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Edited by Ariel Dinar and Robert Mendelsohn
12 Biofuels and climate change Gal Hochman, Deepak Rajagopal and David Zilberman INTRODUCTION Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities threaten to alter the global climate and can have adverse consequences on the well-being of life on earth. Human activity is probably the primary cause of global warming since 1950 (IPCC, 2007), with fossil fuel use being the primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), and land-use changes providing another significant but smaller contribution of about 20 per cent, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007). These land-use changes, including intensive farming and deforestation, release large amounts of CO2 sequestered in the land and in the plant materials to the atmosphere. Energy derived from plant materials in the form of biofuels can reduce GHG emissions because energy embodied in biofuels is sequestered through photosynthesis and the biofuels can replace fossil fuels. Thus, in theory, biofuels should provide an effective means to mitigate GHG emissions. The reality of biofuel is more complex, however. The production and processing of biofuel requires energy, and that may result in positive net GHG emissions. Biofuels may also accelerate deforestation and land-use changes, resulting in a large amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. These emissions of GHG associated with the production and utilization of biofuels should be addressed by biofuel policies. The policy initiatives that provide support for the production of biofuels are not only the ones induced by concerns about climate change but are also the product...
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