The importance of agricultural yield elasticity for indirect land use change: a Bayesian network analysis for robust uncertainty quantification
Journal of Land Use Science, 2020
Oliver Perkins and James D. A. Millington
A major barrier to realising biofuels’ climate change mitigation potential is uncertainty concerning carbon emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC). Central to this uncertainty is the extent to which yields can respond dynamically to increased demand for agricultural commodities. This study examines the elasticity of soybean and corn yields in the USA for 1990–2017 using Bayesian network models to robustly quantify uncertainty. The central finding is that a single parameter value for yield elasticity does not adequately represent the effects of technology, policy and price pressures through time. The models demonstrate the limiting role of technological progress as well as farmers’ capital investment in response to system shocks. Results suggest evaluation of parameter uncertainty alone is unlikely to capture a full range of future ILUC scenarios and reiterate the need for ILUC studies to use probabilistic approaches as standard to robustly inform climate change mitigation policies.