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Journal ArticleDOI

Environmental and resource burdens associated with world biofuel production out to 2050: footprint components from carbon emissions and land use to waste arisings and water consumption

01 Sep 2016-Gcb Bioenergy (Glob Change Biol Bioenergy)-Vol. 8, Iss: 5, pp 894-908

TL;DR: The carbon and environmental footprints associated with the world production of liquid biofuels have been computed for the period 2010–2050 and bioproductive land use was found to exhibit the largest footprint component (a 48% share in 2050), followed by the carbon footprint (23%), embodied energy (16%), and then the water footprint (9%).

AbstractEnvironmental or 'ecological' footprints have been widely used in recent years as indicators of resource consumption and waste absorption presented in terms of biologically productive land area [in global hectares (gha)] required per capita with prevailing technology. In contrast, 'carbon footprints' are the amount of carbon (or carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions for such activities in units of mass or weight (like kilograms per functional unit), but can be translated into a component of the environmental footprint (on a gha basis). The carbon and environmental footprints associated with the world production of liquid biofuels have been computed for the period 2010-2050. Estimates of future global biofuel production were adopted from the 2011 International Energy Agency (IEA) 'technology roadmap' for transport biofuels. This suggests that, although first generation biofuels will dominate the market up to 2020, advanced or second generation biofuels might constitute some 75% of biofuel production by 2050. The overall environmental footprint was estimated to be 0.29 billion (bn) gha in 2010 and is likely to grow to around 2.57 bn gha by 2050. It was then disaggregated into various components: bioproductive land, built land, carbon emissions, embodied energy, materials and waste, transport, and water consumption. This component-based approach has enabled the examination of the Manufactured and Natural Capital elements of the 'four capitals' model of sustainability quite broadly, along with specific issues (such as the linkages associated with the so-called energy-land-water nexus). Bioproductive land use was found to exhibit the largest footprint component (a 48% share in 2050), followed by the carbon footprint (23%), embodied energy (16%), and then the water footprint (9%). Footprint components related to built land, transport and waste arisings were all found to account for an insignificant proportion to the overall environmental footprint, together amounting to only about 2.

Topics: Carbon footprint (66%), Ecological footprint (58%), Water use (57%), Global hectare (57%), Greenhouse gas (54%)

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The integration of different technologies acts as a leverage in boosting “circular economy” and improving resource use efficiency. In this respect, the coupling of anaerobic digestion with pyrolysis was the focus of this work. Solid-digestate obtained from anaerobic digestion was addressed to supply pyrolysis thus increasing the net energy gains and obtaining “biochar” (called “pyrochar” in our case) to be used as soil amendment alternatively to solid-digestate. The current interest on biochar is linked to its long-term soil carbon sequestration, thus contributing to global warming mitigation. A parallel detailed screening of the physical and chemical properties of both solid-digestate and pyrochar was performed, inferring their effects on soil quality. Results showed that while P and K are enriched in pyrochar, total N showed no significant differences. Heavy metals revealed higher concentrations in pyrochar, but always largely below the biochar quality thresholds. Pyrochar exhibited a higher surface area (49–88 m 2 g −1 ), a greater water holding capacity (352–366%), and a more recalcitrant carbon structure. Both solid-digestate and pyrochar showed good soil amendments properties but with complementary effects. Although starting from the same biomass, being the original feedstock processed differently, their ability to improve the physical and chemical soil properties has proved to be different. While several other soil improvers of organic origin can substitute digestate, the important role played by biochar appears not-replaceable considering its precious “carbon negative” action.

103 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Novel energy production systems are needed that not only offer reductions in greenhouse gas emissions but also cause fewer overall environmental impacts. How to identify and implement more sustainable biofuel production alternatives, and how to overcome economic challenges for their implementation, is a matter of debate. In this study, the environmental impacts of alternative approaches to biofuel production (i.e., first, second, and third generation biofuels), with a focus on biodiversity and ecosystem services, were contrasted to develop a set of criteria for guiding the identification of sustainable biofuel production alternatives (i.e., those that maximize socioeconomic and environmental benefits), as well as strategies for decreasing the economic barriers that prevent the implementation of more sustainable biofuel production systems. The identification and implementation of sustainable biofuel production alternatives should be based on rigorous assessments that integrate socioeconomic and environmental objectives at local, regional, and global scales. Further development of environmental indicators, standardized environmental assessments, multi-objective case studies, and globally integrated assessments, along with improved estimations of biofuel production at fine spatial scales, can enhance the identification of more sustainable biofuel production systems. In the short term, several governmental mandates and incentives, along with the development of financial and market-based mechanisms and applied research partnerships, can accelerate the implementation of more sustainable biofuel production alternatives. The set of criteria and strategies developed here can guide decision making towards the identification and adoption of sustainable biofuel production systems.

87 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Concerns over securing basic resources to an increasing world population have stressed the importance of critical interactions between the food, energy and water supply systems, as framed by the food-energy-water nexus concept. Current biorefineries producing first generation biofuels from food crops have impacted nexus resources, most notoriously land and food but also water and fossil energy resources required during cultivation and processing. Solutions to the nexus challenges of biorefineries require the search for alternative feedstocks and the application of methods that capture opportunities for synergistic interactions with the nexus. At the process level, more efficient water and energy use and food production could be possible if methods for extensive biomass fractionation, process integration and optimisation are developed. There is also a great opportunity to include the interactions between biomass supply and the nexus sectors in value chain optimisation to find strategic integrations that improve productivity and reduce losses and environmental impacts. By incorporating opportunities into a whole systems approach for design and planning, biorefineries will be able to balance nexus resource trade-offs, deliver their potential for full exploitation of biomass as the only source of renewable carbon and materials, and translate nexus issues into social welfare and sustainable development.

41 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Relevant properties and appropriate methodology should be defined to support engineers during the material selection process. Environmental requirements are generally included in projects and processes that are already defined instead of inserting environmental requirements in conceptual early design stage. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the most recognized methodology for the evaluation of environmental burdens, which is related to a product or a service during all the life cycle stages, from the extraction of raw materials to the end of life. Nevertheless, a rigorous quantitative assessment of all burdens is a time-consuming task and requires deep skills of those involved, leading many companies to abandon this approach. In this study, the embodied energy and carbon footprint will be used for assessing the environmental burden, not for replacing a complete LCA, but for providing fast and reliable information to those involved in the design of a new product. The present work applies data published in the literature to the validation of the proposed materials selection procedure. The results showed that it is possible to use a reliable software with metrics of embodied energy and carbon footprint to pre-assess the environmental burden in the early stages of development and materials selection.

26 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The aim of this paper is to review and analyse the latest available evidence to provide a greater clarity and understanding of the environmental impacts of different liquid biofuels and investigates the key methodological aspects and sources of uncertainty in the LCA ofBiofuels.
Abstract: Biofuels are being promoted as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels as they could help to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the related climate change impact from transport. However, there are also concerns that their wider deployment could lead to unintended environmental consequences. Numerous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have considered the climate change and other environmental impacts of biofuels. However, their findings are often conflicting, with a wide variation in the estimates. Thus, the aim of this paper is to review and analyse the latest available evidence to provide a greater clarity and understanding of the environmental impacts of different liquid biofuels. It is evident from the review that the outcomes of LCA studies are highly situational and dependent on many factors, including the type of feedstock, production routes, data variations and methodological choices. Despite this, the existing evidence suggests that, if no land-use change (LUC) is involved, first-generation biofuels can-on average-have lower GHG emissions than fossil fuels, but the reductions for most feedstocks are insufficient to meet the GHG savings required by the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). However, second-generation biofuels have, in general, a greater potential to reduce the emissions, provided there is no LUC. Third-generation biofuels do not represent a feasible option at present state of development as their GHG emissions are higher than those from fossil fuels. As also discussed in the paper, several studies show that reductions in GHG emissions from biofuels are achieved at the expense of other impacts, such as acidification, eutrophication, water footprint and biodiversity loss. The paper also investigates the key methodological aspects and sources of uncertainty in the LCA of biofuels and provides recommendations to address these issues.

22 citations


References
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Posted ContentDOI
Abstract: This paper is a re-make of Chapters 1-3 of the Interim Report World Agriculture: towards 2030/2050 (FAO, 2006). In addition, this new paper includes a Chapter 4 on production factors (land, water, yields, fertilizers). Revised and more recent data have been used as basis for the new projections, as follows: (a) updated historical data from the Food Balance Sheets 1961-2007 as of June 2010; (b) undernourishment estimates from The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010 (SOFI) and related new parameters (CVs, minimum daily energy requirements) are used in the projections; (c) new population data and projections from the UN World Population Prospects - Revision of 2008; (d) new GDP data and projections from the World Bank; (e) a new base year of 2005/2007 (the previous edition used the base year 1999/2001); (f) updated estimates of land resources from the new evaluation of the Global Agro-ecological Zones (GAEZ) study of FAO and IIASA. Estimates of land under forest and in protected areas from the GAEZ are taken into account and excluded from the estimates of land areas suitable for crop production into which agriculture could expand in the future; (g) updated estimates of existing irrigation, renewable water resources and potentials for irrigation expansion; and (h) changes in the text as required by the new historical data and projections. Like the interim report, this re-make does not include projections for the Fisheries and Forestry sectors. Calories from fish are, however, included, in the food consumption projections, along with those from other commodities (e.g. spices) not analysed individually. The projections presented reflect the magnitudes and trajectories we estimate the major food and agriculture variables may assume in the future; they are not meant to reflect how these variables may be required to evolve in the future in order to achieve some normative objective, e.g. ensure food security for all, eliminate undernourishment or reduce it to any given desired level, or avoid food overconsumption leading to obesity and related NonCommunicable Diseases.

