Impacts of the production and consumption of biofuels on stratospheric ozone



[1] Biofuels are becoming increasingly popular sources of renewable energy as economic pressures and environmental consequences encourage the use of alternatives to fossil fuels. However, growing crops destined for use as biofuels incurs large N2O emissions associated with the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Besides being a greenhouse gas, N2O is also the primary source of stratospheric NOx (NO + NO2) which leads to stratospheric ozone depletion. In this paper, the potential effects on the ozone layer of a large-scale shift away from fossil fuel use to biofuels consumption over the 21st century are examined. Under such a scenario, global-mean column ozone decreases by 2.6 DU between 2010 and 2100 in contrast to a 0.7 DU decrease under a control simulation (the IPCC SRES B1 scenario for greenhouse gases) and a 9.1 DU increase under the more commonly used SRES A1B scenario. Two factors cause the decrease in ozone in the biofuels simulation: 1) large N2O emissions lead to faster rates of the ozone-depleting NOx cycles and; 2) reduced CO2 emissions (due to less fossil fuel burning) lead to relatively less stratospheric cooling over the 21st century, which decreases ozone abundances. Reducing CO2 emissions while neglecting to reduce N2O emissions could therefore be damaging to the ozone layer.