Scenarios that limit global warming to below 2 °C by 2100 assume significant land-use change to support large-scale carbon dioxide (CO2) removal from the atmosphere by afforestation/reforestation, avoided deforestation, and Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). The more ambitious mitigation scenarios require even greater land area for mitigation and/or earlier adoption of CO2 removal strategies. Here we show that additional land-use change to meet a 1.5 °C climate change target could result in net losses of carbon from the land.
The effectiveness of BECCS strongly depends on several assumptions related to the choice of biomass, the fate of initial above ground biomass, and the fossil-fuel emissions offset in the energy system. Depending on these factors, carbon removed from the atmosphere through BECCS could easily be offset by losses due to land-use change. If BECCS involves replacing high-carbon content ecosystems with crops, then forest-based mitigation could be more efficient for atmospheric CO2 removal than BECCS.