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Kyoto Biofuels Flaw Threatens Forests: Scientists - CBC News

Science & Tech  (tags: biofuels, deforestation, greenhouse gas, climate, CO2 emissions, Kyoto protocol )

- 3285 days ago -
A group of climate scientists says the Kyoto Protocol has a critical flaw in the way it calculates carbon emissions from biofuels that could undermine the treaty's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


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Karen S (106)
Thursday October 22, 2009, 3:49 pm
There is an important, but fixable, error in the way that carbon dioxide emissions from biofuels are exempted from carbon caps, says an article by 13 experts in climate change and land use that goes online this week in Science Express.

This exemption is present in the carbon accounting in the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the European Union's cap-and-trade law and the U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act.

The problem, the scientists say, is that tailpipe and smokestack emissions from biofuels are exempt from a country's total carbon emissions, no matter where the biofuels come from. Existing climate laws consider biofuels to be carbon-neutral, regardless of the source.

"The potential of bioenergy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions inherently depends on the source of the biomass and its net land-use effects," the authors write.

Biofuels and fossil fuels emit similar amounts of greenhouse gases when burned, but overall emissions from biofuels may be lower because they come from plants, and plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.

However, if a company clear-cuts a forest and burns the trees, fertilizes the land and grows crops from biofuels there, the net emissions of greenhouse gases would be much higher.

Burning trees releases carbon into the atmosphere, just as burning fossil fuels does, and the nitrous oxide released from chemical fertilizers is also an important greenhouse gas.

The study found that carbon emissions from displacing food crops or pastures to grow biofuels may be twice as great as those from land dedicated to bioenergy production.

"When forests or other plants are harvested for bioenergy, the resulting carbon release must be counted either as land-use emissions or energy emissions," said Jerry Melillo, one of the authors of the study.

"If this is not done, the use of bioenergy will contribute to our greenhouse gas problem rather than help to solve it," said Melillo, a researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

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JennyLynn W (246)
Saturday October 24, 2009, 9:26 pm
I'm with you on the fixable part, Karen! The arguments against taking action because some organizations are corrupt or because some plans and programs are flawed must be addressed but not allowed to collapse the efforts. Let's get this done and done right. It's possible, it's responsible, and it's critical.

Fiona Ogilvie (562)
Saturday October 31, 2009, 9:02 am
What kind of foolishness is this? The forests are mother nature's protection against green houses gasses. Now I have heard every senseless solution to the problem offered. Karen, thank you for this news. It is something I should be aware of -- whether I desire to be or not.
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