These documents illustrate various perspectives in the debate about climate change and GHGs. Some are high level, data-intensive documents, others are more of the nature of informed but outspoken opinions. (Some I am quite empathetic to, others not so.)
Climate, economic, and environmental impacts of producing wood for bioenergy
Richard Birdsey 2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13
Considerations on GHG emissions and energy balances of promising aviation biofuel pathways
AdrianO’Connell et al., 2019 “Highlights
•Aviation biofuels production method can have a considerable effect on GHG.
•Biofuels may produce higher GHG than standard aviation fuel.
•Advanced biofuels may need more energy input than first generation biofuels.
•Methodology and how emissions are allocated effect GHG results.
•Further work on feedstock displacement effects is needed.”
Forest Bioenergy 101: Generation and Emissions
Explainer by David N. Wear and Ann Bartuska on rff.org Feb 2020
New York forests — but not biofuels — factor in climate plans
By Tony Hall on https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/ October 21, 2019
Biofuels are meant to clean up flying’s carbon crisis. They won’t
By MARIA MELLOR on https://www.wired.co.uk/ Feb 12, 2020
Measured greenhouse gas budgets challenge emission savings from palm-oil biodiesel
Ana Meijide et al. in Nature Communications Feb 27, 2020
The future of bioenergy
Walter V. Reid Mariam K. Ali Christopher B. Field in Global Change Biology, 2020
Forest bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, and carbon dioxide removal: an update
European Academies Science Advisory Council Feb 2019. “As global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) continue to exceed levels compatible with achieving Paris Agreement targets, attention has been focusing on the role of bioenergy as a ‘renewable’ energy source and its potential for removing CO2 from the atmosphere when associated with carbon capture and storage (CCS). The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) examined these issues in 2017/18, but since then many peer-reviewed papers and international reviews have been published. EASAC has thus revisited these important issues and updates its earlier findings in this commentary.”
Bioenergy cropland expansion may offset positive effects of climate change mitigation for global vertebrate diversity
Christian Hof et al. 2018. PNAS December 26, 2018 115 (52) 13294-13299.
Climate change mitigation potential of carbon capture and utilization in the chemical industry
Arne Kätelhön et al., 2019. PNAS June 4, 2019 116 (23) 11187-11194. “Chemical production is set to become the single largest driver of global oil consumption by 2030. To reduce oil consumption and resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon dioxide can be captured from stacks or air and utilized as alternative carbon source for chemicals. Here, we show that carbon capture and utilization (CCU) has the technical potential to decouple chemical production from fossil resources, reducing annual GHG emissions by up to 3.5 Gt CO2-eq in 2030.”
Adding 1 billion hectares of forest could help check global warming
By Alex FoxJul. 4, 2019 in Science Magazine citing The global tree restoration potential by Jean-Francois Bastin et al. in Science Vol. 365, Issue 6448, pp. 76-79 “The restoration of forested land at a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change. Bastin et al. used direct measurements of forest cover to generate a model of forest restoration potential across the globe (see the Perspective by Chazdon and Brancalion). Their spatially explicit maps show how much additional tree cover could exist outside of existing forests and agricultural and urban land. Ecosystems could support an additional 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forest. This would represent a greater than 25% increase in forested area, including more than 500 billion trees and more than 200 gigatonnes of additional carbon at maturity. Such a change has the potential to cut the atmospheric carbon pool by about 25%.”
Missing Pathways to 1.5°C: The role of the land sector in ambitious climate action
Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance. 2018 Also available: a 5 page Executive Summary. “The CLARA report looks at how the land sector can help ambitious climate action. It provides an alternate response to the question of how we can meet the Climate Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming to 1.5°C. It explains that we shouldn’t rely on untested mitigation approaches such as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) but instead focus on strengthening land rights, restoring ecosystems and reducing our consumption of unsustainable foods such as meat. Such steps would strengthen the global response to climate change while meeting sustainable development goals and reducing poverty. The Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance (CLARA) is a consortium of advocates, faith-based organisations and scientists concerned with climate mitigation and adaptation.”
Global Warming of 1.5 °C
“An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty” Also available as separate documents: Headline Statements | Summary for Policymakers | FAQs | Press Release
Europe’s renewable energy directive poised to harm global forests
Timothy D. Searchinger et al., 2018. Sep 12, 2018 Nature Communications 9, Article number: 3741. View also EU climate law could cause ‘catastrophic’ deforestation in the Guardian
Sustainable and optimal use of biomass for energy in the EU beyond 2020
European Commission > Energy > Studies “This study provides an analysis of biomass supply potentials for energy use in the EU, projections of EU bioenergy demand post-2020, and an impact assessment of possible EU policy options for bioenergy sustainability post-2020, with a focus on biomass for heat and power.”
– Final Report May 2017 (198 pages)
– Annexes May 2017 (403 pages)
The European Power Sector in 2017. State of Affairs and Review of Current Developments
Agora Energiewende and Sandbag (2018) www.sandbag.org.uk / www.agora-energiewende.de “The biomass boom is over. Biomass generation grew
by only 3% in 2017, the same as in 2016. The growth of 5 Terawatt hours in 2017 is only half the growth observed from 2000-2015 (see figure 18). Half of this biomass growth was in Denmark and the UK; most other countries did not see any growth…As biomass growth slows, wind and solar alone will drive future renewable growth.”
Third Generation Biofuels – Implications for Wood-Derived Fuels
Dovetail Partners Inc. Feb 2018. Good review of First to Fourth Generation Biofuels. “In this report we discuss the essential differences between first, second, and third generation biofuels, examine progress toward development of third generation fuels, and consider potential impacts of new generation biofuel development on future prospects for lignocellulosic biomassto-liquid fuels production. We also briefly explore what are referred to as fourth generation biofuels.
What Is a Sustainable Level of Timber Consumption in the EU: Toward Global and EU Benchmarks for Sustainable Forest Use
Meghan O’Brien and Stefan Bringezu 2017. Sustainability 9, 812 “Renewable energy targets in the European Union (EU) have raised the demand for timber and are expected to increase dependence on imports. However, EU timber consumption levels are already disproportionally high compared to the rest of the world. The question is, how much timber is available for the EU to sustainably harvest and import, in particular considering sustainable forest management practices, a safe operating space for land-system change, and the global distribution of “common good” resources. This article approaches this question…”
Vaclav Smil’s Reality Checks
Meet Vaclav Smil, the man who has quietly shaped how the world thinks about energy
By Paul Voosen, in www.sciencemag.org/news (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Mar 21, 2018.
“Throughout his career, Smil, perhaps the world’s foremost thinker on energy of all kinds, has sought clarity. From his home office near the University of Manitoba (UM) in Winnipeg, Canada, the 74-year-old academic has churned out dozens of books over the past 4 decades. They work through a host of topics, including China’s environmental problems and Japan’s dietary transition from plants to meat. The prose is dry, and they rarely sell more than a few thousand copies. But that has not prevented some of the books—particularly those exploring how societies have transitioned from relying on one source of energy, such as wood, to another, such as coal—from profoundly influencing generations of scientists, policymakers, executives, and philanthropists. One ardent fan, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in Redmond, Washington, claims to have read nearly all of Smil’s work. “I wait for new Smil books,” Gates wrote last December, “the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie.””
Global Energy: The Latest Infatuations
by Vaclav Smil,2011 American Scientist, Volume 99, 212-219.
A reality check, e.g.: “…in order to sequester just a fifth of current CO2 emissions we would have to create an entirely new worldwide absorption-gatheringcompression-transportation-storage industry whose annual throughput would have to be about 70 percent larger than the annual volume now handled by the global crude oil industry whose immense infrastructure of wells, pipelines, compressor stations and storages took generations to build. Technically possible—but not within a timeframe that would prevent CO2 from rising above 450 ppm. And remember not only that this would contain just 20 percent of today’s CO2 emissions but also this crucial difference: The oil industry has invested in its enormous infrastructure in order to make a profit, to sell its product on an energy-hungry market (at around $100 per barrel and 7.2 barrels per tonne that comes to about $700 per tonne) — but (one way or another) the taxpayers of rich countries would have to pay for huge capital costs and significant operating burdens of any massive CCS [carbon capture and sequestration].”
Takeaways from “Energy Myths and Realities: bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate” by Vaclav Smil (or view Another Version, more web readable)
Blog post by Kelsey Breseman in Frankly Speaking, Oct 4, 2016. View also Bill Gates’ take on the book “I recommend this book to everyone who spends time working on energy issues, not to cheer them up but to help them have a stronger framework for evaluating energy promises. Smil is able to prove that even if we do our best and innovation is amazing, real change will still take at least 20 years. To me, the long lead times and uncertainties involved in bringing new sources of energy online underscore the importance of pursuing many different paths.”. View also Vaclav Smil’s description of his book. (The book was published in 2010 by AEI Press, Washington, D.C., 232 pages.)
Are Biofuels an Effective and Viable Energy Strategy for Industrialized Societies? A Reasoned Overview of Potentials and Limits
Tiziano Gomiero. 2015. Sustainability 7; 8491-8521 (Full text available)
“In this paper, I analyze the constraints that limit biomass from becoming an alternative, sustainable and efficient energy source, at least in relation to the current metabolism of developed countries…For our industrial society to rely on “sustainable biofuels” for an important fraction of its energy, most of the agricultural and non-agricultural land would need to be used for crops, and at the same time a radical cut to our pattern of energy consumption would need to be implemented, whilst also achieving a significant population reduction.”
Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future
Catherine Potvin et al, 2016. Sustainable Canada Dialogues (McGill University).
“Commissioned by Natural Resources Canada in Fall 2016Cover, Written by 72 scholars from all 10 provinces, Draws on data, peer-reviewed research and other relevant documents, Offers suggestions on how Canadian governments, companies and citizens can advance decarbonisation in a manner coherent with the Paris Agreement. After reviewing hundreds of articles and reports, and analysing much data, we are convinced more than ever that Canada has an opportunity to drive innovation and deliver benefits now and into the future by tapping our vast renewable energy potential and know-how to make the transition away from fossil-fuel-based energy systems.”
– Likely strongly related: Canada’s Low Carbon Economy Fund
– For one unflattering perspective on this study, view: Decarbonizing Canadian economy by 2050 a foolish academic exercise By Markham Hislop in theamericanenergynews.com/, May 27, 2017.
Forest biomass, carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation
Göran Berndes et al. 2016. From Science to Policy 3. European Forest Institute. “This report provides insights into the current scientific debate on forest biomass, carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation. It draws on the science literature to give a balanced and policy-relevant synthesis, from both an EU and global perspective.”
Canadian Forest Products: Contributing to Climate Change Solutions
Canadian Climate Forum Issue Paper / Fall 2015 “Forests have deep cultural, social and economic significance to Canadians and their importance is growing because the carbon they store mitigates climate change. At the same time they provide a sustainable supply of raw materials for products with lower carbon footprints than their alternatives, thus aiding the transition to a low-carbon economy. Exporting Canadian forest products to countries that do not have extensive forests can help reduce their national greenhouse gas emissions by displacing more energy intensive materials.
Environmental Research Letters 2018: Focus on The Role of Forests and Soils in Meeting Climate Change Mitigation Goals
Two papers in the first issue on this topic are very pertinent to biofuels and GHGs:
—Does replacing coal with wood lower CO2 emissions? Dynamic lifecycle analysis of wood bioenergy
John D Sterman et al. 2018 Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 1 “Bioenergy is booming as nations seek to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union declared biofuels to be carbon-neutral, triggering a surge in wood use. But do biofuels actually reduce emissions?…Assuming biofuels are carbon neutral may worsen irreversible impacts of climate change before benefits accrue. Instead, explicit dynamic models should be used to assess the climate impacts of biofuels.”
—Not carbon neutral: Assessing the net emissions impact of residues burned for bioenergy
Mary S Booth 2018. Environmental Research Letters Volume 13, Number 1. “…for ‘low carbon’ assumptions about residues to be reasonable, two conditions must be met: biomass must genuinely be material left over from some other process; and cumulative net emissions, the additional CO2 emitted by burning biomass compared to its alternative fate, must be low or negligible in a timeframe meaningful for climate mitigation.”
The potential of forest biomass as an energy supply for Canada
David Paré et al. 2011. The forestry Chronicle 87: 71-76. “The main objectives of this paper are to give some figures and perspectives on Canadian forest biomass supply with respect to Canada’s energy demand and to examine the potential of using this feedstock for reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions…The range of estimates listed here indicates that this source of energy is important but that it is still a fraction of our energy demands. The potential of using this biomass to reduce our GHG emissions is strongly dependent, among other factors, on the technological pathways that are used, with direct heat production and combined heat and power (CHP) ranking amongst the best options available. The relative scarcity of the resource behooves us to use it efficiently.”
>Geologic Capture and Sequestration of Carbon
US National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief (2018)
“Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques, which aim to remove and sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere, have been identified as an important part of the possible responses to climate change and have been garnering increased attention.1 The Committee on Developing a Research Agenda for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration was convened to develop a detailed research and development agenda to assess the benefits, risks, and sustainable scale potential for CDR and sequestration approaches, as well as increase their commercial viability. The CDR approaches under consideration by the committee are coastal and land ecosystem management, carbon mineralization (sometimes known as accelerated weathering), bioenergy with carbon capture, direct air capture, and geologic sequestration. To aid the development of the research agenda, each approach is being examined by the committee through a series of information-gathering workshops and webinars for open discussions with relevant communities about the current state of knowledge, along with the research needs for understanding the potential of each approach and for deploying them at large scales.
“Geologic carbon capture and sequestration encompasses approaches for relatively permanent storage of carbon in the Earth’s geologic formations. Carbon dioxide (CO2) that has been captured from flue gas or other waste streams as pressurized fluids can be trapped geologically through thermodynamically favorable reactions between CO2 and silicate rocks to create stable mineral carbonates. This mineralized carbon is stored permanently in silicate-bearing rocks. CO2 can also be captured as dissolved or supercritical CO2 and stored in the subsurface pore space of sedimentary rock, trapped under impermeable layers. The Committee on Developing a Research Agenda for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration convened a webinar on November 15 and a workshop on November 28, 2017, in Palo Alto, California, to discuss carbon mineralization and subsurface storage approaches. Included in these discussions were presentations by speakers on the state of science and deployment, research and monitoring needs, potential risks, and costs of geologic capture and storage. This Proceedings of a Workshop-in Brief summarizes the presentations from both the webinar and workshop.”
Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage Approaches for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief (2018)
US National Academy of Sciences. “Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a technology that integrates biomass conversion to heat,
electricity, or liquid or gas fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (including biochar) (see Figure 1). BECCS could provide a significant portion of the global energy supply if deployed to its theoretical maximum feasible amount. The future role of BECCS is a subject that divides researchers as estimates of potential future biomass supply vary widely (from tens of EJ/yr to several hundred EJ/yr) due to differences in approaches used to consider factors such as population development, consumption patterns (e.g., diet), economic and technological development, climate change, and societal priorities concerning conservation versus production objectives. Nevertheless, many integrated assessment models use large-scale deployment of BECCS in scenarios that limit climate change to below 2°C…”
Direct Air Capture and Mineral Carbonation Approaches for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration
Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief (2018)
Pursuing Clean Growth in Atlantic Canada: Progress, Challenges and Policy Priorities
July 2018 Atlantic Provinces Economic Council View Table 3.3
“Note: Biomass stores CO2 making it carbon neutral even though CO2 is released during combustion.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Nova Scotia Power ”
“Approximately two-thirds of electricity generating capacity in Atlantic Canada was from
non-emitting or renewable energy in 2015, if nuclear power and biomass are included
(Table 3.5). Biomass is considered carbon-neutral because it stores carbon prior to being
burned and comes from sustainable forests products when possible.39 ”
39 reads: “39 Biomass stores CO2 making it carbon neutral even though CO2 is released during combustion”
Europe’s renewable energy directive poised to harm global forests
Searchinger, T.D., Beringer, T., Holtsmark, B. et al. Nat Commun 9, 3741 (2018). “This comment raises concerns regarding the way in which a new European directive, aimed at reaching higher renewable energy targets, treats wood harvested directly for bioenergy use as a carbon-free fuel. The result could consume quantities of wood equal to all Europe’s wood harvests, greatly increase carbon in the air for decades, and set a dangerous global example.”