18 Climate Mitigation Research

Implemented by: Laura Vang Thesis superviser: Kjeld Rasmussen

Major findings: The carbon balance depends on where farmers plant Jatropha. If they clear forest to plant Jatropha it will take 1900 years to pay back the carbon debt. If they plant in fallow fields the carbon balance i good. The socio-economic surveyss found no gender bias in Jatropha cultivation and no technical obstacles to expansion. 


When the Jatropha project was designed there was little knowledge about the energy- and carbon balance of Jatropha but it was generally assumed to be very positive and did therefore not received much consideration.

However, after the Jatropha project had started a number of scientific studies indicated that the energy- and carbon-balance of biofuels may not be as positive as it had assumed. In particular the study by Searchinger in 2008:

Because the project is located in a forested area and the Jatropha is introduced in a slash-and-burn agricultural system it was difficult to know the implications for the energy- and carbon-balance. Does Jatropha lead to increased slashing of forest, or does it increase the productivity of fallow land? If the balances are negative it is has implications for the sustainability and viability of the development model the project is testing.

The study found no cultural or technical obstacles to expansion of Jatropha production. Currently Jatropha appears attractive relative to other crops and the study therefore predict that Jatropha cultivation will expand. Due to the small size of the cultivated area in the project area expansion of Jatropha does not necessitate a reduction of the area for food production.

The environmental analysis is limited to the CO2 budget. Landuse changes, implact on bio-diversity etc. is omitted from the analysis. The focus is selected because a major argument for bio-fuels is that they reduce CO2 emission.

The socio-economic analysis is focused on the local level where socio-economic sustainability is of major importance. Impact at smaller scales, e.g. regional and international scale is not included in the analysis. Also ethical aspects are not part of this thesis.

The analysis of the carbon balance showed that converting forest to Jatropha result in a carbon debt about 30 times larger than convertion from maize to Jatropha. In the first case Jatropha needs to be cultivated for 1900 years to pay back the carbon debt.

The survey found that most farmers prefer to clear forest for Jatropha cultivation instead of using fallow areas because the expected yield is higher on virgin forest soils.


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Thesis cover: Laura Vang (2000): Climate Mitigation Research. [Danish]  3433k v. 5 9 Nov 2010, 08:04 Banana hill Consultants
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Thesis: Laura Vang (2000): Climate Mitigation Research. [Danish]  6840k v. 5 9 Nov 2010, 08:03 Banana hill Consultants
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Magazine article: Laura Vang on Jatropha in Mozambique  295k v. 5 9 Nov 2010, 08:05 Banana hill Consultants
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1. Timothy Searchinger et al. (2008-02-29). "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change". Science 319 (5867): 1238–1240. doi:10.1126/science.1151861. PMID 18258860. Originally published online in Science Express on 7 February 2008.  9 Nov 2010, 08:21 Banana hill Consultants
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