Sunday, April 19, 2009
A Cheap, Natural Way of Cutting Greenhouse Gas
Keeping tropical forests from being cut down isn't cheap, but it's affordable -- and it might be humanity's best short-term climate change solution.
In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of economists and ecologists calculated a price of keeping CO2-gobbling tropical forests intact.
That's only the first step in conserving them, but it's an important one.
"Nobody knew how expensive or cheap it would be," said study co-author Brent Sohngen, an agricultural economics professor at Ohio State University. "Our results say it's a relatively cheap option compared to storage in deep geological wells, or trying to transform the energy economy. That's a good option in the long run, but expensive in the short term. This is a good option in the near future."
Sohngen's team calculated the costs of paying landowners to say their chainsaws using three different estimates of tropical forest area and carbon sequestration potential.
Slowing deforestation by 10% over the next twenty years would cost between $0.4 billion and $1.7 billion annually, and save about half a gigaton of CO2 yearly. A 50% deforestation drop would cost between $17 and $30 billion, and save more than two gigatons of CO2 each year -- about one-third of total United States greenhouse gas emissions.
The Painting is by Henri Rousseau