Cleaner energy, warmer climate?
MIT researchers explore the possible consequences of expanding biofuels.
The growing global demand for energy, combined with a need to reduce emissions and lessen the effects of climate change, has increased focus on cleaner energy sources. But what unintended consequences could these cleaner sources have on the changing climate?
Researchers at MIT now have some answers to that question, using biofuels as a test case. Their study, recently released in Geophysical Research Letters, found that land-use changes caused by a major ramp-up in biofuel crops — enough to meet about 10 percent of the world’s energy needs — could make some regions even warmer.
“Because all actions have consequences, it’s important to consider that even well-intentioned actions can have unintended negative consequences,” says Willow Hallgren, the lead author of the study and a research associate at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. “It’s easy to look at a new, cleaner energy source, see how it will directly improve the climate, and stop there without ever considering all the ramifications. But when attempting to mitigate climate change, there’s more to consider than simply substituting out fossil fuels for a cleaner source of energy.”
Hallgren and her colleagues explored some of those consequences in considering two scenarios: one where more forests are cleared to grow biofuel crops, and one where forests are maintained and cropland productivity is intensified through the use of fertilizers and irrigation.
Source: MIT News