Projecting Forest Carbon Stocks to Inform Investments in Climate Change Mitigation

Forests are increasingly recognized as a critical climate solution. They have the ability to serve as a natural carbon bank – they syphon CO2 from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and store it as carbon in the form of living biomass and after harvest in wood products, such as lumber or furniture. Recent studies and reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that the global land use sectors,including forestry, could provide up to a third of the emissions reductions needed to stabilize climate change below 1.5-2.0 degrees C. Governments have already pledged billions of dollars to support land-based climate solutions, including reduced deforestation and improved forest management.

However, while stakeholders plan to continue investing in activities that increase forest carbon storage, future forest carbon stocks under business-as-usual conditions remain highly uncertain. A limited understanding of how forest carbon stocks might grow or decline in the future could lead to mis-informed investment in activities designed to increase forest carbon uptake. For example, if stakeholders want to decrease deforestation to keep carbon stored in natural forest ecosystems, they must start with a basic understanding of how deforestation rates are likely to evolve in their region of interest. Economic modeling frameworks can offer insight into future forest carbon stocks by linking market and policy considerations with biophysical representations of the forest resource base.

My colleagues and I, in collaboration with investigators at The Ohio State University, the University of Idaho, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, have developed a special issue of the Journal of Forest Economics on state-of-the-art approaches for projecting forest carbon stocks . This special issue includes twelve publications from forest resource economists around the world, which offer insights into analytical approaches that link socioeconomic and forest management components to project carbon stocks under different market, policy, and environmental futures. We are confident that this special issue offer practitioners a a better understanding of the importance of forest sector economic models and the range of current options for projecting forest carbon accumulation. Projecting future forest carbon stocks is a critical first step for prioritizing investments in climate mitigation strategies in the land use sectors.

Views expressed in these special issue papers and this blog post are those of the authors alone and do not reflect necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ institutions, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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