Umm, Really?

One is forests, which are disappearing at an alarming rate and which act as “sinks” for carbon dioxide.

Rich world forests are expanding, as they have been for near a century. It\’s a distinction that\’s worth making: perhaps those disappearing tropical ones are going because those countries are not rich?

And if that is so then the solution is to aid them in becoming rich so that forest cover returns, as it has done in the rich countries?

11 thoughts on “Umm, Really?”

  1. I’m in favour of paying them not to destroy the forests. Destroying a forest in order to become rich so you can regrow forest cover is not only silly it doesn’t have the same value – regrowing biodiversity takes a very long time.

    Also, note that inequality matters: so long as signifigant numbers of people in Brazil are not rich, it’s economically worthwhile for them to destroy rainforest.

    De-tariffing would probably help, but removing tariffs on e.g. beef and mahogany is going to destroy forest in the short term.

  2. Britain was more or less covered in trees a thousand years or two ago, which we cheerfully chopped down for farmland, because food is more important. It seems a tad churlish to whine about the Brazilians doing it now. Ditto wolves/bears/boars in Europe and tigers in India.

  3. ‘it’s economically worthwhile for them to destroy rainforest’.

    I read a study some time ago (but haven’t been able to find it since, so maybe it’s rubbish) that calculated the real cost of deforestation in the Asian countries it dealt with. It took the long terms costs of pollution, altered rainfall patterns, erosion, lost tourist revenue, disease, and rather a lot of other factors into account. The result was always a considerable net loss, regardless of the short-term profit, but the problem was making local populations understand this since poor people – usually – want quick solutions. The whole carbon-dioxide thing is not something the average peasant in Madagascar or Brazil is going to care about, but the other just might be.

  4. Mark Wadsworth: I thought the oak forests were chopped down to make ships for the English navy? Or is that a story for children?

    And as regards wild boar – you haven’t been in the south of France lately. Since boar sausage, ham and bacon sells for premium prices, but boar have small litters, some bright person thought it would be a great idea to cross wild boar with domestic pigs, which have large litters. The result is interesting, given that even a small family of wild boar – now plentiful – can make a lawn look almost like a freshly plowed field.

  5. Mark,

    While I generally agree with you on everything, on this we differ.

    I think we would have been better off if we’d kept a bit more of our ancient forest, its almost entirely gone now, and as another poster pointed out you don’t simply grow a new forest, it takes hundreds/thousands of years for that kind of biodiversity to come about.

    So we took it too far, and we should point out to others that we made a mistake and they might not want to emulate that mistake perhaps.

    I don’t think that’s churlish, and I’d be happy to contribute to these countries if we could be sure it actually stopped them burning down their rainforests…

    Zorro.

  6. Actually it turns out that the rainforests are not disappearing, any more than polar bears are.

    Prof. Lomborg will provide the facts, if you do your own googling.

  7. Forests don’t act as a ‘sink’ for CO2, either. When the trees die and decay the sequestered carbon is converted back to CO2 . The only way to permanently remove the carbon is to cut down the trees and convert the wood to furniture or something similar.

  8. “I thought the oak forests were chopped down to make ships for the English navy? Or is that a story for children?” Yup, for children and belle-lettriste historians.

  9. BlacquesJacquesShellacques

    “Destroying a forest in order to become rich so you can regrow forest cover is not only silly …”

    Why? It’s like borrowing money and in the course of growing rich paying it back.

    “regrowing biodiversity takes a very long time”

    I am not aware of any shred of evidence for this statement, unless ‘very long time’ means ‘since I was a child’. Can you provide some?

    “I think we would have been better off if we’d kept a bit more of our ancient forest”

    Why? How much would you pay? Actual expenditures are the only true measure of real wants, real desires, real opinions, as opposed to politically correct bletherings. How much have you contributed the something-or-other-society for the preservation of ancient big-arsed trees?

    I live in Western Canada. Unlike Brits, we have ancient forests. Less than 40 k from my BC cabin there is a stand of 400 year old black cottonwoods, at Morissey BC. The property owner, a local forest products company was pressured into ‘preserving’ them and putting a walkway through them. Very few visitors, mostly young people intent on fertilizing the cottonwoods with used condoms and beer cans. I have walked through three times on nice summer days and never seen another visitor.

    Those who want ancient forests should buy them.

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