IS BURNING WOOD BETTER FOR THE ATMOSPHERE THAN BURNING COAL?
Burning wood is not better for the atmosphere than burning coal. Burning wood produces more CO₂ per energy unit than coal, which means that we will emit more CO₂ with wood to produce the same quantity of energy as we were producing with coal.
One solution to tackle climate change is to stop burning, whether it’s bioenergy or fossil fuels. More info in our “climate change” page.
Burning wood also produces air pollution. More info in our “air pollution” page.
MAY WE CONSIDER BIOENERGY AS CLIMATE NEUTRAL BECAUSE TREES REGROW?
We cannot. It takes a short time to burn a tree but decades to centuries to regrow and reabsorb the CO₂. In the meantime, all the released CO₂ will accelerate climate change, but we only have 10 years to drastically reduce our CO₂ emissions and we must be climate neutral for 2050.
In addition, we need “healthy” forests as carbon sinks to absorb all the carbon released with fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.
IF WE ONLY HARVEST WHAT REGROW (“SUSTAINABLE” MANAGEMENT OF FORESTS), MAY WE THEREFORE CONSIDER BIOENERGY AS CLIMATE NEUTRAL?
We cannot. The sustainable management of forests we know for paper and furniture is not relevant to assess the CO₂ emissions and climate impact. Whatever is the scale of time we consider, growing and absorbing carbon takes more time than burning and releasing CO₂.
A healthy forest is a carbon sink, it accumulates carbon over time. If we burn as much as regrows every year, the forest is no longer a sink: it accumulates no ADDITIONAL carbon from the atmosphere.
The vital role of forests to be carbon sink is factored in all existing climate models: forests are not meant to be carbon neutral – they are meant to be carbon negative, actively accumulating carbon from the atmosphere.
More info in our page about climate change.