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Radiative Forcing Impacts of Boreal Forest Biofuels: A Scenario Study for Norway in Light of Albedo

Ryan Matthew Bright, Anders Hammer Strømman, Glen Peters

Radiative forcing impacts due to increased harvesting of boreal forests for use as transportation biofuel in Norway are quantified using simple climate models together with life cycle emission data, MODIS surface albedo data, and a dynamic land use model tracking carbon flux and clear-cut area changes within productive forests over a 100-year management period. We approximate the magnitude of radiative forcing due to albedo changes and compare it to the forcing due to changes in the carbon cycle for purposes of attributing the net result, along with changes in fossil fuel emissions, to the combined anthropogenic land use plus transport fuel system. Depending on albedo uncertainty and uncertainty about the geographic distribution of future logging activity, we report a range of results, thus only general conclusions about the magnitude of the carbon offset potential due to changes in surface albedo can be drawn. Nevertheless, our results have important implications for how forests might be managed for mitigating climate change in light of this additional biophysical criterion, and in particular, on future biofuel policies throughout the region. Future research efforts should be directed at understanding the relationships between the physical properties of managed forests and albedo, and how albedo changes in time as a result of specific management interventions.

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