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04:03 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Bioenergy: how much can we expect for 2050?

Estimates of global primary bioenergy potentials in the literature span almost three orders of magnitude. We narrow that range by discussing biophysical constraints on bioenergy potentials resulting from plant growth (NPP) and its current human use. In the last 30 years, terrestrial NPP was almost constant near 54 PgC yr−1, despite massive efforts to increase yields in agriculture and forestry. The global human appropriation of terrestrial plant production has doubled in the last century. We estimate the maximum physical potential of the world's total land area outside croplands, infrastructure, wilderness and denser forests to deliver bioenergy at approximately 190 EJ yr−1. These pasture lands, sparser woodlands, savannas and tundras are already used heavily for grazing and store abundant carbon; they would have to be entirely converted to bioenergy and intensive forage production to provide that amount of energy. Such a high level of bioenergy supply would roughly double the global human biomass harvest, with far-reaching effects on biodiversity, ecosystems and food supply. Identifying sustainable levels of bioenergy and finding ways to integrate bioenergy with food supply and ecological conservation goals remains a huge and pressing scientific challenge.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:56 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Connecting plug-in vehicles with green electricity through consumer demand

The environmental benefits of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) increase if the vehicles are powered by electricity from 'green' sources such as solar, wind or small-scale hydroelectricity. Here, we explore the potential to build a market that pairs consumer purchases of PEVs with purchases of green electricity. We implement a web-based survey with three US samples defined by vehicle purchases: conventional new vehicle buyers (n = 1064), hybrid vehicle buyers (n = 364) and PEV buyers (n = 74). Respondents state their interest in a PEV as their next vehicle, in purchasing green electricity in one of three ways, i.e., monthly subscription, two-year lease or solar panel purchase, and in combining the two products. Although we find that a link between PEVs and green electricity is not presently strong in the consciousness of most consumers, the combination is attractive to some consumers when presented. Across all three respondent segments, pairing a PEV with a green electricity program increased interest in PEVs—with a 23% demand increase among buyers of conventional vehicles. Overall, about one-third of respondents presently value the combination of a PEV with green electricity; the proportion is much higher among previous HEV and PEV buyers. Respondents' reported motives for interest in both products and their combination include financial savings (particularly among conventional buyers), concerns about air pollution and the environment, and interest in new technology (particularly among PEV buyers). The results provide guidance regarding policy and marketing strategies to advance PEVs and green electricity demand.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:55 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Impact of cutting meat intake on hidden greenhouse gas emissions in an import-reliant city

Greenhouse gas emissions embodied in trade is a growing concern for the international community. Multiple studies have highlighted drawbacks in the territorial and production-based accounting of greenhouse gas emissions because it neglects emissions from the consumption of goods in trade. This creates weak carbon leakage and complicates international agreements on emissions regulations. Therefore, we estimated consumption-based emissions using input-output analysis and life cycle assessment to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions hidden in meat and dairy products in Hong Kong, a city predominately reliant on imports. We found that emissions solely from meat and dairy consumption were higher than the city's total greenhouse gas emissions using conventional production-based calculation. This implies that government reports underestimate more than half of the emissions, as 62% of emissions are embodied in international trade. The discrepancy emphasizes the need of transitioning climate targets and policy to consumption-based accounting. Furthermore, we have shown that dietary change from a meat-heavy diet to a diet in accordance with governmental nutrition guidelines could achieve a 67% reduction in livestock-related emissions, allowing Hong Kong to achieve the Paris Agreement targets for 2030. Consequently, we concluded that consumption-based accounting for greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to target the areas where emissions reduction is realistically achievable, especially for import-reliant cities like Hong Kong.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:21 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

REDD+ readiness: early insights on monitoring, reporting and verification systems of project developers

A functional measuring, monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system is essential to assess the additionality and impact on forest carbon in REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) projects. This study assesses the MRV capacity and readiness of project developers at 20 REDD+ projects in Brazil, Peru, Cameroon, Tanzania, Indonesia and Vietnam, using a questionnaire survey and field visits. Nineteen performance criteria with 76 indicators were formulated in three categories, and capacity was measured with respect to each category. Of the 20 projects, 11 were found to have very high or high overall MRV capacity and readiness. At the regional level, capacity and readiness tended to be highest in the projects in Brazil and Peru and somewhat lower in Cameroon, Tanzania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Although the MRV capacities of half the projects are high, there are capacity deficiencies in other projects that are a source of concern. These are not only due to limitations in technical expertise, but can also be attributed to the slowness of international REDD+ policy formulation and the unclear path of development of the forest carbon market. Based on the study results, priorities for MRV development and increased investment in readiness are proposed.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
05:27 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

A comparative analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of wheat and beef in the United States

The US food system utilizes large quantities of liquid fuels, electricity, and chemicals yielding significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are not considered in current retail prices, especially when the contribution of biogenic emissions is considered. However, because GHG emissions might be assigned a price in prospective climate policy frameworks, it would be useful to know the extent to which those policies would increase the incremental production costs to food within the US food system. This analysis uses lifecycle assessment (LCA) to (1) estimate the magnitude of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions from typical US food production practices, using wheat and beef as examples, and (2) quantify the cost of those emissions in the context of a GHG-pricing regime over a range of policy constructs. Wheat and beef were chosen as benchmark staples to provide a representative range of less intensive and more intensive agricultural goods, respectively. Results suggest that 1.1 ± 0.13 and 31 ± 8.1 kg of lifecycle CO2e emissions are embedded in 1 kg of wheat and beef production, respectively. Consequently, the cost of lifecycle CO2e emissions for wheat (i.e. cultivation, processing, transportation, storage, and end-use preparation) over an emissions price range of 10 and 85 per tonne CO2e is estimated to be between 0.01 and 0.09 per kg of wheat, respectively, which would increase total wheat production costs by approximately 0.3–2% per kg. By comparison, the estimated lifecycle CO2e price of beef over the same range of CO2e prices is between 0.31 and 2.60 per kg of beef, representing a total production cost increase of approximately 5–40% per kg based on average 2010 food prices. This range indicates that the incremental cost to total US food production might be anywhere between 0.63–5.4 Billion per year for grain and 3.70 and 32 Billion per year for beef based on CO2e emissions assuming that total production volumes stay the same.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:24 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Strategic incentives for climate geoengineering coalitions to exclude broad participation

Solar geoengineering is the deliberate reduction in the absorption of incoming solar radiation by the Earth's climate system with the aim of reducing impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Climate model simulations project a diversity of regional outcomes that vary with the amount of solar geoengineering deployed. It is unlikely that a single small actor could implement and sustain global-scale geoengineering that harms much of the world without intervention from harmed world powers. However, a sufficiently powerful international coalition might be able to deploy solar geoengineering. Here, we show that regional differences in climate outcomes create strategic incentives to form coalitions that are as small as possible, while still powerful enough to deploy solar geoengineering. The characteristics of coalitions to geoengineer climate are modeled using a 'global thermostat setting game' based on climate model results. Coalition members have incentives to exclude non-members that would prevent implementation of solar geoengineering at a level that is optimal for the existing coalition. These incentives differ markedly from those that dominate international politics of greenhouse-gas emissions reduction, where the central challenge is to compel free riders to participate.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:21 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

Potential increasing dominance of heterotrophy in the global ocean

Autotrophy is largely resource-limited in the modern ocean. Paleo evidence indicates this was not necessarily the case in warmer climates, and modern observations as well as standard metabolic theory suggest continued ocean warming could shift global ecology towards heterotrophy, thereby reducing autotrophic nutrient limitation. Such a shift would entail strong nutrient recycling in the upper ocean and high rates of net primary production (NPP), yet low carbon export to the deep ocean and sediments. We demonstrate transition towards such a state in the early 22nd century as a response to business-as-usual representative concentration pathway forcing (RCP8.5) in an intermediate complexity Earth system model in three configurations; with and without an explicit calcifier phytoplankton class and calcite ballast model. In all models nutrient regeneration in the near-surface becomes an increasingly important driver of primary production. The near-linear relationship between changes in NPP and global sea surface temperature (SST) found over the 21st century becomes exponential above a 2–4 global mean SST change. This transition to a more heterotrophic ocean agrees roughly with metabolic theory.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:28 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2012

Attribution of atmospheric CO2 and temperature increases to regions: importance of preindustrial land use change

The historical contribution of each country to today's observed atmospheric CO2 excess and higher temperatures has become a basis for discussions around burden-sharing of greenhouse gas reduction commitments in political negotiations. However, the accounting methods have considered greenhouse gas emissions only during the industrial era, neglecting the fact that land use changes (LUC) have caused emissions long before the Industrial Revolution. Here, we hypothesize that considering preindustrial LUC affects the attribution because the geographic pattern of preindustrial LUC emissions differs significantly from that of industrial-era emissions and because preindustrial emissions have legacy effects on today's atmospheric CO2 concentrations and temperatures. We test this hypothesis by estimating CO2 and temperature increases based on carbon cycle simulations of the last millennium. We find that accounting for preindustrial LUC emissions results in a shift of attribution of global temperature increase from the industrialized countries to less industrialized countries, in particular South Asia and China, by up to 2–3%, a level that may be relevant for political discussions. While further studies are needed to span the range of plausible quantifications, our study demonstrates the importance of including preindustrial emissions for the most scientifically defensible attribution.
  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:26 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Farm-scale costs and returns for second generation bioenergy cropping systems in the US Corn Belt

While grain crops are meeting much of the initial need for biofuels in the US, cellulosic or second generation (2G) materials are mandated to provide a growing portion of biofuel feedstocks. We sought to inform development of a 2G crop portfolio by assessing the profitability of novel cropping systems that potentially mitigate the negative effects of grain-based biofuel crops on food supply and environmental quality. We analyzed farm-gate costs and returns of five systems from an ongoing experiment in central Iowa, USA. The continuous corn cropping system was most profitable under current market conditions, followed by a corn–soybean rotation that incorporated triticale as a 2G cover crop every third year, and a corn–switchgrass system. A novel triticale–hybrid aspen intercropping system had the highest yields over the long term, but could only surpass the profitability of the continuous corn system when biomass prices exceeded foreseeable market values. A triticale/sorghum double cropping system was deemed unviable. We perceive three ways 2G crops could become more cost competitive with grain crops: by (1) boosting yields through substantially greater investment in research and development, (2) increasing demand through substantially greater and sustained investment in new markets, and (3) developing new schemes to compensate farmers for environmental benefits associated with 2G crops.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:15 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Cost-effectiveness of reducing emissions from tropical deforestation, 2016–2050

