Large areas of land in the developing world are being converted to grow crops such as sugar cane and palm oil as part of the global rush to make biofuels which are widely thought to produce less carbon dioxide than conventional transport fuels.
But scientists at the University of Leeds and the World Land Trust have found that up to nine times as much carbon dioxide will be emitted using biofuels compared to conventional petrol and diesel because biofuel crops are typically grown on land which is burnt and reclaimed from tropical forests. The report concludes that protecting and restoring natural forests and grasslands is a much better way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Study co-author Dominick Spracklen of the School of Earth and the Environment at the University of Leeds says: "This study shows that if your primary concern is reducing carbon dioxide emissions, growing biofuels is not the best way to do it.
“In fact it can have a perverse impact elsewhere in the world. The amount of carbon that is released when you clear forests to make way for the biofuel crop is much more than the amount you get back from growing biofuels over a 30-year period.
"You can't convert your car to run on biofuel and keep on driving and think that everything will be OK. You are turning a blind eye to what's happening around the world and that in fact, you could be making things much worse."
The report is co-authored by Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust - a charity that protects and restores threatened habitats around the world – and is published in Science this month.
The study compared the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that would be saved from entering the atmosphere by growing biofuels with the amount saved from slowing deforestation and restoring forests over a 30-year period.
The study also found that converting large areas of land back to forest provides other environmental benefits such as preventing desertification and regional climate regulation. The conversion of large areas of land to make biofuels will place further strains on the environment, the study concluded.
European Union member states have pledged to replace 10% of transport fuel with biofuel from crops by 2020 in an effort to reduce reliance on imported oil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Meeting the EU target would require an area larger than one third of all the agricultural land in Europe to be used for growing biofuel crops.
But Spracklen says that conserving existing forests and savannahs and restoring forests and grasslands is a better way to help save the planet.
He says: "There is a big push in the EU and US to promote biofuels as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. What we do here has an impact on the rest of the world. Although biofuels may look a good idea in places like Europe, they have a perverse effect when you take into the rest of the world."
Guy Dixon | alfa
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences