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Getting to Climate Neutrality: Does Bioenergy from Wood Help or Hurt?
April 10 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDTFree
Bioenergy has been declared a carbon neutral energy source by the US, EU, China, and other governments around the world. In alignment with these national policies, AASHE-STARS and other sustainability rating systems treat bioenergy as carbon neutral, making it an attractive source of energy to colleges and universities seeking to meet their ambitious climate neutrality goals. But is bioenergy actually carbon and climate neutral? A molecule of CO2 emitted today has the same impact on radiative forcing whether it came from fossil fuel or biomass. Bioenergy only reduces atmospheric CO2 over time through post-harvest increases in photosynthesis and ecosystem carbon stocks. This webinar will present results from a new model for dynamic life cycle analysis of the carbon and climate impacts of wood bioenergy over policy-relevant time horizons. The model enables interactive scenario testing with different wood sources, harvesting regimes, and post-harvest land use assumptions for wood bioenergy that displaces coal, natural gas, or a zero-carbon energy source such as solar or wind. The results show that the carbon and climate impact of wood bioenergy is worse than coal for decades to centuries under a wide range of wood source, harvesting, and post-harvest assumptions, making it clear that policies that treat wood bioenergy as carbon neutral are flawed. We will end with a discussion about the opportunity that AASHE-STARS and its member institutions have to lead the way to science-based decisions about wood bioenergy.
Juliette Rooney-Varga, Director, Associate Professor, UMass Lowell
Juliette Rooney-Varga is an expert on climate change and sustainability. She is the director of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative and associate professor of Environmental Science. She has more than twenty years’ experience as a scientist studying biogeochemistry and microbial ecology. Her current work focuses on developing and researching the learning impact of interactive simulations that enable people to explore, for themselves, the expected climate and energy impacts of decisions and policies. She currently leads the Geo-Interactive Project — a project funded by the National Science Foundation that is developing, propagating, and researching the impact of simulation-based climate and energy education tools in programs designed to foster academic success among low-income, first-generation college students across the US. She also works closely with the climate and energy think tank, Climate Interactive, and is a research affiliate of MIT’s System Dynamics Group.