Reducing tropical deforestation is potentially a large-scale and low-cost strategy for mitigating climate change. Yet previous efforts to project the cost-effectiveness of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future deforestation across the tropics were hampered by crude available data on historical forest loss. Here we use recently available satellite-based maps of annual forest loss between 2001–2012, along with information on topography, accessibility, protected status, potential agricultural revenue, and an observed inverted-U-shaped relationship between forest cover loss and forest cover, to project tropical deforestation from 2016–2050 under alternative policy scenarios and to construct new marginal abatement cost curves for reducing emissions from tropical deforestation. We project that without new forest conservation policies 289 million hectares of tropical forest will be cleared from 2016–2050, releasing 169 GtCO2. A carbon price of US20/tCO2 (50/tCO2) across tropical countries would avoid 41 GtCO2 (77 GtCO2) from 2016–2050. By comparison, we estimate that Brazil's restrictive policies in the Amazon between 2004–2012 successfully decoupled potential agricultural revenue from deforestation and reduced deforestation by 47% below what would have otherwise occurred, preventing the emission of 5.2 GtCO2. All tropical countries enacting restrictive anti-deforestation policies as effective as those in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004–2012 would avoid 58 GtCO2 from 2016–2050.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:52 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Biomass burning, land-cover change, and the hydrological cycle in Northern sub-Saharan Africa

The Northern Sub-Saharan African (NSSA) region, which accounts for 20%–25% of the global carbon emissions from biomass burning, also suffers from frequent drought episodes and other disruptions to the hydrological cycle whose adverse societal impacts have been widely reported during the last several decades. This paper presents a conceptual framework of the NSSA regional climate system components that may be linked to biomass burning, as well as detailed analyses of a variety of satellite data for 2001–2014 in conjunction with relevant model-assimilated variables. Satellite fire detections in NSSA show that the vast majority (>75%) occurs in the savanna and woody savanna land-cover types. Starting in the 2006–2007 burning season through the end of the analyzed data in 2014, peak burning activity showed a net decrease of 2–7%/yr in different parts of NSSA, especially in the savanna regions. However, fire distribution shows appreciable coincidence with land-cover change. Although there is variable mutual exchange of different land cover types, during 2003–2013, cropland increased at an estimated rate of 0.28%/yr of the total NSSA land area, with most of it (0.18%/yr) coming from savanna. During the last decade, conversion to croplands increased in some areas classified as forests and wetlands, posing a threat to these vital and vulnerable ecosystems. Seasonal peak burning is anti-correlated with annual water-cycle indicators such as precipitation, soil moisture, vegetation greenness, and evapotranspiration, except in humid West Africa (5°–10° latitude), where this anti-correlation occurs exclusively in the dry season and burning virtually stops when monthly mean precipitation reaches 4 mm d−1. These results provide observational evidence of changes in land-cover and hydrological variables that are consistent with feedbacks from biomass burning in NSSA, and encourage more synergistic modeling and observational studies that can elaborate this feedback mechanism.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:50 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Health and climate benefits of offshore wind facilities in the Mid-Atlantic United States

Electricity from fossil fuels contributes substantially to both climate change and the health burden of air pollution. Renewable energy sources are capable of displacing electricity from fossil fuels, but the quantity of health and climate benefits depend on site-specific attributes that are not often included in quantitative models. Here, we link an electrical grid simulation model to an air pollution health impact assessment model and US regulatory estimates of the impacts of carbon to estimate the health and climate benefits of offshore wind facilities of different sizes in two different locations. We find that offshore wind in the Mid-Atlantic is capable of producing health and climate benefits of between 54 and 120 per MWh of generation, with the largest simulated facility (3000 MW off the coast of New Jersey) producing approximately 690 million in benefits in 2017. The variability in benefits per unit generation is a function of differences in locations (Maryland versus New Jersey), simulated years (2012 versus 2017), and facility generation capacity, given complexities of the electrical grid and differences in which power plants are offset. This work demonstrates health and climate benefits of offshore wind, provides further evidence of the utility of geographically-refined modeling frameworks, and yields quantitative insights that would allow for inclusion of both climate and public health in benefits assessments of renewable energy.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
05:12 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Climate change mitigation policies and poverty in developing countries

Mitigation of the potential impacts of climate change is one of the leading policy concerns of the 21st century. However, there continues to be heated debate about the nature, the content and, most importantly, the impact of the policy actions needed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. One contributing factor is the lack of systematic evidence on the impact of mitigation policy on the welfare of the poor in developing countries. In this letter we consider two alternative policy scenarios, one in which only the Annex I countries take action, and the second in which the first policy is accompanied by a forest carbon sequestration policy in the non-Annex regions. Using an economic climate policy analysis framework, we assess the poverty impacts of the above policy scenarios on seven socio-economic groups in 14 developing countries. We find that the Annex-I-only policy is poverty friendly, since it enhances the competitiveness of non-Annex countries—particularly in agricultural production. However, once forest carbon sequestration incentives in the non-Annex regions are added to the policy package, the overall effect is to raise poverty in the majority of our sample countries. The reason for this outcome is that the dominant impacts of this policy are to raise returns to land, reduce agricultural output and raise food prices. Since poor households rely primarily on their own labor for income, and generally own little land, and since they also spend a large share of their income on food, they are generally hurt on both the earning and the spending fronts. This result is troubling, since forest carbon sequestration—particularly through avoided deforestation—is a promising, low cost option for climate change mitigation.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:08 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

