Forest Bioenergy and Climate Goals

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - 11:30am

Forest Bioenergy and Climate Goals

Forest bioenergy proponents argue that because forests regrow, forest bioenergy is renewable, and carbon neutral. Therefore it is a “Nature Based Solution” for meeting climate goals.

Alternative counterfactuals for different approaches, however, lead to very different conclusions.

This analysis will examine the assumptions behind the premise that bioenergy is “carbon neutral,” and examine the forest carbon cycle under management for bioenergy relative to alternative energy including fossil fuels, and zero carbon renewables such as wind and solar.

The climate implications of zero net carbon, carbon neutrality and sustainable forest management will be discussed.

It will be demonstrated that “Natural Climate Solutions” based upon ecosystem processes have the potential to accumulate more additional carbon out of the atmosphere in the near-term (2030), the mid-term (2050) and the long-term (2100) through continuing  forest growth (Proforestation) than management for bioenergy, afforestation or reforestation.

It will be argued that the actual amount of  carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should be the criterion used to determine whether forest bioenergy helps or hinders efforts to halt the growth in global temperatures, and that forest bioenergy fails this test.

William R. Moomaw - Professor Emeritus, Tufts University

William Moomaw is Professor Emeritus, Tufts University and Distinguished Visiting Scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center. He is a physical chemist who helped develop the first ozone protection legislation while working in the U.S. Senate and has been a lead author of five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports including the 2007 report that shared the Nobel Peace Prize. He has published extensively on technical solutions to reduce climate altering emissions, and is currently working internationally to identify and implement Natural Climate Solutions to accumulate additional atmospheric carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in forests through proforestation management and by protecting and restoring wetlands and soils. In 2019, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his contributions to understanding climate change and its global impacts and mitigation contributions to IPCC.