Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Money doesn’t grow on trees per se…

Posted by Danny Morris on October 22, 2008

Full disclosure: I love the Christian Science Monitor. Not only was it founded by an ornery, possibly crazy old woman and is one of the only newspapers in the country that most of its own reporting instead of relying on wire reports, but it also has a fantastic editorial board. First, they advocated a carbon tax last fall before Congress had even begun seriously discussing cap-and-trade schemes. They dropped another rhetorical gem today, coming out in favor of assigning an monetary value for the world’s forests. Some of the best lines include:

Today, trees are worth more dead than alive. This despite the fact that they stash away billions of tons of carbon in their soil and themselves and constantly inhale more carbon from the atmosphere. They also help regulate the earth’s climate in other ways, influencing rainfall patterns far away, including in the US. And they contain unique plant and animal life, the economic value of which is only beginning to be understood…

If developing countries earned credits for preserving forests, the pace of deforestation might be cut by 75 percent by 2030, the report says. Saving forests, in turn, could reduce the cost of cutting the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions by half…

Talk of adding forest protection into carbon-market schemes does spotlight an important fact: Forests have a value that so far has not been fully reflected in the world economy. Until it is, trees will be cut in favor of other land use.

As you can see, they are talking about climate change and reducing emissions through deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) projects, but there is a less than veiled reference to ecosystem services in the first paragraph of the quote above. Now, the CSM is not exactly the most influential paper in the nation. I, however, think it’s pretty cool that reputable news organizations are discussing REDD and ecosystem services, even in the middle of electoral pandemonium. Speaking of which, if anyone’s looking for a new investment that won’t drop like John McCain’s Intrade value, I have a sandalwood grove in Indonesia to sell you…

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