QUANTIFICATION OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICE OF THE CARBON IN BRAZIL'S AMAZON FORESTS

Philip M. Fearnside

Abstract


One of the important environmental services of Amazonian forest is carbon storage, which avoids increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and consequent global warming. However, the way that carbon accounting is done can have a large effect on the value attributed to different mitigation measures, such as creation of protected areas, command-and-control operations to inhibit clearing, and planting trees. One difference is an accounting based on stocks versus one based on flows of carbon, such as the “additionality” criterion currently used by the Kyoto Protocol. Another key decision is the value attributed to time by such choices as the time horizon considered and a discount rate for carbon emissions. Additional controversy surrounds the question of how much uncertainty should be allowed in the estimates of carbon benefits from different mitigation options, including avoided deforestation (recently often called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or “REDD”). Estimates of carbon stocks and flows in Amazonia carry considerable uncertainty, but steady progress is being made in reducing it. International negotiations are at a series of critical junctures regarding global commitments to reducing carbon emissions, and the future role of this mitigation effort in helping Brazil reduce its emissions from Amazonian deforestation. This option needs to be used to the maximum extent possible. Otherwise, Brazil runs a serious risk of losing the Amazon forest to deforestation, forest fires and climate change, thereby destroying many environmental services of Amazonian forest that are vital to the country's future.


Keywords


Amazon forest, Avoided deforestation, Carbon, Deforestation, Global warming, Greenhouse effect, REDD.

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