Global assessment suggests need for more nuanced, local-specific climate and forest policies in developing nations
The harvesting of wood to meet the heating and cooking demands for billions of people worldwide has less of an impact on global forest loss and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than previously believed, according to a new Yale-led study.
Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers, including Prof. Robert Bailis of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), concludes that only about 27 to 34 percent of wood fuel harvested worldwide would be considered "unsustainable." According to the assessment, "sustainability" is based on whether or not annual harvesting exceeds incremental re-growth.
The other authors are Rudi Drigo, an independent forestry specialist with international experience; and Adrian Ghilardi and Omar Masera of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
According to the authors, the findings point to the need for more nuanced, local-specific policies that address forest loss, climate change, and public health. They also suggest that existing carbon offset methodologies used to reduce carbon emissions likely overstate the CO2 emission reductions that can be achieved through the promotion of more efficient cookstove technologies.
The study identifies a set of "hotspots" where the majority of wood extraction exceeds sustainable yields. These hotspot regions -- located mainly in South Asia and East Africa -- support about 275 million people who are reliant on wood fuel.
However, in other regions, the authors say, much of the wood used for this traditional heating and cooking is actually the byproduct of deforestation driven by other factors, such as demand for agricultural land, which would have occurred anyway.
"If forests and woodlands would have been cut down anyway, then the projects designed to reduce wood fuel demand are not actually going to reduce deforestation," said Bailis, an associate professor at F&ES and lead author of the study. "Sure, you're reducing wood use, but the underlying pressures driving deforestation are still out there."
The results stand in contrast to a long-held assumption that the harvesting of wood fuels -- which accounts for more than half of the wood harvested worldwide -- is a major driver of deforestation and climate change.
Using a model originally developed by Drigo and Masera, and already applied in more than 20 countries, the researchers produce a spatially explicit snapshot of wood fuel supply and demand in 90 countries across the world's tropical regions, where burning wood is a critical source of energy for cooking and heating.
"One of the problems with traditional bio-energy is that the situation is very locally specific, so you can't come up with a general response for all places," said Masera. "One of the real strengths of this paper is that it demonstrates a methodology that allows you to identify priority regions for intervention"
In addition to the global analysis, the researchers are using the same model to evaluate the sustainability of wood fuel resources in three case studies: Honduras, Kenya, and the Indian state of Karnataka.
"Even within a given country the situation varies a great deal," said Drigo. "Some areas are over-exploited while others are under-exploited or totally untouched. A better understanding of the relationship between supply and demand requires this type of spatial approach to clarify what the impacts of different policies will be."
Emissions from wood fuels account for about 1.9 to 2.3 percent of global emissions, the study says. The deployment of 100 million improved cookstoves could reduce this by 11 to 17 percent, said Bailis, who also studies the factors that influence the adoption of cleaner cookstoves in developing nations.
These reductions would be worth more than $1 billion per year in avoided greenhouse gas emissions if black carbon were integrated into carbon markets, he said.
"We need to be able to understand where these different components of non-renewability are coming from in order to get a better sense of the positive impacts of putting stoves into peoples' homes or promoting transitions to cooking with gas or electricity," he said.
The research was funded by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an initiative supported by the UN Foundation.
Kevin Dennehy | EurekAlert!
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève
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...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction