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November 14, 2006

Forests and Carbon Emissions

One of the commenters here, Teme, put me onto a very nice paper about forests, their growth and so on. I'm waiting to find out whether the full paper is stil embargoed before posting it up  or discussing it in great detail but....

One fascinating piece of information is that in all countries with average GDP over $4,600 forest cover is growing. In those below, it isn't 'big business' cutting them down. It's a combination of poverty and population pressure that does it. Poor people clearing a patch to grow runty corn, as I've intimated before.

The solutions seem to be increasing the efficiency of agriculture, thus reducing the pressure for more farmland (Hellooooo GM!), increased urbanisation and industrialisation, thus drawing labour away from susbsitence peasantry (Helloooooo FDI and the Multi- Nationals!) and getting that average GDP up (Hellooooo Trade and Globalisation!).

What makes this all so important of course is that as the Stern Review points out, land use changes (mainly deforestation) are responsible for some 36% (or is it 38%?) of emissions, more than the entire global transport sector.

So, if you are at all interested in climate change, worried about the effects, there are some simple things we can do. Encourage GM crops in the Third World, buy products from the Third World, encourage industrialisation in the Third World, help them get rich past that magic $4,600 number.

Why, perhaps you might even go a touristing in poor countries: the emissions from your plane are a vastly smaller problem than the forest clearances your money handed over in that country will stop.

How could you possibly oppose any of these? You want Bangladesh to drown? For shame.

Update: Dim Timmy. The embargo was yesterday. Download pnas_article.pdf

November 14, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink


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Tracked on Nov 17, 2006 10:41:46 AM


The evidence on reforestation in developed countries is irrefutable. Exhibit 1 is the regrowth of forests east of the Mississippi. Exhibit 2 is a comparison of wooodcuts of landscapes in Germany during the Thirty Years War with the same landscapes today. They are unrecognizable because of the modern-day forest cover.

Posted by: Jim | Nov 14, 2006 11:30:03 PM

And I am not the same Jim as commented on that Monbiot article. Not at all.

Posted by: Jim | Nov 14, 2006 11:38:51 PM

I think you've missed Mexico ... it's the end of my day and I'm tired .. the GDP is over $4,600 yet forests are being cut for lumber and the country is being deforested.
I'll go to the INEGI website and see if I can find the information.
What's the GDP of Argentina? I'd taken it for granted that they were losing temperate forest to GM Soya bean crops following the model of "poorer" Brazil.
What's the GDP of Chile?

Posted by: Steven | Nov 15, 2006 1:50:05 AM

Ok I've had a quick look.

And the 3 countries I mention off the top of my head have higher gdp's AND deforestation.

mexico GDP 10,000+ and deforestation at 1.1% per year(2001). And then various sources have deforestation increasing.
"Mexico’s forests are a major source of natural resources, home to 10 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. However, demand for agricultural lands has resulted in the clearing of large forested areas. Loss of forest cover in Mexico is estimated at 631 000 ha per annum, equivalent to an annual deforestation rate of 1.1 percent (FAO, 2001)."

Chile GDP $11,500+.
for the 1990-2005 interval, Chile lost 9.8% of its forest and woodland habitat. Here it's alittle more complex because the natural habitat may have been replaced by plantation and mono cultures.

Agentina $13,700+
More Soy, Less Forest - and No Water

BUENOS AIRES, Mar 17 (IPS) - In the Argentine province of Córdoba, the prosperity of the countryside stands in stark contrast to an increasingly bleak outlook for the environment.

The district has the highest deforestation rate in the country and there are numerous areas already suffering water shortages due to the climate changes caused by the felling of the forests, according to environmentalists.

Deforestation in Argentina

Argentina is the second largest country in South America. It is also one of the 25 most biodiverse country in the world. Argentina is home to several types of indigenous forests. Nevertheless, the rate at which these forests are being deforested is alarming.

In the start of the 20th century, Argentina had 100 million hectares of forests but now it has reduced to 20 million hectares half of which are still being degraded. The major cause of deforestation in Argentina is logging by foreign and national companies, transportation projects, and establishment of pulpwood and carbon-silk monoculture tree plantation.

Posted by: Steven | Nov 16, 2006 10:39:54 PM