July is National Hemp Month and a great time to explore all the benefits of this highly-sustainable plant.
There was a time when the validity of climate change and global warming were heavily debated. But the current landscape of natural disasters has left the vast majority of people, just wondering what we can do to fix the problem. Could hemp be the global warming solution?
Notable Signs of Global Warming
The signs of global warming are becoming increasingly evident. Earlier this summer, streetcars in Portland, Oregon were rendered innoperable because of power cables melting under a 116 degree heat wave. Winter snowstorms in February left millions of Texans without electricity for days, while temperatures in the Midwest dropped 50 degrees below average. California wildfires have amplified immensely over the last few decades, as early warm weather evaporates moisture out of the ground and drought conditions persist.
- Temperatures are rising world-wide,
- Longer and more extreme droughts around the world,
- Tropical storms becoming more severe,
- Decreased snowpack in mountain ranges and polar areas,
- Glaciers melting at a faster rate,
- Permafrost is melting, releasing methane into the atmosphere, and
- Sea levels are rising.
Global warming impacts more than just the temperature around us. Climate change is altering the ecosystems where we exist, displacing both humans and wildlife. If we don't start making changes soon, we will run out of ways to adapt.
Global Warming Human Causes
Over centuries, and especially in recent decades, humans have made significant contributions to climate change. Humanity’s increased use of fossil fuels, such as gas and coal to power our lifestyles with cars, electricity and other modern conveniences impacts the environment, both immediately and in the long-term.
Deforestation of large rainforests decreases the number of live trees absorbing carbon dioxide which warms the planet. Worldwide, deforestation is estimated to contribute 10 percent of global carbon emissions.
Increasingly intensive agriculture production can also impact global warming by emitting greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Balancing climate impact with potential food security concerns has started to change the way farmers think about crop production.
Hemp: The Global Warming Solution
The benefits of hemp seem endless, and they just might be. There are countless products that can be made using this one plant, from food and clothing, to biofuels. Could hemp be the global warming solution? We can’t say that it is the end-all-be-all, but there are some solid reasons that hemp production and choosing hemp products could make a difference in the trajectory of our world.
Cleaner Air with Hemp
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most prevalent greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change. We emit CO2 when we breathe, but it is also emitted in much larger quantities by livestock, industrial processing, and fossil fuels. Plants absorb CO2, which is one of the reasons deforestation is such a big problem. Hemp is helpful as a global warming solution for CO2 because it can absorb CO2 more efficiently than trees. Trees can take decades to grow to maturity, but hemp can reach heights of 13 feet in as little as 100 days, and absorb more carbon per 100 acres than trees. Hemp can also be grown in varying climate and soil types.
Prevent Erosion with Hemp
When trees and other plants are cleared through deforestation or for agricultural production, erosion can occur. The problem is that without foliage as a preventative, erosion can strip away fertile topsoil. This decreases the nutrient content in the soil, and can also send pesticides and fertilizers into waterways or natural landscapes. Hemp roots grow fast and deep into the ground, which helps to hold soil together and minimize erosion. These roots also transfer nitrogen into the soil, which can help replenish nutrient value.
Promote Efficient Water Use
Water is a precious resource and over the last few decades it has become increasingly scarce in once fertile grounds. With wells going dry across California and other area around the country, efficient water use has to be a priority. Many agriculture crops such as cotton, use a large amount of water. Hemp is not a “drought-resistent” crop, but is less water intensive than many other crops. The Hemp Foundation states that one pound of cotton requires 1,440 gallons of water to produce. Hemp needs only half that much.
Restore Soil with Hemp
The hemp plant is a natural bioaccumulator (also called a hyperaccumulator). This means that it can absorb the toxins and metals in soil by transferring it to their limbs and leaves. Hemp soil remediation is used to clean up soil after chemical spills and is even used for the Chernobyl nuclear plant clean up. As an added bonus, nutrients found in the hemp plant can help revitalize soil that is overworked, making hemp a great option as a rotational crop between planting other crops. This is a great way for farmers to give soil a rest without fallowing and losing income, or continuing to plant and drain the soil.
Reduce Plastic Waste
Humanity has known for quite some time that single-use plastic is a problem for our planet. These materials are not easily broken down (can take 450 years or more) and can cause harmful pollution if not disposed of property. Heat and sunlight cause plastic to release greenhouse gases. According to the American Chemistry Counsel, in 2018, plastic generation in the United States alone totaled 35.7 million tons. Despite our best efforts to recycle, it is estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year. Hemp bioplastic is a fully biodegradable alternative made from petrochemicals.
Hemp Biofuel Alternatives
Many of the world’s top energy sources such as coal and petroleum degrade the environment and contribute to global warming. Hemp oil is produced by using the oils and fats in hemp seeds to make biodiesel. As a side note, hemp seeds are also a nutritious food source. Hemp biodiesel can be used to fuel a vehicle and it is estimated that one acre of hemp can be converted to 1,000 gallons of fuel. Biofuels are widely considered an important concept for the global warming solution. Hemp can also be used to make ethanol, which is traditionally derived from more intensive crops such as barely and corn.
Building with Hemp
Hemp building materials can be an important part of reducing carbon emissions caused by the construction industry. Some estimates have assessed that the building sector contributes 36% of yearly greenhouse gas emissions. Hemp construction materials such as fiberboards can be made stronger and lighter than wood. Hempcrete (hemp concrete, as the name implies) can serve as more efficient thermal insulation. This allows homeowners to use less energy to regulate the temperature in their homes.
The Global Warming Solution Benefits of Hemp
It is clear to see that hemp is one of the most eco-friendly crops on the planet, and its benefits extend beyond even these amazing contributions to the global warming solution. Choosing to shop for hemp products instead of alternative that strain the environment, is one small way that you can make a difference. The hemp plant can be made into durable, fashionable and naturally antimicrobial clothing. Hemp seeds and oil have nutritional benefits for consumption, and hemp CBD is a crucial part of natually maintaining balance (homeostasis) in the body. It is time to take a closer look at hemp as a viable piece of the global warming solution.