Energy prices will play an important role in determining global land use in the twenty first century

By Jevgenijs Steinbuks1, Tom Hertel1

1. Purdue University

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Global land use research to date has focused on quantifying uncertainty effects of three major drivers affecting competition for land: the uncertainty in energy and climate policies affecting competition between food and biofuels, the uncertainty of climate impacts on agriculture and forestry, and the uncertainty in the underlying technological progress driving efficiency of food, bioenergy and timber production. The market uncertainty in fossil fuel prices has received relatively less attention in the global land use literature. Petroleum and natural gas prices affect both the competitiveness of biofuels and the cost of nitrogen fertilizers. High prices put significant pressure on global land supply and greenhouse gas emissions from terrestrial systems, while low prices can moderate demands for cropland.

The goal of this letter is to assess and compare the effects of these core uncertainties on the optimal profile for global land use and land-based GHG emissions over the coming century. The model that we develop integrates distinct strands of agronomic, biophysical and economic literature into a single, intertemporally consistent, analytical framework, at global scale. Our analysis accounts for the value of land-based services in the production of food, first- and second-generation biofuels, timber, forest carbon and biodiversity. We find that long-term uncertainty in energy prices dominates the climate impacts and climate policy uncertainties emphasized in prior research on global land use.



The authors thank Joshua Elliott for providing us DSSAT crop yield simulation data, David Lobell, and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and suggestions. We appreciate the financial support from the National Science Foundation, grant 0951576 'DMUU: Center for Robust
Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy'. IOP Publishing acknowledges that the article was produced with funding from the US Government and the author's obligation to give the US Government non-exclusive use of the article to the extent required under the US Government award.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Jevgenijs Steinbuks; Tom Hertel (2014), "Energy prices will play an important role in determining global land use in the twenty first century,"

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