Policy Update

First in Science: Burning Wood for Energy Will Worsen Climate Change in Coming Decades

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National

NCEL Point of Contact

Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Manager

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Many people believe that wood is better for the environment compared to coal. However, researchers have found that burning wood will only continue to worsen climate change.

The Study: A group of researchers studied the life cycle of wood used for energy compared to coal. This allowed for an analysis of carbon emissions from tree growth through fuel combustion.

Results & Significance: The researchers determined that wood does not have a smaller carbon footprint than coal. In fact, wood has a lower combustion efficiency and creates more emissions from the supply chain and processing as compared to coal. While trees can be replanted to both sequester carbon and to use for future energy, it takes 44-104 years for a forest to fully regrow, assuming it is not converted into development during that time.

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