Climatic Change

, Volume 104, Issue 2, pp 415–422 | Cite as

Systematic under- and overestimation of GHG reductions in renewable biomass systems

A Letter
  • Thea L. Whitman
  • C. Johannes Lehmann


This paper identifies a critical systematic error in greenhouse gas accounting in renewable biomass systems. While CO2 emissions from renewable biomass energy systems are generally considered to have a net impact of 0, no similar adjustment is made for carbon-based products of incomplete combustion, such as methane, in renewable systems. This results in an under- or overestimation of the impact of CH4 by 12.3% and CO by ∼478% in renewable systems. This error is propagated both in scientific studies and in carbon accounting policies. We advocate first for full-carbon accounting of biomass-derived emissions, but also provide adjusted global warming impacts for emissions from proven renewable systems.


Life Cycle Assessment Clean Development Mechanism Global Warming Potential Biomass Fuel Life Cycle Assess 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Agriculture and Life SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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