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My guest this week is Frances Seymour, our newest senior fellow at the Center and one of the world’s top authorities on the complex issues at the intersection of tropical forests, development and climate change.
The ability to monitor the status of tropical forests worldwide could be a game-changer in efforts to slow and eventually halt forest clearing. Among the many benefits would be a reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.
Reducing carbon emissions from forest clearing and degradation has become an important part of the international climate agenda. But how can we create incentives to reduce deforestation, and how can we measure success? My guest on this week’s Wonkcast, visiting senior associate Michele de Nevers, tells me that the answers to these questions are more valuable than ever – if we don’t act quickly, our forests will disappear.
David Wheeler, our lead researcher on climate and development, decided recently to retire from CGD, though he will continue to be active in CGD’s intellectual life as our first Senior Fellow Emeritus. Since joining CGD in 2006, David has published more than 20 working papers and launched two path-breaking global databases, Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA), which provides data on the CO2 emissions of more than 50,000 powerplants worldwide, and Forest Monitoring for Action (FORMA), which uses satellite data to provide rapid, high-resolution tracking of tropical deforestation.
We discuss some surprising findings from David’s newly released analysis (Forest Clearing in the Pantropics: December 2005-August 2011) of the FORMA data. There is both good news and bad news. Total forest clearing has dropped during the global recession, but with enormous variation within countries and across regions, he says. For example, there have been large declines in the rate of forest clearing in Brazil, Bolivia, Indonesia, and Paraguay but large increases in Myanmar, Malaysia, Peru, and Venezuela. A companion paper (Economic Dynamics and Forest Clearing) finds that economic factors such as market prices, exchange rates, and interest rates all influence forest clearing. The availability of communications infrastructure such as mobile phones, zoning, rainfall and terrain slope also play a role.
In this short video clip, CGD senior fellows David Wheeler and Arvind Subramanian tell how CGD influenced the World Bank to stop financing coal-burning power plants through the Clean Tech Fund and instead focus on solar thermal power. Drawing on Wheeler’s research, Wheeler and others in CGD engaged directly with senior management at the World Bank, enlisted NGO support, and made the argument for the funding shift in newsletters, blog posts, and Congressional testimony. Watch the film, then learn more about CGD’s work on climate and development.