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Study Projects Climate Mitigation Across Socioeconomic Pathways in U.S. Forest and Agriculture

Researchers’ projections provide “what-if” scenarios to aid policymakers designing future climate change mitigation programs and policies


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new study published in the Journal of Forest Economics, by co-authors from the nonprofit research institute RTI International, project the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential from U.S. agriculture and forestry across a range of socioeconomic futures.


This research has been conducted in collaboration with experts from RTI, Environmental Protection Agency, North Carolina State University Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, University of Idaho College of Natural Resources, and Texas A&M University College Department of Agricultural Economics. These findings have the potential to be of great import to the scientific and policy communities working on GHG abatement from the land use sector as part of efforts to achieve our country’s climate change goals.

“Shedding light on the interactions between alternative socioeconomic narratives and mitigation policy incentives, stakeholders working on climate mitigation can better prioritize outreach, investment, and targeted policies for reducing emissions from and storing more carbon in these land use systems,” said Christopher Wade, RTI research economist, Ph.D. student at NC State University, and project lead.

Through this economic modeling, researchers found that land-based climate change mitigation strategies — such as reforestation and improved forest management — are critical components of limiting warming above 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Additionally, policy-based incentives and forest product demand growth via strong markets have the potential to increase carbon sequestration across the U.S. forest and agriculture sectors.

This research highlights the importance of considering alternative future scenario assumptions — represented by shared socioeconomic pathways (SSP) that reflect a wide range of plausible socioeconomic and geopolitical futures and different carbon policy assumptions — which can directly impact the greenhouse gas mitigation potential of the US forest and agriculture sectors.

"Our results can help decision-makers identify opportunities for greenhouse gas mitigation investments in forestry and agricultural systems," said study co-author Justin Baker, associate professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University. “The findings can also help us understand how mitigation costs might change over time with different economic conditions.”

Visit the Journal of Forest Economics to view the full study.