Last Updated on December 13, 2021 by admin
The forestry industry advocates for increased use of wood in construction, to substitute for energy-intensive concrete, and increased use of bioenergy to substitute for fossil fuel. They refer to a modelling study which shows positive substitution effects – but the scenarios compared in that paper start from a business-as-usual assumption, for example, consumption of paper products remains the same. In addition, the difference between concrete and wood building is small and dependent on a number of factors. Under such circumstances other variables like biodiversity should weigh in more, and, in fact all human activity has to take place with the boundaries set by the global ecosystem.
It is easy to believe that we have automatically gained something by converting to more energy- and resource-efficient processes. However, according to Jevon’s paradox, the total energy and resource use often increases as a result of increased efficiency, because the energy or materials that are freed up are used for other purposes. An economic modelling study finds that the ratio between gross domestic product and CO2 release can even be reduced by increased energy efficiency (that is, the CO2 per unit of money increases). Similar conclusions have been drawn based on analysis of historic data from the US and six European countries. We have to find a way to circumvent Jevon’s paradox and not let reduced energy usage go to other consumption – this holds for housing and construction as well obviously. Much of the building boom in Sweden (in the 21st century) is due to people relocating from rural to urban areas. We should question whether it is reasonable from a climate and environmental point of view to abandon houses and buildings in the countryside and build new ones in cities.
Because of Jevon’s paradox (supported by empirical data) it is not unlikely that increased building using wood constructions only has limited impact on building in concrete, or in other words, that construction in both wood and concrete will increase even more, with large negative climate impacts. Similarly, an increased supply of biofuels does not automatically offset usage of fossil fuels since an increase in supply will lead to higher usage.