2,727 citations


"Environmental and resource burdens ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...On the other hand, they suggest that global population is likely to more than double against the 1950 level, increasing from 7 bn in 2011 to around 9.5 bn by 2050 (see also Cranston & Hammond, 2010; Alexandratos & Bruinsma, 2012)....

    [...]

  • ...According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) projections (Alexandratos & Bruinsma, 2012), an additional 70 Mha arable land expansion would be expected to meet the global population growth by 2050, which involves an expansion in developing countries (such as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin…...

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  • ...Global Change Biology Bioenergy Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 8, 894–908 (Alexandratos & Bruinsma, 2012)....

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: A minimum necessary condition for sustainability is the maintenance of the total natural capital stock at or above the current level. While a lower stock of natural capital may be sustainable, society can allow no further decline in natural capital given the large uncertainty and the dire consequences of guessing wrong. This “constancy of total natural capital” rule can thus be seen as a prudent minimum condition for assuring sustainability, to be relaxed only when solid evidence can be offered that it is safe to do so. We discuss methodological issues concerning the degree of substitutability of manufactured for natural capital, quantifying ecosystem services and natural capital, and the role of the discount rate in valuing natural capital. We differentiate the concepts of growth (material increase in size) and development (improvement in organization without size change). Given these definitions, growth cannot the sustainable indefinitely on a finite planet. Development may be sustainable, but even this aspect of change may have some limits. One problem is that current measures of economic well-being at the macro level (i.e., the Gross National Product) measure mainly growth, or at best conflate growth and development. This urgently requires revision. Finally, we suggest some principles of sustainable development and describe why maintaining natural capital stocks is a prudent and achievable policy for insuring sustainable development. There is disagreement between technological optimists (who see technical progress as eliminating all resource constraints to growth and development) and technological skeptics (who do not see as much scope for this approach and fear irreversible use of resources and damage to natural capital). By maintaining natural capital stocks (preferably by using a natural capital depletion tax), we can satisfy both the skeptics (since resources will be conserved for future generations) and the optimists (since this will raise the price of natural capital depletion and more rapidly induce the technical change they predict).

1,400 citations


"Environmental and resource burdens ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Maintenance of this Natural Capital is consequently central to securing environmental security and sustainability over the longer term....

    [...]

  • ...The term ‘Natural Capital’ (Costanza & Daly, 1992; Ekins, 1992; Aronson et al., 2006; Turner & Daily, 2008; Daly & Farley, 2011) is typically used to denote the biotic or abiotic stocks and flows that yield natural assets and tangible natural resources....

    [...]

  • ...It facilitates the examination of the Manufactured and Natural Capital elements of what was originally known as the ‘four capitals’ model of sustainability (Ekins, 1992), along with specific issues [such as the linkages associated with the so-called ELW nexus (Brandi et al., 2013)]....

    [...]

  • ...This componentbased approach has enabled the examination of theManufactured and Natural Capital elements of the ‘four capitals’ model of sustainability quite broadly, along with specific issues (such as the linkages associated with the so-called energy–land–water nexus)....

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: This study quantifies the green, blue and grey water footprint of global crop production in a spatially-explicit way for the period 1996–2005. The assessment improves upon earlier research by taking a high-resolution approach, estimating the water footprint of 126 crops at a 5 by 5 arc minute grid. We have used a grid-based dynamic water balance model to calculate crop water use over time, with a time step of one day. The model takes into account the daily soil water balance and climatic conditions for each grid cell. In addition, the water pollution associated with the use of nitrogen fertilizer in crop production is estimated for each grid cell. The crop evapotranspiration of additional 20 minor crops is calculated with the CROPWAT model. In addition, we have calculated the water footprint of more than two hundred derived crop products, including various flours, beverages, fibres and biofuels. We have used the water footprint assessment framework as in the guideline of the Water Footprint Network. Considering the water footprints of primary crops, we see that the global average water footprint per ton of crop increases from sugar crops (roughly 200 m3 ton−1), vegetables (300 m3 ton−1), roots and tubers (400 m3 ton−1), fruits (1000 m3 ton−1), cereals (1600 m3 ton−1), oil crops (2400 m3 ton−1) to pulses (4000 m3 ton−1). The water footprint varies, however, across different crops per crop category and per production region as well. Besides, if one considers the water footprint per kcal, the picture changes as well. When considered per ton of product, commodities with relatively large water footprints are: coffee, tea, cocoa, tobacco, spices, nuts, rubber and fibres. The analysis of water footprints of different biofuels shows that bio-ethanol has a lower water footprint (in m3 GJ−1) than biodiesel, which supports earlier analyses. The crop used matters significantly as well: the global average water footprint of bio-ethanol based on sugar beet amounts to 51 m3 GJ−1, while this is 121 m3 GJ−1 for maize. The global water footprint related to crop production in the period 1996–2005 was 7404 billion cubic meters per year (78 % green, 12 % blue, 10 % grey). A large total water footprint was calculated for wheat (1087 Gm3 yr−1), rice (992 Gm3 yr−1) and maize (770 Gm3 yr−1). Wheat and rice have the largest blue water footprints, together accounting for 45 % of the global blue water footprint. At country level, the total water footprint was largest for India (1047 Gm3 yr−1), China (967 Gm3 yr−1) and the USA (826 Gm3 yr−1). A relatively large total blue water footprint as a result of crop production is observed in the Indus river basin (117 Gm3 yr−1) and the Ganges river basin (108 Gm3 yr−1). The two basins together account for 25 % of the blue water footprint related to global crop production. Globally, rain-fed agriculture has a water footprint of 5173 Gm3 yr−1 (91 % green, 9 % grey); irrigated agriculture has a water footprint of 2230 Gm3 yr−1 (48 % green, 40 % blue, 12 % grey).

1,314 citations


Book
01 Nov 2003
Abstract: Conventional economics is increasingly criticized for failing to reflect the value of clean air and water, species diversity, and social and generational equity. By excluding biophysical and social reality from its analyses and equations, conventional economics seems ill-suited to address problems in a world characterized by increasing human impacts and decreasing natural resources. Ecological Economics is an introductory-level textbook for an emerging paradigm that addresses this fundamental flaw in conventional economics. The book defines a revolutionary "transdiscipline" that incorporates insights from the biological, physical, and social sciences, and it offers a pedagogically complete examination of this exciting new field. The book provides students with a foundation in traditional neoclassical economic thought, but places that foundation within a new interdisciplinary framework that embraces the linkages among economic growth, environmental degradation, and social inequity. Introducing the three core issues that are the focus of the new transdiscipline -- scale, distribution, and efficiency -- the book is guided by the fundamental question, often assumed but rarely spoken in traditional texts: What is really important to us? After explaining the key roles played by the earth's biotic and abiotic resources in sustaining life, the text is then organized around the main fields in traditional economics: microeconomics, macroeconomics, and international economics. The book also takes an additional step of considering the policy implications of this line of thinking. Ecological Economics includes numerous features that make it accessible to a wide range of students: more than thirty text boxes that highlight issues of special importance to students; lists of key terms that help students organize the main points in each chapter; concise definitions of new terms that are highlighted in the text for easy reference; study questions that encourage student exploration beyond the text; glossary and list of further readings; An accompanying workbook presents an innovative, applied problem-based learning approach to teaching economics. While many books have been written on ecological economics, and several textbooks describe basic concepts of the field, this is the only stand-alone textbook that offers a complete explanation of both theory and practice. It will serve an important role in educating a new generation of economists and is an invaluable new text for undergraduate and graduate courses in ecological economics, environmental economics, development economics, human ecology, environmental studies, sustainability science, and community development.

1,133 citations


"Environmental and resource burdens ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...The term ‘Natural Capital’ (Costanza & Daly, 1992; Ekins, 1992; Aronson et al., 2006; Turner & Daily, 2008; Daly & Farley, 2011) is typically used to denote the biotic or abiotic stocks and flows that yield natural assets and tangible natural resources....

    [...]

  • ...Footprint components related to built land, transport and waste arisings were all found to account for an insignificant proportion to the overall environmental footprint, together amounting to only about 2%...

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15 Jan 2010

1,130 citations


"Environmental and resource burdens ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Indeed, many organizations have adopted the use of the term carbon footprint when assessing the CO2 emissions released during various processes or activities, although these are again measured in tonnes of CO2 (Hammond, 2007; Wiedmann & Minx, 2008)....

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  • ...Wiedmann & Minx (2008) reviewed various suggestions, including that of Hammond (2007), and then proposed a definition for the ‘carbon footprint’ as including the ‘total amount of CO2 emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity’....

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