The environmental impacts of a large-scale transition to timber cities

A new article published in Nature Communications analyses the impacts of timber construction as a climate change mitigation tool.

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Timber building
Photo: Unsplash

Researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) carried out a study on the building sector’s transition towards bioeconomy in an article titled “Land use change and carbon emissions of a transformation to timber cities“. Using an open-source earth system model, the authors investigated the global and regional impacts of increased demand for engineered wood on land use and associated CO2 emissions up to 2100.

The use of engineered wood for construction is often proposed as a climate change mitigation tool. The authors addressed the uncertainty of how to meet this additional demand for wood building materials by analysing the consequences. The conclusion is that accommodating 90% of the people moving into urban areas in newly constructed mid-rise urban buildings with timber structures would save 106 Gt of additional CO2 by 2100.

To support this scenario, it is necessary to expand forest plantations to 149 Mha by 2100. Moreover, harvests from unprotected natural forests will also increase. The expansion of timber plantations would not have a major impact on agricultural production. However, strong governance and careful planning are vital to carry out this transition to timber cities in a sustainable manner.

Read the full publication

Reference:

Mishra, A., Humpenöder, F., Churkina, G. et al. 2022. Land use change and carbon emissions of a transformation to timber cities. Nature Communication 13, 4889. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-32244-w