows that a net saving of 50 000 MJ (∼3 ton CO2 emissions) per ton of thermoplastic can be achieved by replacing 30% glass fiber reinforcement with 65% hemp fiber. It is further estimated that 3.07 million ton CO2emissions (4.3% of total USA industrial emissions) and 1.19 million m3 crude oil (1.0% of total Canadian oil consumption) can be saved by substituting 50% fiber glass plastics with natural fiber composites in North American auto applications. However, to compete with glass fiber effectively, further research is needed to improve natural fiber processing, interfacial bonding and control moisture sensitivity in longer run.