Land-use transition for bioenergy and climate stabilization: model comparison of drivers, impacts and interactions with other land use based mitigation options


In this article, we evaluate and compare results from three integrated assessment models (GCAM, IMAGE, and ReMIND/MAgPIE) regarding the drivers and impacts of bioenergy production on the global land system. The considered model frameworks employ linked energy, economy, climate and land use modules. By the help of these linkages the direct competition of bioenergy with other energy technology options for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, based on economic costs and GHG emissions from bioenergy production, has been taken into account. Our results indicate that dedicated bioenergy crops and biomass residues form a potentially important and cost-effective input into the energy system. At the same time, however, the results differ strongly in terms of deployment rates, feedstock composition and land-use and greenhouse gas implications. The current paper adds to earlier work by specific looking into model differences with respect to the land-use component that could contribute to the noted differences in results, including land cover allocation, land use constraints, energy crop yields, and non-bioenergy land mitigation options modeled. In scenarios without climate change mitigation, bioenergy cropland represents 10–18 % of total cropland by 2100 across the different models, and boosts cropland expansion at the expense of carbon richer ecosystems. Therefore, associated emissions from land-use change and agricultural intensification as a result of bio-energy use range from 14 and 113 Gt CO2-eq cumulatively through 2100. Under climate policy, bioenergy cropland increases to 24–36 % of total cropland by 2100.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Azar C, Lindgren K, Obersteiner M, Riahi K, van Vuuren D, den Elzen K, Möllersten K, Larson E (2010) The feasibility of low concentration targets and the role of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Clim Change 100:195–202

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Beringer T, Lucht W, Schaphoff S (2011) Bioenergy production potential of global biomass plantations under environmental and agricultural constraints. Gcb Bioenergy 3:299–312

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bondeau A, Smith PC, Zaehle S, Schaphoff S, Lucht W, Cramer W, Gerten D, Lotze-Campen H, Müller C, Reichstein M et al (2007) Modelling the role of agriculture for the 20th century global terrestrial carbon balance. Glob Chang Biol 13:679–706

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bouwman AF, Kram T, Klein Goldewijk K (eds.) (2006) Integrated Modelling of Global Environmental Change: An Overview of IMAGE 2.4. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP), Bilthoven

  5. Chum H et al. (2011) in IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (eds Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y & Seyboth K) 209–332 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011)

  6. Creutzig F, Popp A, Plevin R, Luderer G, Minx J, Edenhofer O (2012) Reconciling top-down and bottom-up modelling on future bioenergy deployment. Nat Clim Chang 2:320–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Clarke L et al. (2007) Scenarios of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Atmospheric Concentrations. Sub-report 2.1 A of Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.1 by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. Department of Energy, Office of Biological & Environmental Research, Washington, D.C., USA

  8. Ercoli L, Mariotti M, Masoni A, Bonari E (1999) Effect of irrigation and nitrogen fertilization on biomass yield and efficiency of energy use in crop production of Miscanthus. Field Crop Res 63:3–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Fischer G, Prieler S, van Velthuizen H (2005) Biomass potentials of miscanthus, willow and poplar: results and policy implications for Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia. Biomass Bioenergy 28:119–132

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hong C, Fang J, Jin A, Cai J, Guo H, Ren J, Shao Q, Zheng B (2011) Comparative growth, biomass production and fuel properties among different perennial plants, bamboo and miscanthus. Bot Rev 77:197–207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Klein D, Luderer G, Kreigler E, Strefler J, Bauer N, Popp A, Dietrich JP, Humpenöder F, Lotze-Campen H, Edenhofer O (2013) The value of bioenergy in long-term low- stabilization scenarios: an assessment with ReMIND-MAgPIE. Clim Chang. This volume

  12. Kriegler E, Weyant J, Blanford G, Krey V, Clarke L, Edmonds J, Fawcett A, Luderer G, Riahi K, Richels R, Rose S, Tavoni M, van Vuuren D (2013) The role of technology for achieving climate policy objectives: overview of EMF27 study on technology and climate policy strategies. Clim Chang. This issue

  13. Kyle P G et al. (2011) GCAM 3.0 Agriculture and Land Use: Data Sources and Methods. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. PNNL-21025.

