Carbon capture for the Wimmera and Mallee
DURING November, my wife and I decided to take a bushman’s holiday to Melbourne and look at art galleries, visit the botanical gardens, dine in a Carlton restaurant and, by way of intellectual stimulation, attend the Leeper Soil Science lecture at Melbourne University.
We duly converted our senior’s rail vouchers, but ended up driving to Ballarat as the connections to Horsham or Ararat were inadequate. Why the buses and trains leave together three times a day is a bit of mystery… staggering them would make more sense.
The lecture by Professor Philip Robertson, of Michigan State University, was titled: A soil centric perspective of cellulosic bioenergy in the US.
It was suitably complicated so we felt reassured that scientists were happily beavering away on important topics.
One item caught my attention which I feel should be shared more widely.
The need to reduce carbon emissions has been well and truly hammered home, but it was news to me that carbon capture technology was a vital part of the predicted track to a not-too-hot world in the future.
Put simply, not only do we have to reduce the amount of our emissions, but we also need to actively suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it somewhere. This was news to me, but perhaps I have been on the farm too long and have been left behind.
Professor Robertson put up the graph, pictured above. The black line is what the scientists have worked out is required of net emissions so we don’t get too hot. Note the “realised negative emissions” – that is, sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it somewhere. This is quite different from just reducing emissions.
To my knowledge, there are no significant technologies on the horizon to pull carbon out of the system. I found this fact a bit depressing – especially given that in addition it does not seem likely that the world will reduce emissions to the extent they promised at Paris.
However, back to the farm, and stay positive. It occurred to me that most soils in the Wimmera and Mallee are highly alkaline, more so than the equilibrium point for limestone formation (pH of 8.3). Thus applying gypsum to such soils would cause limestone to form, thereby sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for all time. Currently we use about 500,000 tonnes of gypsum per year, and have reserves of 30MT.
So maybe the Wimmera and Mallee will end up as important cogs in the fight against getting too hot, if ever we get organised and get some science into the system.
Bill Gardner, Laharum
More to do alongside people with disability
DURING this past year we have reached a tipping point with Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Endeavour Foundation has now transitioned more than half of the 4000 people with intellectual disability we support to the scheme – a milestone we share with many other service providers.
However, people with disability continue to face discrimination out in the community and in the workplace, where they are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disability.
We believe in supporting people with disability to have the opportunity and dignity of work, to be able to live more independently and to lead fulfilling lives as active members of the community.
The NDIS is transformational and provides the necessary funding to improve support services for participants in the scheme but it can only go so far.
It is now up to all Australians to enrich our society by embracing people of differing abilities because without real societal change, the NDIS won’t succeed.
David Curd, interim chief executive, Endeavour Foundation