PhD Studentship: Land Availability for Greenhouse Gas Removal by Afforestation and Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)

Start date: October 2018

Supervisor: Primary: Dr. Naomi Vaughan

Secondary: Prof. Tim Lenton (Exeter)

Secondary: Prof. Andrew Lovett

Project description: 

To meet the aspirations of the UNFCCC Paris Climate Agreement to limit increases of global mean temperature to well below 2°C, future scenarios assume the large-scale use of afforestation and biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The availability of land and biomass residue streams (e.g. waste material from harvest) are key constraints on the ability to deliver these negative emission technologies at scale, given a context of global dietary trends and the inefficiencies in the global food system.

In this directly-funded NERC PhD you will critically assess the land use and residue stream assumptions used in future scenarios.  You will start by critically examining the land-use scenarios from existing integrated assessment model studies used of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs).  The next stage will involve a global spatial analysis of land-use and residue streams under a range of dietary and food system efficiency scenarios, using historical data and future UN projections of demand for food and other plant and animal products. Within this, the student will explore alternative scenarios of how demand for food and fibre is met and how it translates into land-use, which depends on factors such as crop yield, type of meat consumed, meat production systems and levels of waste within the food system. There will be opportunities to extend the analysis to consider economic trade-offs.
The PhD is part of a four-year NERC consortium project, Feasibility of Afforestation and BECCS for Greenhouse Gas Removal (FAB-GGR), with partner institutions, University of Exeter, University of Manchester and University of Aberdeen.  The student will benefit from participation in the NERC ENVEast Doctoral Training Partnership, the NERC-UKERC ADVENT project PhD training workshops and the PhD researcher network of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Person Specification: 

Acceptable first degree: Geography, Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences, Biological Sciences, Maths and Computing.

The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding notes: 

This NERC studentship is funded for 3 years.  An annual stipend of £14,777 will be available to the successful candidate who meets the UK Research Council eligibility criteria. These requirements are detailed in the RCUK eligibility guide which can be found at In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award. Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award.

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