The FAOSTAT database of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, including crop and livestock production, forestry and associated land use changes, are responsible for a significant fraction of anthropogenic emissions, up to 30% according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet while emissions from fossil fuels are updated yearly and by multiple sources—including national-level statistics from the International Energy Agency (IEA)—no comparable efforts for reporting global statistics for agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) emissions exist: the latest complete assessment was the 2007 IPCC report, based on 2005 emission data. This gap is critical for several reasons. First, potentially large climate funding could be linked in coming decades to more precise estimates of emissions and mitigation potentials. For many developing countries, and especially the least developed ones, this requires improved assessments of AFOLU emissions. Second, growth in global emissions from fossil fuels has outpaced that from AFOLU during every decade of the period 1961–2010, so the relative contribution of the latter to total climate forcing has diminished over time, with a need for regular updates. We present results from a new GHG database developed at FAO, providing a complete and coherent time series of emission statistics over a reference period 1961–2010, at country level, based on FAOSTAT activity data and IPCC Tier 1 methodology. We discuss results at global and regional level, focusing on trends in the agriculture sector and net deforestation. Our results complement those available from the IPCC, extending trend analysis to a longer historical period and, critically, beyond 2005 to more recent years. In particular, from 2000 to 2010, we find that agricultural emissions increased by 1.1% annually, reaching 4.6 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 2010 (up to 5.4–5.8 Gt CO2 yr−1 with emissions from biomass burning and organic soils included). Over the same decade 2000–2010, the ratio of agriculture to fossil fuel emissions has decreased, from 17.2% to 13.7%, and the decrease is even greater for the ratio of net deforestation to fossil fuel emissions: from 19.1% to 10.1%. In fact, in the year 2000, emissions from agriculture have been consistently larger—about 1.2 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 2010—than those from net deforestation.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:15 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Quantifying the total cost of infrastructure to enable environmentally preferable decisions: the case of urban roadway design

Efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of transportation infrastructure have generally overlooked many of the efficiencies that can be obtained by considering the relevant engineering and economic aspects as a system. Here, we present a framework for quantifying the burdens of ground transportation in urban settings that incorporates travel time, vehicle fuel and pavement maintenance costs. A Pareto set of bi-directional lane configurations for two-lane roadways yields non-dominated combinations of lane width, bicycle lanes and curb parking. Probabilistic analysis and microsimulation both show dramatic mobility reductions on road segments of insufficient width for heavy vehicles to pass bicycles without encroaching on oncoming traffic. This delay is positively correlated with uphill grades and increasing traffic volumes and inversely proportional to total pavement width. The response is nonlinear with grade and yields mixed uphill/downhill optimal lane configurations. Increasing bicycle mode share is negatively correlated with total costs and emissions for lane configurations allowing motor vehicles to safely pass bicycles, while the opposite is true for configurations that fail to facilitate passing. Spatial impacts on mobility also dictate that curb parking exhibits significant spatial opportunity costs related to the total cost Pareto curve. The proposed framework provides a means to evaluate relatively inexpensive lane reconfiguration options in response to changing modal share and priorities. These results provide quantitative evidence that efforts to reallocate limited pavement space to bicycles, like those being adopted in several US cities, could appreciably reduce costs for all users.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:01 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Regional carbon fluxes from land use and land cover change in Asia, 1980–2009

We present a synthesis of the land-atmosphere carbon flux from land use and land cover change (LULCC) in Asia using multiple data sources and paying particular attention to deforestation and forest regrowth fluxes. The data sources are quasi-independent and include the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization-Forest Resource Assessment (FAO-FRA 2015; country-level inventory estimates), the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGARv4.3), the 'Houghton' bookkeeping model that incorporates FAO-FRA data, an ensemble of 8 state-of-the-art Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVM), and 2 recently published independent studies using primarily remote sensing techniques. The estimates are aggregated spatially to Southeast, East, and South Asia and temporally for three decades, 1980–1989, 1990–1999 and 2000–2009. Since 1980, net carbon emissions from LULCC in Asia were responsible for 20%–40% of global LULCC emissions, with emissions from Southeast Asia alone accounting for 15%–25% of global LULCC emissions during the same period. In the 2000s and for all Asia, three estimates (FAO-FRA, DGVM, Houghton) were in agreement of a net source of carbon to the atmosphere, with mean estimates ranging between 0.24 to 0.41 Pg C yr−1, whereas EDGARv4.3 suggested a net carbon sink of −0.17 Pg C yr−1. Three of 4 estimates suggest that LULCC carbon emissions declined by at least 34% in the preceding decade (1990–2000). Spread in the estimates is due to the inclusion of different flux components and their treatments, showing the importance to include emissions from carbon rich peatlands and land management, such as shifting cultivation and wood harvesting, which appear to be consistently underreported.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:32 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Phenological mismatch in coastal western Alaska may increase summer season greenhouse gas uptake

