photo: Ben Britten via flickr.
With all the recent wrangling over whether emissions from land-use changes ought to be included in determining which biofuels are truly low-carbon fuel sources, this next one is very much apropos: New research done at the Joint Global Change Research Institute shows that including carbon emissions from deforestation in climate change policy will lower the cost of climate change mitigation, and if we don't do it unmanaged forests could well disappear entirely by 2100 as biofuel crops displace them:The researchers reached this conclusion after using a computer model incorporating economic, energy, agriculture, land-use changes, emissions and concentrations of greenhouse gases to better understand how human decisions and natural processes interact in controlling climate.
They compared two ways in which society could stay within an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450ppm: One which included carbon emissions from deforestation and terrestrial source along with industrial and fossil fuel emissions; one which did not include terrestrial carbon emissions.
The result was that when you ignore terrestrial carbon a near complete loss of unmanaged forest occurs, because bioenergy crops planted on the assumption that they will replace the use of fossil fuels result in wholesale deforestation. However, if terrestrial carbon sources are included, forest cover actually increases, along with an expansion of bioenergy crops.
Including Forests Also Halves Emission Reductions Costs
What the researchers also found was that the cost to keep carbon emissions within that 450ppm limit without including forests was double that of when forests were included.
This suggests that storing carbon in forests, agricultural areas, and other ecosystems is an important and cost-effective part of a bigger carbon dioxide emissions control strategy that includes dramatic changes to the global energy system.
Deforestation Emissions Greater Than All Transportation Emissions
Just so the stat sticks in your head: Deforestation and conversion of forests to agricultural use is currently accountable for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all fossil fuel emissions of the entire transportation sector.
More: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Mongabay
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