Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Copenhagen--The Road Not Taken

The talks broke down, evidently over the unwillingness of the developed nations to subsidize forest preservation in underdeveloped tropical countries.  The price tag seemed too big for any of the delegates to bring home to their legislative bodies. 

Well, there is another way.  The wealthy countries of the world could all agree to impose a 300% tariff on palm oil, tropical hardwoods and beef from the tropics.  According to Al Gore's book, scientists estimate that more than 40% of the excess CO2 that has accumulated in our atmosphere has come from deforestation in past centuries.  Only since 1970 has the consumption of fossil fuels replaced land use as the primary source of excess CO2 emissions.  Right now, we are actually subsidizing palm oil as a biofuel, even though the impact of clearing tropical forests increase emissions more than the biofuel reduces them. 

In the Amazon, 80% of the land that has been deforested is now used for cattle crops.  If we put up barriers to beef importation, that would mean higher prices at McDonalds and other chains.  For most of us, that isn't too much of a sacrifice.   Ranching in the tropics would generally be limited to what is needed for domestic use, and the pressure to clear forests would be proportionately reduced.  And tropical hardwoods are a niche product, quite valuable for some uses, but replaceable with temperate zone woods grown more sustainably. 

No comments:

Post a Comment