Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Novel Approach to Tropical Deforestation and Pollution

Via Jerry Pournelle comes a link to a story in the LA TImes about the Vatican's new "solution" to balancing their pollution output by building new forests. Inside the story, where you might miss it, is this incredible bit:
The good news is that stopping that destruction -- by purchasing the land outright or paying landowners and others to conserve it -- is a bargain. Because of the low cost of tropical land, protecting these forests can cost as little as $1 per ton of CO2 saved and almost never more than $10 a ton. (For comparison, cleanups based primarily on energy now trade for more than $40 a ton on European markets.)

As a result, the World Bank and others estimate that global deforestation could be completely halted for the relatively tiny sum of $11 billion to $15 billion a year. That one move alone would eliminate 20% of total global warming pollution....

This isn't as pie-in-the-sky as it might seem. Bush already has approved several significant tropical forest conservation projects in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama and elsewhere. With this deal, Bush could legitimately claim that he'd done far more, far sooner, for far less money to stop global warming than either the Kyoto Protocol or the failed congressional climate bill would have.

Eleven or fifteen billion is chump change as far as Federal expenditures go; easily achievable. The benefits -- both poltical and environmental -- are profound. We should explore this idea ASAP.

By the way, last year the US actually decreased its pollution output, and by more than was called for in the now-discredited Kyoto Treaty. New Zealand, meanwhile, is exploring a sheep tax or special dietary additives because they are producing methane (from sheep farts) far in excess of their allowable levels.

Now you know.

I am a serious skeptic of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). It is far, far more likely that solar output variations are responsible for the changes in average temperature around the Earth, and there is solid science to support this. History records the previous variations in the Late Medieval Warming and then the 19th century Little Ice Age.

But the above idea of buying up tropical rainforests shows promise if only in that, should the whole scheme prove wrong-headed, we can simply return the land to private hands and be done with it.

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