Azara Blog: The world's forests allegedly not doing that badly

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Date published: 2006/11/14

The BBC says:

A new technique for measuring the state of the world's forests shows the future may not be as bad as previously feared.

An international team of researchers say its Forest Identity study suggests the world could be approaching a "turning point" from deforestation.

The study measures timber volumes, biomass and captured carbon - not just land areas covered by trees.

The findings are being published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The trend is better than previously thought," said Pekka Kauppi, one of the paper's co-authors.
The report also showed a correlation between a nation's economic growth and "forest transition", in other words, a shift from deforestation to net gains in tree cover.

The researchers found that when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita reached $4,600 (£2,400), many nations experienced forest transition and saw an increase in forestry growing stock (volume of useable timber).
But there was a risk that a misleading picture was being created by rich nations importing raw timber or wood-based products from poorer nations, rather than destroying their own woodlands.

"This is a serious problem," Professor Kauppi said. "It is called 'leakage' or 'exporting ecological impacts' and it exists, unfortunately."

The countries where forests are now doing better are rich (e.g. the USA), the countries where forests are doing less well are not rich (e.g. Brazil). So the 'leakage' is exactly the nub of the problem. Rich people are improving their own environment by exporting their environmental problems to poor countries. This is not surprising but is also an indication that things are not as rosy as the report's authors might like to pretend.

This is exactly the reason why the Kyoto Treaty is fundamentally flawed. Europe, for example, can reduce its supposed greenhouse gas emissions, at least as calculated by the Kyoto Treaty, by shutting down its steel plants and instead importing steel from China. Needless to say this is almost certainly a net negative to the world environment and in particular probably leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions (since Chinese plants are almost certainly not as environmentally friendly as European ones, and the steel also has to be shipped around the planet). Well, the eventual strategy of the ruling elite must be to hobble the European economy so much that eventually it can no longer afford to pay China to make steel, and can no longer make steel for itself, i.e. becomes poor. That would reduce Europe's real, rather than supposed, emissions.

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