Biochar as a Climate Change Mitigation Strategy: Does It Measure Up?

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To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to significantly reduce global warming emissions and if possible remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

One proposal for achieving the second objective is to heat biomass — plant and animal materials — in a low-oxygen environment to create charcoal, which is mostly just carbon and is called biochar when produced specifically to help reduce global warming.

This report evaluates the potential of biochar as a climate change solution and reviews the scientific literature to assess current data on biochar’s long-term stability in the environment.

Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes

Read the full story from National Geographic.

For people living around the Great Lakes, water levels this past month have appeared much lower than many will remember. The upper Great Lakes reached near-record low water levels in October. This was most evident on Lakes Michigan and Huron, where lake levels dropped to less than two inches (4 cm) above record lows and 28 inches (71 cm) below the long-term average. All five lakes, plus Lake St. Clair, remain below their long-term averages.

Rock and sand recently exposed by low water levels made stretches of the northern Lake Michigan shoreline look like a moonscape. Recreational boaters had trouble navigating the shallow water this fall, and shipping companies lightened loads to compensate for low water. Lakes Michigan and Huron hovered just above a record low set nearly 50 years ago, and Lake Superior was within five inches (11 cm) of a record low set in 1925.

A 2002 National Geographic magazine story, Down the Drain: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes, documents declining lake levels and the potential economic and ecological consequences for the region. Ten years later, the story continues to unfold, as water levels remain lower than normal.

Experts blame the recent low water on the unusually warm and dry weather over the past year. Rain events in October, including Hurricane Sandy, delayed the inevitable, but forecasters predict Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron will likely reach historic low levels in the late fall or winter, a time of year that the lakes are normally already dropping due to high rates of evaporation.

Do hotels need to green up, make their guests happy and healthy?

Read the full story from Reuters.

A hotel stay might have once been thought of as an opportunity to overindulge on rich buffet food, multiple luxuriant baths and mini-bar nightcaps, but is the modern business traveller more likely to demand gluten-free breakfasts, in-room yoga mats and a green-energy policy?

Webinar: Building Sustainable Infrastructure: The New Tools

December 4. 2012, 1 pm ET
Register here.

Infrastructure is back in the news, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and other severe weather events. Combine that with aging roads, bridges, pipes and other things, and governments around the world are facing a major challenge.

Of course, with challenges come opportunities — in this case to design and build infrastructure projects that are resilient, long-lasting, and affordable, especially during lean times. And to do that with sustainability principles in mind.

It won’t be easy. The OECD says $53 trillion is needed globally on infrastructure from now until 2030. With public funds totally outmatched, municipalities and engineers need to attract a hesitant private sector by laying out the project benefits, costs, and risks for the life of the project — not just upfront cost

How do you assess sustainable infrastructure? Until recently, there has been no comprehensive, standardized framework in the United States to quantify sustainability. The new Envision rating system, jointly created by the Zofnass Program and Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, strives to fill that void, providing a way to systematically think about sustainability in infrastructure.

Join a free, one-hour webcast to learn more about how cities, states, and other entities are embedding sustainability into their infrastructure projects, and the tools and resources they use. In this webcast you’ll learn:

  • Why government at all levels should embrace a more holistic project evaluation approach
  • How engineering service providers, state infrastructure designers, and contractors can set themselves apart and find new ways to gain financial support by demonstrating total project benefits.
  • How these transformations, along with other state-of-the-art technologies like 3D modeling, can make infrastructure a much more attractive investment for private investors.

Container city: Freight container condos coming to Detroit

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

Construction on Exceptional Green Living at Rosa Parks, the country’s first multifamily housing project to be built from used shipping containers, is due to commence early next year in Detroit.

How to prove your construction company is building green

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

As the construction industry faces more pressure than ever to operate sustainably, now may be the perfect time to consider a sustainability report. Here are some tips for success.

Two on the FTC’s Green Marketing Guides

GreenBiz recently had two posts about the FTC’s revised Green Marketing Guides.

The first, The FTC Green Guides: What you need to know, provides fourteen key steps to avoid greenwashing by using the new guides.

The second, Are the FTC Guidelines Killing Green Marketing?, looks at how green marketing practices will need to change in order to come into compliance with the new guidelines.