The claim that ‘Hemp can save the world’ is nothing new, but we are now starting to see it as a bit more than just a saying. Industrial Hemp is surfacing as one of the most rapidly expanding products in the past few decades with several applications that include bio-plastics, sustainable fuel, textiles, food supplements etc. Studies show that it can help the environment through carbon sequestration, land reclamation and by driving the production of eco-friendly consumer products.
What’s Thought To Be Causing Climate Change?
The Earth’s climate has evolved over the space of history with 7 cycles of glacial advance and retreat in the past 650,000 years culminating in an abrupt end of the last ice age 11,700 years ago, ushering us into what is referred to as the modern climate era. Climate change is mostly attributed to relatively small variations in the Earth’s orbit that alter the amount of energy the Earth obtains from the Sun.
There are a lot of sceptics who doubt the reality of climate change but global temperature rise which has been by 0.9 degrees Celsius since the later part of the 19th century. This is compelling evidence for the reality of climate change. Humanity’s role in this hike is undeniable since the change is proportional to our fast-growing pace of industrialization and subsequent carbon pollution.
The “Greenhouse effect” a product of industrialization, occurs due to the heat radiating from the Earth toward space. Some gases building up in our atmosphere prevent heat from getting out. Examples include:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2), a key contributor to climate change which is released through respiration, volcano eruptions and human endeavour like combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation etc.
- Methane – produced by the decomposition of wastes, rice cultivation and manure management.
- Nitrous Oxide got from fossil fuel burning, use of artificial and natural fertilizers.
- Chlorofluorocarbons which were once very popular synthetic compounds with several uses that have been largely abandoned due to their ability to damage the ozone layer, a protective bit of the atmosphere that protects us from most of the Sun’s UV rays.
Hemp Absorbs Carbon From The Air
Industrial hemp has been scientifically proven to absorb more carbon dioxide from the air per hectare than any other forest or commercially produced plant. Due to this, it is considered to be the perfect carbon sink. The CO2 is bonded to the plant’s fibre, which can then be converted into useful states like textiles, paper and even construction material.
Industrial hemp comes from the cannabis plant that lacks psychoactive properties due to its negligible concentration of the primary psychoactive compound found in Cannabis known as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). It grows very easily and thrives in nutrient-poor soil with very small quantities of water.
One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare and due to its fast and easy growth (4 metres in 100 days), one hectare can become two in the span of a year. Biomass is produced by the photosynthetic conversion of carbon in the air and its absorption by hemp can be proven each year by the amount by which the plant has grown, by its dry weight yield.
Carbon sequestration is the capture and secure storage of carbon that would otherwise be emitted to or remain in the atmosphere. It is seen as a major tool in getting rid of the excess carbon being released into our atmosphere particularly from fossil fuel combustion.
Hemp behind sequestering carbon once it is planted and a minimum estimation of its sequestration ration is 1.5 units of sequestration per unit of hemp produced. It can additionally sequester through a process termed biosequestration. After the absorption into the plant, it can be slow-shouldered instead of burnt to produce bio-char. Bio-char can be mixed with other nutrients and instilled into the soil.
While nothing is going to stop climate change on its own, we have to set goals to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere so that our environment can be managed. There are several means by which we can reduce the rate of climate change progression, halt or even reverse it, from recycling to using electric cars but it is important to consider the widespread cultivation of a plant that is not only cheap and easy to grow but is also one of the most efficient at trapping the most vicious greenhouse gas – CO2 and create a negative carbon footprint.