How to stop the burning of the rainforests
Mongabay brings more news of a plan to compensate countries that still have tropical carbon sinks to keep them. An earlier post I did on this topic can be found here. Indonesia’s minister of the environment tells us:
Preserving our forest means we can’t exploit it for our economic benefits. We can’t build roads or mines.
Which is true. We can’t just ask them not to do it.
But we make an important contribution to the world by providing oxygen.
Which isn’t true. The minister of the environment appears to think that there is a global oxygen shortage. Interestingly enough, this non-existent oxygen shortage was also mentioned in this post. But then, who am I to poke fun at the ignorance of a high ranking government official when our highest-ranking one makes this guy look like a rocket scientist?
In case you missed the news, Europe is starting to rethink this biofuel business. By burning its carbon sinks, Indonesia has become the third biggest contributor to global warming. This is a situation where buying carbon credits could do more to slow CO2 emissions than all of the other schemes combined, and it could also have an immediate effect. Our farm subsidies could reduce global warming by 20% by this time next year if they were used to stop the destruction of rainforests instead of buy votes for Corn Belt politicians. Maybe our politicians are not as serious about this whole global warming thing as they want us to believe.
This idea would have to be done right. If all we did was send a billion-dollar check to the Indonesian department of the environment in exchange for a signed document, the money would disappear into Swiss bank accounts and the forests would continue to burn. Ideally, a scheme that would motivate these governments to invest this money in their own economy would be put together. Sudan is an example of what can happen when money is pumped into a third world country without a plan to put it to good use.
Indonesia would also have to use this money to create an effective park ranger system, as has been done in many African game parks. The money would have to be dispersed in a way that would create an incentive to protect the parks. Basically, the only system that would work is one that withheld payments for failure to protect the rainforests (essentially becoming penalties for failing to protect them). Another problem would be the inevitable extortion attempts. It is human nature to quickly adjust to newfound wealth (raises or what have you) and want more. I can almost see it. “We will commence burning forests until you increase the payments.” Figuring out how the money would be forced from the hands of the power brokers into a middle class is what we have economists for.
I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes writing about this stuff feels like a big joke. Our president asks for an additional 100 billion to continue his war, our politicians stand united in support of billions in corn ethanol subsidies, and all the while, the rainforests burn.