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Friday, March 24, 2023

How Industrial Hemp Can Help Fight Climate Change

How Industrial Hemp Can Help Fight Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most urgent and complex challenges facing humanity today. The scientific consensus is clear: human activities are causing the Earth to warm up at an unprecedented rate, with devastating consequences for ecosystems, biodiversity, and human well-being. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. This requires a rapid and profound transformation of our energy, transport, agriculture, and industrial systems, as well as a massive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most promising and underutilized solutions to climate change is industrial hemp. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that does not produce psychoactive effects, but has a multitude of uses and benefits for people and the planet. Hemp can be used to make textiles, paper, bioplastics, biofuels, medicines, cosmetics, food, and more. Hemp is also a highly efficient and sustainable crop that can help mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon emissions and absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere .

Hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and can grow up to 4 meters high in 100 days. Hemp has a high yield per hectare and can grow in a variety of climates and soil conditions. Hemp does not require synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, which reduces the environmental impact of agriculture and improves soil health. Hemp also has a deep root system that prevents soil erosion and enhances soil fertility.

Hemp is a carbon-negative crop, meaning that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits during its life cycle. Hemp sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and stores it in its biomass. Research suggests that hemp is twice as effective as trees at absorbing and locking up carbon, with 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of hemp estimated to absorb 8 to 22 tonnes of CO2 per year, more than any woodland. The carbon dioxide is also permanently fixed in the hemp fibers, which can go on to be used for many products that replace fossil fuels or other carbon-intensive materials.

For example, hemp can be used to make biofuels that can power vehicles or generate electricity. Hemp biofuels have a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels and do not contribute to air pollution or global warming. Hemp can also be used to make bioplastics that are biodegradable and compostable, unlike conventional plastics that are derived from petroleum and pollute the environment for hundreds of years. Hemp can also be used to make building materials such as hempcrete, which is a mixture of hemp fibers and lime that can be used as insulation or concrete. Hempcrete is fire-resistant, mold-resistant, pest-resistant, and has excellent thermal properties. Hempcrete buildings can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional buildings.

Hemp is not a silver bullet for climate change, but it is a powerful tool that can complement other solutions and changes in behavior. Planting 1 billion acres of industrial hemp could play a role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, but it would need to be part of a larger suite of actions that include reducing fossil fuel use, increasing renewable energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns, restoring natural ecosystems, and adapting to the changing climate.

Unfortunately, hemp is still facing legal and regulatory barriers in many countries, including the UK, where it is classified as a controlled drug and requires a Home Office licence to grow. This limits the potential of hemp as a climate solution and hinders its development as a viable crop for farmers and businesses. However, there is growing awareness and interest in hemp among researchers, policymakers, consumers, and entrepreneurs who recognize its environmental benefits and economic opportunities. The 2014 and 2018 farm bills in the US eased restrictions on hemp cultivation and allowed states to develop their own pilot programs. In Europe, several countries have legalized or decriminalized hemp production and are supporting research and innovation in the hemp sector.

Hemp is an ancient plant with a modern relevance. It is a versatile and sustainable crop that can help fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions and absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere . Hemp can also provide many products that can replace fossil fuels or other harmful materials and improve human health and well-being. Hemp is a plant for the future that deserves more attention and support from governments

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