High latitude ecosystems are prone to phenological mismatches due to climate change- driven advances in the growing season and changing arrival times of migratory herbivores. These changes have the potential to alter biogeochemical cycling and contribute to feedbacks on climate change by altering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) through large regions of the Arctic. Yet the effects of phenological mismatches on gas fluxes are currently unexplored. We used a three-year field experiment that altered the start of the growing season and timing of grazing to investigate how phenological mismatch affects GHG exchange. We found early grazing increased mean GHG emission to the atmosphere despite lower CH4 emissions due to grazing-induced changes in vegetation structure that increased uptake of CO2. In contrast, late grazing reduced GHG emissions because greater plant productivity led to an increase in CO2 uptake that overcame the increase in CH4 emission. Timing of grazing was an important control on both CO2 and CH4 emissions, and net GHG exchange was the result of opposing fluxes of CO2 and CH4. N2O played a negligible role in GHG flux. Advancing the growing season had a smaller effect on GHG emissions than changes to timing of grazing in this study. Our results suggest that a phenological mismatch that delays timing of grazing relative to the growing season, a change which is already developing along in western coastal Alaska, will reduce GHG emissions to the atmosphere through increased CO2 uptake despite greater CH4 emissions.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:03 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use associated with production of individual self-selected US diets

Human food systems are a key contributor to climate change and other environmental concerns. While the environmental impacts of diets have been evaluated at the aggregate level, few studies, and none for the US, have focused on individual self-selected diets. Such work is essential for estimating a distribution of impacts, which, in turn, is key to recommending policies for driving consumer demand towards lower environmental impacts. To estimate the impact of US dietary choices on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and energy demand, we built a food impacts database from an exhaustive review of food life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and linked it to over 6000 as-consumed foods and dishes from 1 day dietary recall data on adults (N = 16 800) in the nationally representative 2005–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Food production impacts of US self-selected diets averaged 4.7 kg CO2 eq. person−1 day−1 (95% CI: 4.6–4.8) and 25.2 MJ non-renewable energy demand person−1 day−1 (95% CI: 24.6–25.8). As has been observed previously, meats and dairy contribute the most to GHGE and energy demand of US diets; however, beverages also emerge in this study as a notable contributor. Although linking impacts to diets required the use of many substitutions for foods with no available LCA studies, such proxy substitutions accounted for only 3% of diet-level GHGE. Variability across LCA studies introduced a ±19% range on the mean diet GHGE, but much of this variability is expected to be due to differences in food production locations and practices that can not currently be traced to individual dietary choices. When ranked by GHGE, diets from the top quintile accounted for 7.9 times the GHGE as those from the bottom quintile of diets. Our analyses highlight the importance of utilizing individual dietary behaviors rather than just population means when considering diet shift scenarios.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:37 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions

Current anthropogenic climate change is the result of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere, which records the aggregation of billions of individual decisions. Here we consider a broad range of individual lifestyle choices and calculate their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries, based on 148 scenarios from 39 sources. We recommend four widely applicable high-impact (i.e. low emissions) actions with the potential to contribute to systemic change and substantially reduce annual personal emissions: having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (eight times less). Though adolescents poised to establish lifelong patterns are an important target group for promoting high-impact actions, we find that ten high school science textbooks from Canada largely fail to mention these actions (they account for 4% of their recommended actions), instead focusing on incremental changes with much smaller potential emissions reductions. Government resources on climate change from the EU, USA, Canada, and Australia also focus recommendations on lower-impact actions. We conclude that there are opportunities to improve existing educational and communication structures to promote the most effective emission-reduction strategies and close this mitigation gap.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:13 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions

The world not only continues to build new coal-fired power plants, but built more new coal plants in the past decade than in any previous decade. Worldwide, an average of 89 gigawatts per year (GW yr–1) of new coal generating capacity was added between 2010 and 2012, 23 GW yr–1 more than in the 2000–2009 time period and 56 GW yr–1 more than in the 1990–1999 time period. Natural gas plants show a similar pattern. Assuming these plants operate for 40 years, the fossil-fuel burning plants built in 2012 will emit approximately 19 billion tons of CO2 (Gt CO2) over their lifetimes, versus 14 Gt CO2 actually emitted by all operating fossil fuel power plants in 2012. We find that total committed emissions related to the power sector are growing at a rate of about 4% per year, and reached 307 (with an estimated uncertainty of 192–439) Gt CO2 in 2012. These facts are not well known in the energy policy community, where annual emissions receive far more attention than future emissions related to new capital investments. This paper demonstrates the potential for 'commitment accounting' to inform public policy by quantifying future emissions implied by current investments.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:59 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Carbon reductions and health co-benefits from US residential energy efficiency measures

The United States (US) Clean Power Plan established state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction goals for fossil fuel-fired electricity generating units (EGUs). States may achieve these goals through multiple mechanisms, including measures that can achieve equivalent CO2 reductions such as residential energy efficiency, which will have important co-benefits. Here, we develop state-resolution simulations of the economic, health, and climate benefits of increased residential insulation, considering EGUs and residential combustion. Increasing insulation to International Energy Conservation Code 2012 levels for all single-family homes in the US in 2013 would lead to annual reductions of 80 million tons of CO2 from EGUs, with annual co-benefits including 30 million tons of CO2 from residential combustion and 320 premature deaths associated with criteria pollutant emissions from both EGUs and residential combustion sources. Monetized climate and health co-benefits average 49 per ton of CO2 reduced from EGUs (range across states: 12–390). State-specific co-benefit estimates can inform development of optimal Clean Power Plan implementation strategies.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:04 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

Modeling relationships between water table depth and peat soil carbon loss in Southeast Asian plantations

Plantation-associated drainage of Southeast Asian peatlands has accelerated in recent years. Draining exposes the upper peat layer to oxygen, leading to elevated decomposition rates and net soil carbon losses. Empirical studies indicate positive relationships between long-term water table (WT) depth and soil carbon loss rate in peatlands. These correlations potentially enable using WT depth as a proxy for soil carbon losses from peatland plantations. Here, we compile data from published research assessing WT depth and carbon balance in tropical plantations on peat. We model net carbon loss from subsidence studies, as well as soil respiration (heterotrophic and total) from closed chamber studies, as a function of WT depth. WT depth across all 12 studies and 59 sites is 67 ± 20 cm (mean ± standard deviation). Mean WT depth is positively related to net carbon loss, as well as soil respiration rate. Our models explain 45% of net carbon loss variation and 45–63% of soil respiration variation. At a 70 cm WT depth, the subsidence model suggests net carbon loss of 20 tC ha−1 yr−1 (95% confidence interval (CI) 18–22 tC ha−1 yr−1) for plantations drained for >2 yr. Closed chamber-measured total soil respiration at this depth is 20 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1 (CI 17–24 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1) while heterotrophic respiration is 17 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1 (CI 14–20 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1), ~82% of total respiration. While land use is not a significant predictor of soil respiration, WT depths are greater at acacia (75 ± 16 cm) than oil palm (59 ± 15 cm) sample sites. Improved spatio-temporal sampling of the full suite of peat soil carbon fluxes—including fluvial carbon export and organic fertilizer inputs—will clarify multiple mechanisms leading to carbon loss and gain, supporting refined assessments of the global warming potential of peatland drainage.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:33 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Estimation of regional air-quality damages from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania

This letter provides a first-order estimate of conventional air pollutant emissions, and the monetary value of the associated environmental and health damages, from the extraction of unconventional shale gas in Pennsylvania. Region-wide estimated damages ranged from 7.2 to 32 million dollars for 2011. The emissions from Pennsylvania shale gas extraction represented only a few per cent of total statewide emissions, and the resulting statewide damages were less than those estimated for each of the state's largest coal-based power plants. On the other hand, in counties where activities are concentrated, NOx emissions from all shale gas activities were 20–40 times higher than allowable for a single minor source, despite the fact that individual new gas industry facilities generally fall below the major source threshold for NOx. Most emissions are related to ongoing activities, i.e., gas production and compression, which can be expected to persist beyond initial development and which are largely unrelated to the unconventional nature of the resource. Regulatory agencies and the shale gas industry, in developing regulations and best practices, should consider air emissions from these long-term activities, especially if development occurs in more populated areas of the state where per-ton emissions damages are significantly higher.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
00:53 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Adapting to rates versus amounts of climate change: a case of adaptation to sea-level rise

Adaptation is the process of adjusting to climate change in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities associated with it. Most adaptation strategies are designed to adjust to a new climate state. However, despite our best efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, climate is likely to continue changing far into the future. Here, we show how considering rates of change affects the projected optimal adaptation strategy. We ground our discussion with an example of optimal investment in the face of continued sea-level rise, presenting a quantitative model that illustrates the interplay among physical and economic factors governing coastal development decisions such as rate of sea-level rise, land slope, discount rate, and depreciation rate. This model shows that the determination of optimal investment strategies depends on taking into account future rates of sea-level rise, as well as social and political constraints. This general approach also applies to the development of improved strategies to adapt to ongoing trends in temperature, precipitation, and other climate variables. Adaptation to some amount of change instead of adaptation to ongoing rates of change may produce inaccurate estimates of damages to the social systems and their ability to respond to external pressures.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
01:47 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

A probabilistic analysis of cumulative carbon emissions and long-term planetary warming

Efforts to mitigate and adapt to long-term climate change could benefit greatly from probabilistic estimates of cumulative carbon emissions due to fossil fuel burning and resulting CO2-induced planetary warming. Here we demonstrate the use of a reduced-form model to project these variables. We performed simulations using a large-ensemble framework with parametric uncertainty sampled to produce distributions of future cumulative emissions and consequent planetary warming. A hind-cast ensemble of simulations captured 1980–2012 historical CO2 emissions trends and an ensemble of future projection simulations generated a distribution of emission scenarios that qualitatively resembled the suite of Representative and Extended Concentration Pathways. The resulting cumulative carbon emission and temperature change distributions are characterized by 5–95th percentile ranges of 0.96–4.9 teratonnes C (Tt C) and 1.4 °C–8.5 °C, respectively, with 50th percentiles at 3.1 Tt C and 4.7 °C. Within the wide range of policy-related parameter combinations that produced these distributions, we found that low-emission simulations were characterized by both high carbon prices and low costs of non-fossil fuel energy sources, suggesting the importance of these two policy levers in particular for avoiding dangerous levels of climate warming. With this analysis we demonstrate a probabilistic approach to the challenge of identifying strategies for limiting cumulative carbon emissions and assessing likelihoods of surpassing dangerous temperature thresholds.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:52 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

