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How industrial hemp is a powerful weapon against climate change

There is little doubt that the cannabis renaissance has well and truly begun.

Around the world, investors have been eager to spread the word and contribute to the ‘green rush’ pertaining to opportunities to profit from the recent industrialisation of cannabis cultivation. Hype and excitement from the markets has been caused by a series of regulatory amendments to laws pertaining to the cultivation of cannabis for the medical marijuana market and the relaxation of cannabis consumption laws in several states of the USA and other countries around the world.

The fact that all animals, including vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) and invertebrates (sea urchins, leeches, mussels, nematodes, and others) have been found to have a endocannabinoid system, a system literally built so that animals are able to benefit from the natural compounds in the cannabis plant. THC, CBD and terpenes are the most common consumer products derived from cannabis, which are currently being fast-tracked globally to meet the growing demands for a range of ailments from inflammation and other immune system responses, chronic pain, to sleep and digestion assistance.

The Medical marijuana market may well be the catalyst for making cannabis ‘mainstream’ and flooding the market with capital and interest, but in countries like Australia, where the costs of producing medical cannabis are very high (due to high energy and labor costs and regulatory burdens), industrial hemp cultivation might be a much smarter, longer-term play that could significantly assist in the quest to live a sustainable lifestyle.

How is hemp different from cannabis?

Hemp, marijuana, hashish – any of the proported 1,200 or so nicknames, all refer to a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. While the number of species within the genus is disputed, the most recognised is Cannabis sativa.

When the cannabis plant is especially when grown for fibre (often using a strain with very low THC), it is known as hemp.

Hemp cultivation for fibre was recorded in China as early as 2800 BCE and was said to be practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe early in the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Industrial hemp cultivation is an exciting proposition for Australia, for the following reasons;

  • Carbon sequestration potential
  • Strength of hemp fibre
  • Superior product of building material

The Carbon sequestration potential of hemp

One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. It is possible to grow to 2 crops per year so absorption is doubled. Hemp’s rapid growth (grows to 4 metres in 100 days) makes it one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion tools available, more efficient than agro-forestry.

Australia has committed to reduce emissions by 171 million tonnes by 2030.

We have roughly ten years to achieve this target, and if we assume we haven’t yet started this mission, starting next year Australia would need to reduce emissions by 17.1M tonnes per year.

If we assume two crops per year, and if we assume 22 tonnes per hectare is accurate, then Australian farmers would need to plant industrial hemp on ~390,000 hectares each year (roughly 3,900 square kilometres). For context, this would equate to 0.64% of the agricultural land owned by private farmers in Australia.

However, 390,000 hectares producing two industrial hemp crops per year would produce ~7.8M tonnes of industrial hemp biomass. The global production of industrial hemp in 2016 was said to be 100,000 tonnes… so if Australia took this approach, we’d increase the global supply of industrial hemp by 7800%.

Hemp is currently being used by BMW in Germany to replace plastics in car construction.

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