The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 11, Number 2, 2012

ISSN 1602-2297

A Secular Carbon Debt from Atmospheric high Temperature Combustion of Stem Wood ?

Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont
Ph.D., M.Sc., Roskilde University, Department of Society and Globalization, Universitetsvej 1, building 20.2, DK-4000 Roskilde, E-mail:

Abstract: Basically, the combustion of woody biomass in high temperature processes results in a long lasting addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. When harvesting large extra amounts of stem tree for energetic use, a global as well as secular time frame is needed to assess overall consequences if due attention is to be given to biosphere processes, including the complex productivity of whole ecosystems. Analytically, a time dependent variable of carbon neutralization can be traced by a simple carbon neutrality or CN factor. Using the (forgotten) Marland approach, project managers should document how a pay-back of the whole carbon debt incurred by their projects proceeds over time. As recommended by the European Parliament in May 2011, this methodology should be applied consistently in climate and energy policies when revising the failures of the ‘instant carbon neutrality’ approach for smokestack emissions that was propagated within the Kyoto process, the first phase of which is ending in 2012. Otherwise, we allow that the substitution of wood pellets for coal or other fossil fuels creates long lasting extra emissions of carbon dioxide. This is a climate policy mistake which carbon trading systems such as that of the EU ETS do not compensate for, but instead amplify by giving extra credits for further pollution. This contradicts the very purpose of the UNFCCC, namely to prevent environmental degradation.

Keywords: Critical realism, global warming, wood fuels, carbon accounting, lag time, life cycle analysis, carbon credits, Kyoto process, carbon neutrality factor, project evaluation, resistance

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