Wood preservation (carbon sequestration) or wood burning (fossil-fuel substitution), which is better for mitigating climate change?
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The effective ways of using wood production with a view to mitigating climate change are still disputed. Currently, there are two major opposing conceptions. One proposes to increase the carbon stock in forests, in wood products or in some kind of long-term wood storage, thus giving primacy to carbon sequestration. The other invokes the concept of biomass carbon neutrality to assert that the substitution of wood for fossil fuels avoids carbon emissions.
Aim and method
This paper contributes to this debate by comparing carbon footprints of heat generation when choosing wood or other fuels as alternatives.
On condition that wood can be preserved with sufficient durability to meet the time frame of the necessary transition towards carbon-free energy resources (decadal to centennial time scales), one can demonstrate that the use of fossil fuels, with the exception of coal, is still preferable. The reasons are that the intrinsic carbon emission factor for wood has the highest value among all fuels in common use and that reference to the concept of wood carbon neutrality neglects the possibility of storing carbon positively in wood for a long time.
The conclusion is that to mitigate climate change it is better to store wood than use it as a fuel.
KeywordsCarbon footprints Carbon storage Wood energy Mitigation scenarios Geo-engineering
The author is particularly indebted to Henri Dedieu, Brice de Turckheim, Gilles Tierle and Jean-Luc Peyron whose pertinent advices helped some ideas presented herein to mature and to Stuart D. Stein for his editorial assistance.
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