A Sticky Problem
I’m the first to admit I can be a vindictive, petty prick; I really do want to see companies suffer if they’ve knowingly skirted legalities, suppressed science to increase profits, and lied about it all through slick marketing campaigns, and I want to see traditionally dirty industries cleaned up. That said, if I can see the benefit of allowing nations and companies to pay their way out of decreasing their emissions, why didn’t the Europeans?
The problem, as always, arises once we consider the economics. The editorial uses the example of an acre of rainforest being worth $250 when converted to crops but $2,000 when used as a carbon sink. What happens after ten or so years of slowing deforestation, though, when the drumbeat of impending global warming doom has dulled and the prices of mahogany and bananas have risen 1,000%? Then will forest acreage be worth more than $2,000? What if it’s on a waterway, offering easy access to growing populations (we’ll be pushing 8 billion by that point) in need of food, work, and escape from crushing megalopoli? I’m not backing out of my support for the idea, just pointing out that if we are lucky enough to implement it, we’ll need to stay very diligent, taking action to minimize the decrease in its impact as long as it will be useful. Some things we'll have to do will include:
- Devalue some forest products (wood, especially exotic woods)
- Value sustainable products (fair trade coffee and other sustainable agriculture, ecotourism, medicine research, carbon sink service)
- Implement a policing system to ensure compliance (You think getting Pakistan to fight the Taliban was expensive? Try getting Indonesia or Brazil to crack down on every illegal logger. That $2,000 per acre could disappear pretty quickly.)
- Implement a carbon-negative economy before the value of carbon sinks drops enough to make sense to mow them down again.
Again, having the safety valve of paying fines if standards can’t or won’t be met is a needed step, and I applaud Congress for including it (even if it is due to a backroom deal with lobbyists - not that it is, I just wouldn’t be surprised). But it’s only the beginning of a very long, very complex fight.