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New feed sources key to ambitious climate targets

Walsh, Brian J., Rydzak, Felicjan, Palazzo, Amanda, Kraxner, Florian, Herrero, Mario, Schenk, Peer M., Ciais, Philippe, Janssens, Ivan A., Peñuelas, Josep, Niederl-Schmidinger, Anneliese, Obersteiner, Michael
Carbon balance and management 2015 v.10 no.1 pp. 26
bioenergy, carbon, carbon sequestration, carbon sinks, climate, climate change, crops, emissions, feedstocks, food security, forest plantations, livestock feeds, microalgae, models, ocean acidification, pastures, primary energy
Net carbon sinks capable of avoiding dangerous perturbation of the climate system and preventing ocean acidification have been identified, but they are likely to be limited by resource constraints (Nature 463:747–756, 2010). Land scarcity already creates tension between food security and bioenergy production, and this competition is likely to intensify as populations and the effects of climate change expand. Despite research into microalgae as a next-generation energy source, the land-sparing consequences of alternative sources of livestock feed have been overlooked. Here we use the FeliX model to quantify emissions pathways when microalgae is used as a feedstock to free up to 2 billion hectares of land currently used for pasture and feed crops. Forest plantations established on these areas can conceivably meet 50 % of global primary energy demand, resulting in emissions mitigation from the energy and LULUC sectors of up to 544 [Formula: see text] 107 PgC by 2100. Further emissions reductions from carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology can reduce global atmospheric carbon concentrations close to preindustrial levels by the end of the present century. Though previously thought unattainable, carbon sinks and climate change mitigation of this magnitude are well within the bounds of technological feasibility.