Over half of all wood harvested worldwide is used as fuel, supplying ~9% of global primary energy. By depleting stocks of woody biomass, unsustainable harvesting can contribute to forest degradation, deforestation and climate change. However, past efforts to quantify woodfuel sustainability failed to provide credible results. The researchers present a spatially explicit assessment of pan-tropical woodfuel supply and demand, calculate the degree to which woodfuel demand exceeds regrowth, and estimate woodfuel-related greenhouse-gas emissions for the year 2009.

The authors analyzed the dynamics of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from household fuel use in sub-Saharan Africa from 2000 to 2050. The scenarios included a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, in which fuel consumption and tree-harvesting practices change little except through population growth and urbanization, and large-scale shifts to charcoal- and petroleum-based fossil fuels.