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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Conceptual Framework for Estimating Bioenerg-Related Land-Use Change and Its Impacts over Time

  • Author(s): Delucchi, Mark
  • et al.

In this paper I discuss general conceptual issues in the estimation of the impacts of CO2 emissions from soils and biomass, over time, as a result of land-use change (LUC) due to increased demand for energy crops. The effect of LUC on climate depends generally on the magnitude and timing of changes in soil and plant carbon, and in particular on the timing and extent of the reversion of land to original ecosystems at the end of the bioenergy program. Depending on whether one counts the climate impacts of any reversion of land uses, and how one values future climate-change impacts relative to present impacts, one can estimate anywhere from zero to very large climate impacts due to land-use change (LUC). I argue that the best method is to estimate the netpresent-value (NPV) of the impacts of climate change due to LUC. With this approach, one counts the reversion impacts at the end of the program and applies a continuous discounting function to future impacts to express them in present terms. In this case, the impacts of CO2 emissions from the initial LUC then are at least partially offset by the impacts of CO2 sequestration from reversion.

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