The earth is on track to lose approximately 289 million hectares (715 million acres) of tropical forest by 2050—that’s an area the size of India, or four times the US state of Texas.
A new analysis by the Center for Global Development suggests this tropical deforestation is bound to happen ”in the absence of new forest conservation policies,” and will release a staggering 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That effectively blows through one-sixth of the world’s carbon budget, if we want to keep the rise in Earth’s temperature within 2℃.
Tropical forests—including rainforests, cloud forests, and open woodlands—are increasingly cut down to make room for farms, pastures, roads, and urban dwellings, and to harvest timber for construction or fuel.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can find a way to limit deforestation, it is ”a cheap way to fight climate change,” CDG researcher Jonah Busch told Reuters. By far the best way, he suggests with his study co-author Jens Engelmann, is by putting a price on carbon emissions.
A carbon price of $20 per ton would be “a bargain,” compared to other measures of cutting emissions around the world, Busch writes in a blog post. Carbon pricing is currently in place in only a few locales, including the European Union and California, but cutting the same amount of emissions from tropical deforestation would be much cheaper:
Alternatively, he says, more tropical countries could follow Brazil’s lead and implement strict restrictions on land users in order to prevent deforestation. Though it hasn’t been easy, Brazil has effectively reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 75% since 2005, even while increasing the amount of food it produces.