The world’s leading industrial nations, technically the Group of Seven though you likely know them as G-7, are meeting for their annual summit with a historic first of global proportions on their docket: climate justice. With no time to waste for these large, still fossil fuel-dependent countries to step up their clean energy games, industrial hemp may be the untapped treasure the planets been in need of.
And Canada, according to new research, may be sitting on a natural goldmine.
In 2015, all of the G-7 nations and nearly every other in the world signed the Paris Climate Agreement, which introduced quantifiable goals to counteract climate change, generate cleaner energy and prevent further climate-related damage to developing nations. One of those goals was to limit global temperature rise this century to 2 degrees Celsius, or 1.5 if possible.
If the world is going to keep steadily increasing temperatures from continuing their ascent, the richest nations have to move themselves away from burning fossil fuels — curtailing the harmful greenhouse gases they emit.
Canada’s goal specifically is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a 30% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.
Canada’s legalization of marijuana in recent years has reduced stigma around the plant and opened up the ability to grow the Cannabis sativa L. plant, which can be cultivated in different ways to produce both the psychoactive properties most commonly associated with marijuana and industrial hemp, which does not have enough of the THC component to get you “high.”
A new Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews study looks at the potential of industrial hemp as countries are considering alternative energy sources. It notes hemp’s ability to be used in making biofuels. Unlike fossil fuels, they’re renewable and derived from biomass — or organic material from plants and animals.
“Industrial hemp has the potential to provide many environmental benefits,” the researchers write. “Increasing hemp production would encourage all of the benefits associated with replacing fossil fuel feedstocks with biomass, including lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and offering a sustainable energy source.”
Biodiesel is a renewable replacement for fossil fuels, and the review suggests hempseed oil can effectively be converted to produce biodiesel.
“Hemp biodiesel has the potential to be economically competitive with other diesel by using its by-products, since production of hemp biodiesel requires hempseed oil, but hemp straw and the remainder of the seed are available for other purposes,” the researchers state.
The United States has been slow to take legal steps, but the environmental possibilities of industrial hemp elsewhere could act as a catalyst for further legalization and sustainable energy use.the author writes
Processing hemp in certain ways naturally lends itself to the use of its by-products, making it multi-purpose. Hemp fiber has historically been used in the textile industry. Waste generated by hemp fiber processing results in large amounts of hemp dust, which can also be converted into biofuels.
Other advantages to growing hemp, the researchers point out, is its relatively fast growth cycle and large renewable energy output without using much water. Hemp requires less H2O for growth than crops commonly grown for ethanol, like maize, and minimal amounts of pesticides due to self-protective properties, making cultivation relatively inexpensive.
This research is largely geared toward the hemp industry in Canada, which has a more realistic potential because marijuana is legal there while still illegal in America.
The United States has been slow to take legal steps, but the environmental possibilities of industrial hemp elsewhere could act as a catalyst for further legalization and sustainable energy use.
If this year’s G-7 summit is to get serious about climate change, the world leaders would be wise to look to Canada and formerly forbidden green plant that’s not just putting smiles on people’s faces — it also may be just what mother Earth’s been crying out for.