As plants grow, they draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce biomass that contains carbon. Rather than allowing plant matter to decompose and emit CO2, pyrolysis (the method of creating biochar) transforms around half of the carbon stored in plant tissue into a stable and inactive form of carbon.
But what does that really mean? If biochar production were widely adopted, it has the potential to divert some of the huge amounts of carbon that annually cycles between plants and the atmosphere. Johannes Lehmann, a leading biochar researcher at Cornell University, estimates that converting one percent of annual plant uptake into biochar would be the equivalent of reducing human carbon emissions by ten percent.