event 22 juil. 2021

Research article // Irrigation of biomass plantations may globally increase water stress more than climate change

By Fabian Stenzel, Peter Greve, Wolfgang Lucht, Sylvia Tramberend, Yoshihide Wada and Dieter Gerten. To corroborate findings from one earlier regional study that suggested the water stress in a mitigation scenario based on irrigated bioenergy may indeed supersede that of unabated climate change, in this study the authors provide a systematic global-scale analysis comparing water stress in two plausible future scenarios: a world with strong mitigation including (partially irrigated) bioenergy plantations as a contribution to limit mean global warming by the end of the century to around 1.5 °C, and one with only marginal extent of bioenergy plantations resulting in warming of 3 °C.

category Research Papers, Publications and Books tag Water tag Food and Agriculture tag Climate tag Climate Change tag Water tag Water resource management tag Food tag Irrigation tag Energy tag Biofuels
Differences in water stress between scenarios BECCSSWM and CC

Differences in water stress between scenarios BECCS(+SWM) and CC. Source: The authors

Abstract

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is considered an important negative emissions (NEs) technology, but might involve substantial irrigation on biomass plantations. Potential water stress resulting from the additional withdrawals warrants evaluation against the avoided climate change impact. Here we quantitatively assess potential side effects of BECCS with respect to water stress by disentangling the associated drivers (irrigated biomass plantations, climate, land use patterns) using comprehensive global model simulations. By considering a widespread use of irrigated biomass plantations, global warming by the end of the 21st century could be limited to 1.5 °C compared to a climate change scenario with 3 °C. However, our results suggest that both the global area and population living under severe water stress in the BECCS scenario would double compared to today and even exceed the impact of climate change. Such side effects of achieving substantial NEs would come as an extra pressure in an already water-stressed world and could only be avoided if sustainable water management were implemented globally.

Published

March 2021

By

Nature Communications

Citation

Stenzel, F., Greve, P., Lucht, W. et al. Irrigation of biomass plantations may globally increase water stress more than climate change. Nat Commun 12, 1512 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21640-3

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Irrigation of biomass plantations may globally increase water stress more than climate change

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