On the Global Limits of Bioenergy and Land Use for Climate Change Mitigation

Helena Chum, Alexandre Strapasson, Jeremy Woods, Nicole Kalas, Nilay Shah, Frank Rosillo-Calle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus Citations


Across energy, agricultural and forestry landscapes, the production of biomass for energy has emerged as a controversial driver of land-use change. We present a novel, simple methodology, to probe the potential global sustainability limits of bioenergy over time for energy provision and climate change mitigation using a complex-systems approach for assessing land-use dynamics. Primary biomass that could provide between 70 EJ year-1 and 360 EJ year-1, globally, by 2050 was simulated in the context of different land-use futures, food diet patterns and climate change mitigation efforts. Our simulations also show ranges of potential greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture, forestry and other land uses by 2050, including not only above-ground biomass-related emissions, but also from changes in soil carbon, from as high as 24 GtCO2eq year-1 to as low as minus 21 GtCO2eq year-1, which would represent a significant source of negative emissions. Based on the modelling simulations, the discussions offer novel insights about bioenergy as part of a broader integrated system. Whilst there are sustainability limits to the scale of bioenergy provision, they are dynamic over time, being responsive to land management options deployed worldwide.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1721-1735
Number of pages15
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-68503


  • biofuels
  • biomass
  • food security
  • GCLUC model
  • Global Calculator
  • system dynamics


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