The effectiveness of policy on consumer choices for private road passenger transport emissions reductions in six major economies

The effectiveness of fiscal policy to influence vehicle purchases for emissions reductions in private passenger road transport depends on its ability to incentivise consumers to make choices oriented towards lower emissions vehicles. However, car purchase choices are known to be strongly socially determined, and this sector is highly diverse due to significant socio-economic differences between consumer groups. Here, we present a comprehensive dataset and analysis of the structure of the 2012 private passenger vehicle fleet-years in six major economies across the World (UK, USA, China, India, Japan and Brazil) in terms of price, engine size and emissions distributions. We argue that choices and aggregate elasticities of substitution can be predicted using this data, enabling us to evaluate the effectiveness of potential fiscal and technological change policies on fleet-year emissions reductions. We provide tools to do so based on the distributive structure of prices and emissions in segments of a diverse market, both for conventional as well as unconventional engine technologies. We find that markets differ significantly between nations, and that correlations between engine sizes, emissions and prices exist strongly in some markets and not strongly in others. We furthermore find that markets for unconventional engine technologies have patchy coverages of varying levels. These findings are interpreted in terms of policy strategy.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:07 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Quantifying long-term changes in carbon stocks and forest structure from Amazon forest degradation

Despite sustained declines in Amazon deforestation, forest degradation from logging and fire continues to threaten carbon stocks, habitat, and biodiversity in frontier forests along the Amazon arc of deforestation. Limited data on the magnitude of carbon losses and rates of carbon recovery following forest degradation have hindered carbon accounting efforts and contributed to incomplete national reporting to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). We combined annual time series of Landsat imagery and high-density airborne lidar data to characterize the variability, magnitude, and persistence of Amazon forest degradation impacts on aboveground carbon density (ACD) and canopy structure. On average, degraded forests contained 45.1% of the carbon stocks in intact forests, and differences persisted even after 15 years of regrowth. In comparison to logging, understory fires resulted in the largest and longest-lasting differences in ACD. Heterogeneity in burned forest structure varied by fire severity and frequency. Forests with a history of one, two, and three or more fires retained only 54.4%, 25.2%, and 7.6% of intact ACD, respectively, when measured after a year of regrowth. Unlike the additive impact of successive fires, selective logging before burning did not explain additional variability in modeled ACD loss and recovery of burned forests. Airborne lidar also provides quantitative measures of habitat structure that can aid the estimation of co-benefits of avoided degradation. Notably, forest carbon stocks recovered faster than attributes of canopy structure that are critical for biodiversity in tropical forests, including the abundance of tall trees. We provide the first comprehensive look-up table of emissions factors for specific degradation pathways at standard reporting intervals in the Amazon. Estimated carbon loss and recovery trajectories provide an important foundation for assessing the long-term contributions from forest degradation to regional carbon cycling and advance our understanding of the current state of frontier forests.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:55 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

Investigating afforestation and bioenergy CCS as climate change mitigation strategies

The land-use sector can contribute to climate change mitigation not only by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also by increasing carbon uptake from the atmosphere and thereby creating negative CO2 emissions. In this paper, we investigate two land-based climate change mitigation strategies for carbon removal: (1) afforestation and (2) bioenergy in combination with carbon capture and storage technology (bioenergy CCS). In our approach, a global tax on GHG emissions aimed at ambitious climate change mitigation incentivizes land-based mitigation by penalizing positive and rewarding negative CO2 emissions from the land-use system. We analyze afforestation and bioenergy CCS as standalone and combined mitigation strategies. We find that afforestation is a cost-efficient strategy for carbon removal at relatively low carbon prices, while bioenergy CCS becomes competitive only at higher prices. According to our results, cumulative carbon removal due to afforestation and bioenergy CCS is similar at the end of 21st century (600–700 GtCO2), while land-demand for afforestation is much higher compared to bioenergy CCS. In the combined setting, we identify competition for land, but the impact on the mitigation potential (1000 GtCO2) is partially alleviated by productivity increases in the agricultural sector. Moreover, our results indicate that early-century afforestation presumably will not negatively impact carbon removal due to bioenergy CCS in the second half of the 21st century. A sensitivity analysis shows that land-based mitigation is very sensitive to different levels of GHG taxes. Besides that, the mitigation potential of bioenergy CCS highly depends on the development of future bioenergy yields and the availability of geological carbon storage, while for afforestation projects the length of the crediting period is crucial.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:53 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Replacement policy of residential lighting optimized for cost, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions

Accounting for 10% of the electricity consumption in the US, artificial lighting represents one of the easiest ways to cut household energy bills and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by upgrading to energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light emitting diodes (LED). However, given the high initial cost and rapidly improving trajectory of solid-state lighting today, estimating the right time to switch over to LEDs from a cost, primary energy, and GHG emissions perspective is not a straightforward problem. This is an optimal replacement problem that depends on many determinants, including how often the lamp is used, the state of the initial lamp, and the trajectories of lighting technology and of electricity generation. In this paper, multiple replacement scenarios of a 60 watt-equivalent A19 lamp are analyzed and for each scenario, a few replacement policies are recommended. For example, at an average use of 3 hr day−1 (US average), it may be optimal both economically and energetically to delay the adoption of LEDs until 2020 with the use of CFLs, whereas purchasing LEDs today may be optimal in terms of GHG emissions. In contrast, incandescent and halogen lamps should be replaced immediately. Based on expected LED improvement, upgrading LED lamps before the end of their rated lifetime may provide cost and environmental savings over time by taking advantage of the higher energy efficiency of newer models.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:59 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Health benefits, ecological threats of low-carbon electricity