  14. Leimbach M, Bauer N, Baumstark L, Edenhofer O (2010) Mitigation costs in a globalized world: climate policy analysis with ReMIND-R. Environ Model Assess 15:155–173

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Lewandowski I, Clifton-Brown JC, Scurlock JMO, Huisman W (2000) Miscanthus: European experience with a novel energy crop. Biomass Bioenergy 19:209–227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Lotze-Campen H, Müller C, Bondeau A, Rost S, Popp A, Lucht W (2008) Global food demand, productivity growth, and the scarcity of land and water resources: a spatially explicit mathematical programming approach. Agric Econ 39:325–338

    Google Scholar 

  17. Metz B, Davidson OR, Bosch PR, Dave R, Meyer LA (eds) (2007) Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press

  18. Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE, eds. (2007) Climate Change 2007: Impacts Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press

  19. Popp A, Dietrich JP, Lotze-Campen H, Klein D, Bauer N, Krause M, Beringer T, Gerten D, Edenhofer O (2011a) The economic potential of bioenergy for climate change mitigation with special attention given to implications for the land system. Environ Res Lett 6:034017

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Popp A, Lotze-Campen H, Leimbach M, Knopf B, Beringer T, Bauer N, Bodirsky B (2011b) On sustainability of bio-energy production: integrating co-emissions from agricultural intensification. Biomass Bioenergy 35:4770–4780

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Popp A, Krause M, Dietrich JP, Lotze-Campen H, Leimbach M, Beringer T, Bauer N (2012) Additional CO2 emissions from land use change — Forest conservation as a precondition for sustainable production of second generation bioenergy. Ecol Econ 74:64–70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Popp A, Lotze-Campen H, Bodirsky B (2010) Food consumption, diet shifts and associated non-CO2 greenhouse gases from agricultural production. Glob Environ Chang 20:451–462

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Ramankutty N, Evan AT, Monfreda C, and Foley JA (2008) Farming the planet: 1. Geographic distribution of global agricultural lands in the year 2000. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 22

  24. Rose SK, Ahammad H, Eickhout B, Fisher B, Kurosawa A, Rao S, Riahi K, van Vuuren DP (2012) Land-based mitigation in climate stabilization. Energy Econ 34:365–380

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Rose S, Kriegler E, Bibas R, Calvin K, Popp A, van Vuuren D, Weyant J (2013) Bioenergy in energy transformation and climate management. Clim Chang. This issue

  26. Searchinger T, Heimlich R, Houghton RA, Dong F, Elobeid A, Fabiosa J, Tokgoz S, Hayes D, Yu T-H (2008) Use of U.S. Croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change. Science 319:1238–1240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. van Vuuren DP, van Vliet J, Stehfest E (2009) Future bioenergy potential under various natural constraints. Energy Policy 37:4220–4230

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Wise M, Calvin K, Thomson A, Clarke L, Bond-Lamberty B, Sands R, Smith SJ, Janetos A, Edmonds J (2009) Implications of limiting CO2 concentrations for land use and energy. Science 324:1183–1186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Wise M and Calvin K (2011) GCAM 3.0 Agriculture and Land Use: Technical Description of Modeling Approach. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. PNNL-20971. Available at

Download references


The research described in this paper received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Program FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement n° 282846 (LIMITS). Katherine Calvin, Marshall Wise, and Page Kyle were supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Integrated Assessment Research Program.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexander Popp.

Additional information

This article is part of the Special Issue on “The EMF27 Study on Global Technology and Climate Policy Strategies” edited by John Weyant, Elmar Kriegler, Geoffrey Blanford, Volker Krey, Jae Edmonds, Keywan Riahi, Richard Richels, and Massimo Tavoni.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


(DOCX 5090 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Popp, A., Rose, S.K., Calvin, K. et al. Land-use transition for bioenergy and climate stabilization: model comparison of drivers, impacts and interactions with other land use based mitigation options. Climatic Change 123, 495–509 (2014).

Download citation


  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Bioenergy Production
  • Bioenergy Crop
  • Integrate Assessment Model
  • Mitigation Scenario