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Sunday, July 14, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious Day to all ye fellow Planetary Citizens!

There has been a mad scramble for lands for biofuels production in developing countries most recently. Accordingly, biofuels emit less carbon on the atmosphere, thus contributing to ecological balance in the long run.

What the experts from the global S&T community found out, through their latest analytic models, is that indeed biofuels production and usage on massive scales do not at all harm the global environmental community so as to induce global warming. There is validity to the thesis of less carbon emissions coming from the end-product of biofuels production, true.

However, the regions where biofuels are most highly sought for massive production, domestic usage and importations will suffer immeasurably from warming. As the analytic models indicate, the tropics will be affected the most toward a new round of warming.

Needless to say, the new round of warming for any region concerned will redound to more disturbances of a less predictable geo-atmospheric condition. Coming at a time of climate change patterns on the said region, massive biofuels production and usage will immeasurably factor on even more hellish hot days during dry season and super-storms during the wet season.

For the policy makers and development stakeholders in the tropics, better rethink the biofuels option. The discussion on the subject is enclosed below, for your very own added insight.

[Manila, 02 July 2013]

Biofuels Boom Could Accelerate Warming in Tropics

CAIRO] The large-scale conversion of land for biofuel farming could make some tropical regions even warmer, according to a study.

Researchers from the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), assessed the impact on the climate of increased biofuel production by modelling two scenarios: one where trees are chopped down to plant biofuel crops and one where forests are maintained and fertilisers and irrigation are used to intensify the production of biofuel crops.

They found that both scenarios have a negligible impact on global warming. For example, in the first scenario the additional cropland reflects more sunlight, counterbalancing the warming associated with fewer trees and higher greenhouse gas concentrations. Also, in both scenarios, increasing the proportion of biofuels used would reduce warming by using fewer fossil fuel-based energy sources.

But their findings also point to significant regional differences.

Willow Hallgren, a researcher at MIT's Center for Global Change Science, tells SciDev.Net that the real significance of the study is that it reveals that energy policies promoting large-scale biofuel plantations as a way of cutting carbon emissions will exacerbate existing warming trends in the tropics.

Hallgren says that the study differs from others looking at the climate impacts of biofuels because it incorporates "numerous 'real world' determinants of where and how much biofuel crops are grown".

The areas where this regional warming would occur are located in the Amazon basin and in central and western Africa, she says.

"It would be more logical to link the increase in warming to deforestation rather than to [expanded] biofuel production."

Balgis Osman Elasha

The policy in which the biofuel expansion is embedded determines how much the local climate will warm, says Hallgren. "If you protect tropical forests, you greatly lessen this regional warming, which would likely have significant ecological, economic and social impact on people living in those regions," she says.

Hallgren's team is looking more closely into biofuel-related climate change in the tropics, as previous research has found that cutting down tropical forests for agriculture could cause climate change and then reduced agricultural yields.

The authors also found that the Arctic regions may experience an overall cooling due to an increase in reflectivity caused by deforestation.

Balgis Osman Elasha, a climate change expert at the Tunisia-based African Development Bank, says the relationship between global warming and biofuels is unclear.

"Deforestation could happen in any part of the world for different reasons including the need for biomass energy, timber production, land use changes, agricultural expansion, fodder production and so on," says Elasha.

"It would therefore be more logical to link the increase in warming to deforestation rather than to [expanded] biofuel production."

The study was published online in Geophysical Research Letters in April.

Link to abstract in Geophysical Research Letters

1 comment:

Ger said...

A number of things are definitely wrong with this type of research: boundary assumptions. a. Forest is not to be knocked down to put in bio fuels, what is being used are marginal lands.That forestry operations use the excuse to knock down forest, 'to replace with biofuels/ food production' is a lie to get to the wood. b. Biofuels are planted on marginal lands. Producing marginal, but more importantly restoring soil. c. Biofuels, second generation diesel types can be made of everything what grows, also what is left from food production. No worry, any minerals are extracted and returned to the land. d. Climate on earth is divided in a cell system in which interaction between the cells take a couple of years to decades to spread. Why is the northern hemisphere heating up much faster? Because the local heating stays there and the northern hemisphere has released far more GHG than tropical regions. Once differences between the cells are large, a more violent settling between the cells will happen.

It ain't simple.