Stabilizing global temperature will require a shift to renewable or nuclear power from fossil power and the large-scale deployment of CO2 capture and storage (CCS) for remaining fossil fuel use. Non-climate co-benefits of low-carbon energy technologies, especially reduced mortalities from air pollution and decreased ecosystem damage, have been important arguments for policies to reduce CO2 emissions. Taking into account a wide range of environmental mechanisms and the complex interactions of the supply chains of different technologies, we conducted the first life cycle assessment of potential human health and ecological impacts of a global low-carbon electricity scenario. Our assessment indicates strong human health benefits of low-carbon electricity. For ecosystem quality, there is a significant trade-off between reduced pollution and climate impacts and potentially significant ecological impacts from land use associated with increased biopower utilization. Other renewables, nuclear power and CCS show clear ecological benefits, so that the climate mitigation scenario with a relatively low share of biopower has lower ecosystem impacts than the baseline scenario. Energy policy can maximize co-benefits by supporting other renewable and nuclear power and developing biomass supply from sources with low biodiversity impact.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:05 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

Transitions in pathways of human development and carbon emissions

Countries are known to follow diverse pathways of life expectancy and carbon emissions, but little is known about factors driving these dynamics. In this letter we estimate the cross-sectional economic, demographic and geographic drivers of consumption-based carbon emissions. Using clustering techniques, countries are grouped according to their drivers, and analysed with respect to a criteria of one tonne of carbon emissions per capita and a life expectancy over 70 years (Goldemberg's Corner). Five clusters of countries are identified with distinct drivers and highly differentiated outcomes of life expectancy and carbon emissions. Representatives from four clusters intersect within Goldemberg's Corner, suggesting diverse combinations of drivers may still lead to sustainable outcomes, presenting many countries with an opportunity to follow a pathway towards low-carbon human development. By contrast, within Goldemberg's Corner, there are no countries from the core, wealthy consuming nations. These results reaffirm the need to address economic inequalities within international agreements for climate mitigation, but acknowledge plausible and accessible examples of low-carbon human development for countries that share similar underlying drivers of carbon emissions. In addition, we note differences in drivers between models of territorial and consumption-based carbon emissions, and discuss interesting exceptions to the drivers-based cluster analysis.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:35 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Global climate targets and future consumption level: an evaluation of the required GHG intensity

Discussion and analysis on international climate policy often focuses on the rather abstract level of total national and regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At some point, however, emission reductions need to be translated to consumption level. In this article, we evaluate the implications of the strictest IPCC representative concentration pathway for key consumption categories (food, travel, shelter, goods, services). We use IPAT style identities to account for possible growth in global consumption levels and indicate the required change in GHG emission intensity for each category (i.e. GHG emission per calorie, person kilometer, square meter, kilogram, US dollar). The proposed concept provides guidance for product developers, consumers and policymakers. To reach the 2 °C climate target (2.1 tCO2-eq. per capita in 2050), the GHG emission intensity of consumption has to be reduced by a factor of 5 in 2050. The climate targets on consumption level allow discussion of the feasibility of this climate target at product and consumption level. In most consumption categories products in line with this climate target are available. For animal food and air travel, reaching the GHG intensity targets with product modifications alone will be challenging and therefore structural changes in consumption patterns might be needed. The concept opens up possibilities for further research on potential solutions on the consumption and product level to global climate mitigation.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:31 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

More frequent moments in the climate change debate as emissions continue

Recent years have witnessed unprecedented interest in how the burning of fossil fuels may impact on the global climate system. Such visibility of this issue is in part due to the increasing frequency of key international summits to debate emissions levels, including the 2015 21st Conference of Parties meeting in Paris. In this perspective we plot a timeline of significant climate meetings and reports, and against metrics of atmospheric greenhouse gas changes and global temperature. One powerful metric is cumulative CO2 emissions that can be related to past and future warming levels. That quantity is analysed in detail through a set of papers in this ERL focus issue. We suggest it is an open question as to whether our timeline implies a lack of progress in constraining climate change despite multiple recent keynote meetings—or alternatively—that the increasing level of debate is encouragement that solutions will be found to prevent any dangerous warming levels?
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:35 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Trapped between two tails: trading off scientific uncertainties via climate targets

Climate change policies must trade off uncertainties about future warming, about the social and ecological impacts of warming, and about the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We show that laxer carbon targets produce broader distributions for climate damages, skewed towards severe outcomes. However, if potential low-carbon technologies fill overlapping niches, then more stringent carbon targets produce broader distributions for the cost of reducing emissions, skewed towards high-cost outcomes. We use the technology-rich GCAM integrated assessment model to assess the robustness of 450 and 500 ppm carbon targets to each uncertain factor. The 500 ppm target provides net benefits across a broad range of futures. The 450 ppm target provides net benefits only when impacts are greater than conventionally assumed, when multiple technological breakthroughs lower the cost of abatement, or when evaluated with a low discount rate. Policy evaluations are more sensitive to uncertainty about abatement technology and impacts than to uncertainty about warming.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
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