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Title: A causal analysis framework for land-use change and the potential role of bioenergy policy

Here we propose a causal analysis framework to increase the reliability of land-use change (LUC) models and the accuracy of net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions calculations for biofuels. The health-sciences-inspired framework is used here to determine probable causes of LUC, with an emphasis on bioenergy and deforestation. Calculations of net GHG emissions for LUC are critical in determining whether a fuel qualifies as a biofuel or advanced biofuel category under national (U.S., U.K.), state (California), and European Union regulations. Biofuel policymakers and scientists continue to discuss whether presumed indirect land-use change (ILUC) estimates, which often involve deforestation, should be included in GHG accounting for biofuel pathways. Current estimates of ILUC for bioenergy rely largely on economic simulation models that focus on causal pathways involving global commodity trade and use coarse land cover data with simple land classification systems. ILUC estimates are highly uncertain, partly because changes are not clearly defined and key causal links are not sufficiently included in the models. The proposed causal analysis framework begins with a definition of the change that has occurred and proceeds to a strength-of-evidence approach based on types of epidemiological evidence including plausibility of the relationship, completeness of the causal pathway, spatial co-occurrence,more » time order, analogous agents, simulation model results, and quantitative agent response relationships.Lastly, we discuss how LUC may be allocated among probable causes for policy purposes and how the application of the framework has the potential to increase the validity of LUC models and resolve ILUC and biofuel controversies.« less
ORCiD logo [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [2] ;  [5] ;  [2]
  1. Norwegian Univ. of Life Sciences (NMBU), As (Norway). School of Economics and Business
  2. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  3. Norwegian Univ. of Life Sciences (NMBU), As (Norway)
  4. Vrije Univ. Amsterdam, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  5. Biomass Research (Netherlands)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Grant/Contract Number:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Land Use Policy
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 59; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0264-8377
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Bioenergy Technologies Office (EE-3B)
Country of Publication:
United States
09 BIOMASS FUELS; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Indirect land-use change; biofuel; drivers; attribution; causation; greenhouse gas emissions; deforestation