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Nat Commun. 2018 Aug 7;9(1):2938. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05340-z.

Land-use emissions play a critical role in land-based mitigation for Paris climate targets.

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College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK.
College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK.
College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK.
School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK.
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK.
Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK.
University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK.
Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6BB, UK.
Department of Climate, Air and Energy, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), PO Box 30314, 2500 GH, The Hague, Netherlands.
Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Geography, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Luisenstr. 37, 80333, Munich, Germany.
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, 91191, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
The Land in the Earth System, Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146, Hamburg, Germany.
Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, 61801, USA.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research-Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Kreuzeckbahnstr. 19, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 82467, Germany.
NASA GSFC, Biospheric Sciences Lab., Greenbelt, MD, 20771, USA.


Scenarios that limit global warming to below 2 °C by 2100 assume significant land-use change to support large-scale carbon dioxide (CO2) removal from the atmosphere by afforestation/reforestation, avoided deforestation, and Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). The more ambitious mitigation scenarios require even greater land area for mitigation and/or earlier adoption of CO2 removal strategies. Here we show that additional land-use change to meet a 1.5 °C climate change target could result in net losses of carbon from the land. The effectiveness of BECCS strongly depends on several assumptions related to the choice of biomass, the fate of initial above ground biomass, and the fossil-fuel emissions offset in the energy system. Depending on these factors, carbon removed from the atmosphere through BECCS could easily be offset by losses due to land-use change. If BECCS involves replacing high-carbon content ecosystems with crops, then forest-based mitigation could be more efficient for atmospheric CO2 removal than BECCS.

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