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Jonah Busch, a former Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, worked at CGD from 2013-2018 on the science, economics, and politics of tropical forests and climate change. In 2018 he joined Earth Innovation Institute as Chief Economist.
Dr. Busch has published more than twenty articles on climate, forests, and biodiversity in academic journals including Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Land Economics, and Environmental Research Letters. He is the co-author of the book Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change. He has also published on the economics of penguins, pandas, and surfers.
Busch has advised on the design of climate and forest finance mechanisms for governments and institutions including the President of Guyana, the governments of Indonesia, Norway, Bolivia, and California, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Global Environment Facility, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and Green Climate Fund. He serves on the editorial board of Conservation Letters and the advisory board for Carbon180.
Busch has been a lecturer (adjunct professor) at Columbia University's Earth Institute; a visiting scholar at Zhejiang University and University of California-Berkeley; Climate and Forest Economist at Conservation International; and a high school math teacher in the Peace Corps (Burkina Faso, ‘00-‘02). He speaks French, Spanish, Indonesian, Mooré, and Mandarin Chinese with varying degrees of proficiency and has traveled in more than seventy-five countries.
Unless the world acts to reduce deforestation, an area the size of India will be cleared by 2050. That is the stark finding of a new CGD paper by Jonah Busch and Jens Engleman. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by that level of destruction is equivalent to “running 44,000 American coal-fired power plants for a year,” says Busch in this CGD Podcast.
WASHINGTON – The Center for Global Development (CGD) released a working paper today showing that tropical forests – whose preservation is thought to be one of the quickest, most affordable way to mitigate climate change – will disappear faster than we thought.
If the world doesn’t act:
By 2050, an area of tropical forest the size of India will have been cleared – 289 million hectares, or roughly one-third the size of the United States.
By 2050, we’ll burn through one-sixth of our remaining carbon budget – the amount of emissions we have left in order to keep global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, thus avoiding dangerous climate change, according to the UN.
Using the most sophisticated satellite imagery available to study tropical forest data from more than 100 countries, CGD research fellow and environmental economist Jonah Busch and research associate Jens Engelmann have projected a pattern of deforestation more dire than previous research suggested. Their findings show emissions from deforestation will climb steadily through the 2020s and 2030s before accelerating around 2040.
Much of the devastation the research predicts can be avoided if the world puts a price on carbon, either through taxes, payments for emissions reductions or a combination of both.
VIDEO: Jonah Busch Explains Carbon Pricing
Three ways the world can act:
International carbon payments. If rich countries pay tropical countries for keeping forests standing, rich countries fight climate change more cheaply while tropical countries receive a new, green source of income that could be used to alleviate poverty.
Carbon prices. If developing countries introduce a price of $20-per-ton of carbon dioxide on deforestation, emissions would drop by more than 20 percent by 2020; a $50-per-ton price would cut emissions nearly in half by 2050.
Restrictive policies on deforestation. If developing countries introduce restrictive policies on deforestation backed by satellite monitoring and law enforcement, they can have a drastic impact on emissions (Brazil imposed restrictions on deforestation in the Amazon, and as a result, deforestation fell by 80% within a decade while soy and cattle production rose).
“Conserving tropical forests is a bargain,” explained Busch. “Reducing emissions from tropical deforestation costs about a fifth as much as reducing emissions in the European Union.”
"The Paris climate agreement needs to provide funding and other resources to stop tropical deforestation,” said Engelmann. “A climate agreement without robust action on forests will simply not be enough."
About the Center for Global Development
CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action. Learn more at www.cgdev.org.
An area of tropical forest the size of India will be deforested in the next 35 years, burning through more than one-sixth of the remaining carbon that can be emitted if global warming is to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius (the “planetary carbon budget”), but many of these emissions could be cheaply avoided by putting a price on carbon.
Join us for a Tweet chat with @jonahbusch Thursday, August 27, at 10 a.m. EDT. #CGDchat
President Elect Donald Trump committed his first major personnel act on climate Wednesday, picking Scott Pruitt—Oklahoma Attorney General, climate change denier, and oil industry ally—to head the Environmental Protection Agency. If Pruitt is confirmed to the position, he will be responsible for looking out for not just for narrow oil interests, but all Americans. Maybe he’ll be persuaded to take a more forward-looking stance on climate by the Americans already suffering from sea level rise in Alaska, Florida, and Louisiana. But if that doesn’t concern him, perhaps the United States losing international goodwill and influence to an ascendant China will.
This paper presents an overview of the state of measurement and monitoring capabilities for forests in the context of REDD+ needs, with a focus on what is currently possible, where improvements are needed, and what capabilities will be advanced in the near-term with new technologies already under development.
Here at the Center for Global Development we’re concerned with how the practices of rich countries affect developing countries. So with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visiting President Obama this week, it’s a natural time to ask, who gets invited to White House State Dinners and who gets left out in the cold? It turns out that Europe and Latin America get wined and dined, while Sub-Saharan Africa has gotten snubbed. So, for that matter, has Southeast Asia.
Tropical forests help people live safer, healthier, and more productive lives in many ways, not least by reducing climate change. In fact, tropical forests contribute to achieving more than half of the 17 sustainable development goals agreed by world leaders in 2015.
More electricity. Fewer cases of diarrhea. Fewer lives lost to deadly storms. These are among the objectives of the development planners and financiers meeting next week in Washington at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings.