Impacts of Future Bioenergy on Global Land Use Change and the Climate

Bioenergy is expected to play a key role in the global energy mix over the next century. This is due to its potential for providing energy security and the advantages it has as a land-based mitigation strategy.

However, there are large uncertainties with regards to deployment levels of bioenergy and its impact on the land system. Bioenergy deployment could potentially reach around 324 EJ/year by 2100 which could correspond to an increase of up to 550 million ha of cropland used for second generation energy crops, equivalent to 35% of current total cropland. The introduction of another large land use sector could further accelerate deforestation and biodiversity loss, and may in fact increase GHGs. It is therefore important to assess the impacts that large-scale energy crop cultivation could have on global land use change (LUC), the emissions it produces from deforestation and its impact on climate change.

Figure 1 Schematic diagram of biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects of land use change for bioenergy crop plantations and the impacts of these effects on near surface air temperature (TNS).

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i-Tree Community Day

As part of our work exploring the application of the i-Tree natural capital valuation software to the UK and Leeds in particular, we are offering a community awareness/training day for environmental groups in Leeds tomorrow.

Places are limited, so please sign up here if you would like to attend.

Delta Energy and Environment continue to offset their travel

Delta Energy & Environment is a research and consulting company that provides its clients with independent information, analysis, insight and advice into low carbon heat and distributed energy markets.

They have been offsetting their travel with UBoC for a number of years, and calculated that in 2016 they had been responsible for 172 tonnes of unavoidable carbon carbon emissions, which we were pleased to offset on their behalf using certificates for Plan Vivo’s Trees of Hope project in Malawi.Delta

At Delta-ee we produce high quality, client orientated research and consultation on distributed heat and energy, which inevitably involves national and international travel. We always choose the greenest options, but our company still produces some CO2 emissions. So we offset by various means, and this year have again offset all emissions from flights and train journeys with UBoC”. 

Dr Philippa Hardy Research Manager

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‘Seeing the Wood for the Trees’

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published in March 2017. Their report makes for interesting reading:

Forests and woodlands provide many environmental, social and economic benefits to society. In order to continue to provide these benefits the creation of new woodland is essential. Private landowners clearly have the right to decide what they do with their land, however, the Government can provide incentives to landowners to use their land for forestry. We have found that woodland creation is reliant upon a well-functioning grant scheme to incentivise landowners to use their land for forestry.

Continue reading ‘Seeing the Wood for the Trees’

Announcing Terrific Tropical Trees!

UBoC is arranging for at least one Terrific Tropical Tree to be planted in Africa  for every school sending Terrific Scientific data to the University of Leeds.  

Terrific Scientific is BBC Learning’s science project for 2017, and UBoC is delighted to be a partner with LEAF in the Trees experiment, which takes place in May.

There are four Terrific Tropical Tree projects – in Tanzania (sponsored by Samuel Grant Packaging), in Kenya (sponsored by Bettys & Taylors), and in Uganda and Madagascar (both sponsored by private donation via UBoC).

See more here.

Biomass and carbon: a climate disaster?

Recently there have been a few reasonably sensational articles in the news about using biomass for heating and power. These include Most wood energy schemes are a ‘disaster’ for climate change by the BBC, and £450m lost over failed green power programme by the Times. They have both been sparked by a paper published by Chatham House which essentially suggests that the use of biomass as a fuel is not sustainable, because of adverse effects on the climate (‘worse than coal’ apparently) when they are burnt.

Since this report seems to have sparked a wider debate in the media about the relative carbon benefits of biomass fuels, I thought that it might be helpful if I pointed out some of the ways that this is argued, to shed a bit of light on the subject.

First things first: trees absorb carbon as they grow, and typically release it when they die (through decomposition or combustion) though this is not automatically the case, and trees which are harvested for long lived timber products or which are left in low oxygen conditions (such as bogs) may retain carbon for many years. Taken in isolation, burning wood may look like a bad thing as it immediately releases carbon dioxide but this is certainly not the whole story. Continue reading Biomass and carbon: a climate disaster?

Albedo changes in the Amazon due to deforestation

Deforestation rates across the Amazon remain high, despite large reductions since the start of the 21st century. Assessing the climate impact of this is difficult, due to the complex interactions between the atmosphere and the biosphere.

Some of these interactions are clear and well understood, such as deforestation releasing stored carbon and removing a carbon sink. However, others are much more complex; trees emit various atmospheric trace gases and aerosols which react in the atmosphere in a number of ways, forming climate-warming gases, such as O3, and aerosols, which have a cooling effect through interactions with incoming radiation and cloud formation.

Currently, the project is assessing one of the physical impacts of deforestation, namely the change in brightness of the surface. Forests tend to have a darker colour when compared to open land and thus reflect a lower percentage of incoming radiation; we can describe this as a low surface albedo. Therefore, the removal of trees produces a slight cooling effect when examining surface albedo in isolation. Continue reading Albedo changes in the Amazon due to deforestation

Heating with Biomass in the United Kingdom: Lessons from New Zealand

In past centuries, home heating and cooking in the British Isles involved the burning of wood, mainly in open hearths. The Romans developed underfloor heating using hot air (the ‘hypocaust’) but this still relied on wood combustion. The first wood-burning stove was patented in Strasbourg in 1557, but by the industrial revolution urban houses were typically heated with coal. By the mid Twentieth century oil, gas and electricity had become the fuel of choice largely due to the introduction of the Clean Air act, which curtailed the use of household ‘dirty’ coal, but open fires and stoves remained popular where they could be accommodated, especially in rural areas.

In recent years, ‘aspirational lifestyle’ marketing by stove manufacturers (and TV shows like Grand Designs), along with the availability of new biomass-based fuels (pellets and briquettes), have been driving a resurgence – with some even suggesting that because wood is technically a renewable energy source, woodfuel is a clean and green way to heat your home. But is it? And what are the other implications?

Stove from Stovax.com

Continue reading Heating with Biomass in the United Kingdom: Lessons from New Zealand

Want to help us understand the potential for woodlands to reduce flooding?

After the heavy rains and flood damage of last winter, the need to protect communities from flooding has never been more important. Natural Flood Management – using the natural capacity of rivers, wetlands and woodlands to reduce downstream flood risk – has become a buzzword.  But there are still major gaps in our understanding of how the natural world can be harnessed to help reduce flooding.

Wet woodland at Bryngarw Country Park

The University of Leeds, with support from UBoC, is taking a leading role in the effort to better understand the potential of Natural Flood Management. The University hosts water@leeds –  one of the largest interdisciplinary centres for water research in any university in the world – making it the ideal location to lead research efforts.

Three new PhDs  students will start next October to explore the role of different land-management options to reduce flooding.  Continue reading Want to help us understand the potential for woodlands to reduce flooding?

United Bank of Carbon is a not-for-profit collaboration between businesses and environmental scientists, which protects and restores forests and other greenery, through environmentally and socially-responsible partnerships with local communities. We undertake research, support forest and woodland projects in the UK and the tropics that deliver CSR/PR benefits, provide carbon reduction consultancy, and arrange offsetting for unavoidable carbon emissions