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Environment

Brazilian ethanol could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5%

LÉO RAMOS CHAVES Computer model determines that sugarcane cultivation could be increased without affecting areas under environmental protection or reserved for food productionLÉO RAMOS CHAVES

Brazil could contribute to a 5.6% reduction in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions before 2045 by significantly increasing its sugarcane cultivation for ethanol production in areas not under environmental protection or reserved for food production (Nature Climate Change, October 23). This level of impact would be possible if the country were to invest in the development of drought-resistant sugarcane varieties and new processes for obtaining second-generation ethanol. The findings were made by an international research group, including Brazilian biologist Marcos Buckeridge, at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Biosciences (IB-USP). They created a computer model capable of projecting sugarcane growth under different climate change scenarios, considering factors associated with the plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis and grow, and the characteristics of the soil in different regions of the country. The model also used data on land that cannot be used for sugarcane cultivation and the production of key food crops in Brazil. It estimated that approximately 116 million hectares of land could be converted to sugarcane production nationwide, especially in the south and southeast of the country. Many of these areas are currently underused or not used at all. Free-range cattle farming, for example, occupies large areas that could be used for planting sugarcane. According to the authors of the study, there are also forest regions not under environmental protection that could legally be used for the production of biofuel.