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.