In DepthClimate Change

Bioenergy not a climate cure-all, panel warns

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Science  09 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6453, pp. 527-528
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6453.527

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Summary

In the fight against climate change, a hybrid approach called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) has a seductive appeal, because energy is generated even as carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere. But this week, the United Nations's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Geneva, Switzerland, sounded a warning about creating vast bioenergy plantations, which could jeopardize food production, water supplies, and land rights for poor farmers. The IPCC report surveys the interactions of climate, forests, and farmlands. It also examines the feasibility of BECCS, which computer models suggest could remove significant amounts of CO2 if several million square kilometers—an area the size of India—were devoted to energy crops. The new report examines the consequences of deploying BECCS on that vast scale and concludes it could "greatly increase" the demand for agricultural land, possibly compromising food security and taking a toll on biodiversity. And it could worsen water scarcity, especially in drylands, where irrigation of crops might deplete local supplies. Limiting the amount of land converted to bioenergy crops could lessen the unintended damage, but would also reduce any climate benefits.

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