The Carbon Harvest


Vast bioenergy plantations could suck up carbon and stave off climate change. They would also radically reshape the planet

On a sunny day this past October, three dozen people file into a modest, mint-green classroom at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman to glimpse a vision of the future. Some are scientists, but most are people with some connection to the land: extension agents who work with farmers, and environmentalists representing organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. They all know that climate change will reshape the region in the coming decades, but that’s not what they’ve come to discuss. They are here to talk about the equally profound impacts of trying to stop it.

Paul Stoy, an ecologist at MSU, paces in front of whiteboards in a powder blue shirt and jeans as he describes how a landscape already dominated by agriculture could be transformed yet again by a different green revolution: vast plantations of crops, sown to sop up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the sky. “We have this new energy economy that’s necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, but how is that going to look on the ground?” he asks.

Read the full story in Science magazine.

Researchers are studying how bioenergy with carbon capture and storage–also known as BECCS–would reshape the Upper Missouri River Basin, including the area around Bozeman, MT. (Credit: Julia Rosen)