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People have used biomass since they first started burning wood to prepare food and keep warm. Today, wood biomass remains the most crucial energy resource. Some other bioenergy sources include agricultural and forest products, micro and macroalgae species, food crops, and municipal and industrial waste. Even landfill emissions can be used as a biological source of energy.
As an alternative energy source with climate mitigation advantages, bioenergy has been advocated as an aspect of renewable energy programs in several nations. However, the mitigating benefit of wood biomass has been widely questioned. That prompts the question, can wood biomass positively impact climate?
The simple answer is yes. Energy from wood biomass may be highly beneficial to the environment, primarily when sustainable forest management methods are employed and the biomass is adequately utilized.
Given the importance of forests to the climate and other ecological processes, sustainable forest management is critical for preserving healthy and safe forests and regulating harvest levels to preserve or enhance carbon reserves in woods.
The majority of wood biomass used to generate electricity is a by-product of forestry activities and industries. Using forest residues for energy has been shown to provide short-term climate change mitigation advantages. Let’s evaluate some primary benefits offered by wood biomass.
Even though burning wood biomass releases carbon dioxide, it may greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is because burning fossil fuels releases carbon that has been trapped in the subsurface for millions of years, but burning biomass emits carbon that is part of the biogenic carbon cycle.
To put it another way, using fossil fuels raises the overall quantity of carbon in the biosphere-atmosphere system. In contrast, biomass burning returns the carbon collected by plants to the environment.
However, research findings indicate that destroying trees to grow biomass leads to a carbon penalty that takes decades to recover; hence biomass should be cultivated on previously cleared land, such as underutilized cropland.
Source: Carbon emission cycle: Biogenic Vs. Fossil Fuel
Bioenergy can be carbon neutral within the biospheric carbon cycle if generated responsibly; however, the whole distribution system must be examined, and all emissions connected with the generation, refining, transportation, and use of bioenergy should be included. Harvesting, transportation, and processing all consume fossil energy.
The primary concerns regarding environmental consequences are how operational changes to create biomass influence the forest carbon cycle in conjunction with other forest resources. The fundamental concern in forestry is net carbon absorption and the related changes in carbon storage and carbon losses created by environmental disruptions.
Furthermore, to measure the cumulative impact on GHG emissions, the bioenergy model should be evaluated in a parallel scenario in which some other resource supplies energy.
According to a report, sustainable forest management practices produce the most long-term emission reduction gain from forests by preserving carbon stocks and substituting carbon-rigorous products and fossil fuels.
A bioenergy market also encourages investment in forest development, which can improve forest performance and well-being, favorably influencing forest carbon reserves.
Source: Forest Bioenergy Systems
Furthermore, regeneration and afforestation of arid regions result in carbon retention in biomass and sediments. The bioenergy system’s carbon sequestration is an extra contribution to climate mitigation.
The climate crisis continues to increase, and immediate action to decarbonize energy systems and reduce emissions is required to decrease the disastrous consequences of climate change. In this era of rising consciousness of the need to cut carbon emissions, there has been an increased examination of bioenergy, notably in connection to climate change, but also in terms of other ecological and sustainability implications.
Wood biomass, in particular, has been criticized for its usable life and indirect emissions. In some situations, there has been substantial questioning of the “carbon neutral” label accorded to energy produced from wood biomass. Even after then, various approaches to decarbonization and temperature stability have been established, with the majority of these options involving a significant amount of bioenergy.
Wood biomass is a natural resource with significant growth potential; unlike other resources, biomass can be retained and transformed into different power sources. As a result, they play an essential role in aiding the transition to low-carbon energy systems. Biomass energy policy should make it easier to use responsibly obtained biomass, allowing the world’s bioenergy capacity to be utilized. Sustainability in business operations must be implemented in conjunction to guarantee that global warming mitigation and other advantages are achieved while downsides are avoided.