Review of Chatham House Report: Woody Biomass for Power and Heat - Impacts on the Global Climate

Lead Author: Dr. Jim Bowyer

Publish date: 10.16.2017

 

The February 17, 2017 Chatham House research paper Woody Biomass for Power and Heat - Impacts on the Global Climate is the subject of this detailed research review prepared by Dovetail Partners.  This review seeks to highlight many substantive challenges associated with the analysis and conclusions of the paper.

 

Examination of the paper in the context of contemporary research findings reveals:

  • A negative bias against use of bioenergy as shown in numerous selective assumptions,
  • Selective use of available research material, and
  • Dismissal of the findings of well-respected scientists and natural resource agencies.


In conducting this review, we have compared statements and conclusions with applicable peer-reviewed and published research germane to both the topic and region of focus, taking into account research cited within the paper. We have also broadly examined the findings of government agencies vis-à-vis environmental implications of biomass energy harvesting – agencies from which only limited research findings are reported in the Chatham House paper.

 

In the supporting Appendix of the review, we highlight erroneous or incompletely researched statements and findings in each of six major areas, and recorded observations on other matters worthy of comment.


Section 1: Misleading references to ‘old-growth’ forests and trees in the context of bioenergy production,


Section 2: Misinterpretation of scientific findings regarding growth rates of forest stands as they age,


Section 3: Lack of recognition of forest landowner response to market signals,


Section 4: Misunderstanding of the purpose of small tree removal in forest thinning operations and the role
of thinning in forest stand management,


Section 5: Commentary regarding ‘carbon debt’ which appears to reflect incomplete understanding of
associated scientific literature,


Section 6: Use of worst case assumptions regarding emissions from biomass-to-energy facilities, and


Section 7: Other Issues impacting credibility and accuracy.


In each of these sections we have identified errors or omissions which have led, in-turn, to erroneous conclusions in the paper. In each section we have provided commentary and additional citations with the objective of supporting a more complete and accurate research-based evaluation of the role of woody biomass in power and heat generation.