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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Anna B. Harper
  • Tom Powell
  • Peter M. Cox
  • Joanna House
  • Chris Huntingford
  • Timothy M. Lenton
  • Stephen Sitch
  • Eleanor Burke
  • Sarah E. Chadburn
  • William J. Collins
  • Edward Comyn-Platt
  • Vassilis Daioglou
  • Jonathan C. Doelman
  • Garry Hayman
  • Eddy Robertson
  • Detlef van Vuuren
  • Andy Wiltshire
  • Christopher P. Webber
  • Ana Bastos
  • Lena Boysen
  • Philippe Ciais
  • Narayanappa Devaraju
  • Atul K. Jain
  • Andreas Krause
  • Ben Poulter
  • Shijie Shu
Original languageEnglish
Article number2938
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date7 Aug 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 25 Jun 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 7 Aug 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Dec 2018


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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