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Economic Cycles, Deforestation, and REDD+

The latest news from FORMA demonstrates the power of global and regional economic cycles as drivers of deforestation.  My previous post highlighted the rapid growth and spread of forest clearing during the first phase of the global economic recovery.  Fortunately, new clearing has declined sharply since then, as the chart of FORMA's global indicator shows below.  The effectiveness of forest protection may vary somewhat from quarter to quarter, but not nearly enough to explain such pronounced swings. 

Protecting Forests with Global Forest Watch 2.0 – David Wheeler and Nigel Sizer

My guests on this week’s Wonkcast are David Wheeler, senior fellow emeritus at CGD, and Nigel Sizer, director of the Global Forest Project at the World Resources Institute (WRI). They joined me after a presentation for CGD staff of Global Forest Watch 2.0, a real-time forest monitoring system that draws from David’s work on the Forest Monitoring for Action initiative (FORMA) here at CGD.

Streamlining REDD+ to Confront the Growth and Spread of Tropical Forest Clearing

The latest news from FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action) is very bad.  Figure 1 shows that the FORMA index of global forest clearing rose 60% from January, 2007 to October, 2012.  It declined during the economic crisis, from late 2008 to early 2010, but has climbed steadily since then.  To make matters worse, this increase has been accompanied by rapid dispersion of clearing. As Table 1 shows, only Brazil has displayed a significant decline during the past five years.  The FORMA indicator has increased slightly in Indonesia and sharply in other regions of Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.  In January, 2007, Brazil and Indonesia accounted for 77.3% of the global indicator total.  By October, 2012, their share had fallen to 39.4%.

Be Mine: S. 332

Roses are red, violets are blue, here’s a climate change bill for you.

On Valentine’s Day, Senators Boxer and Sanders introduced S. 332, the Climate Protection Act of 2013. Senator Sanders also introduced his Sustainable Energy Act. The outlook for the package isn’t exactly rosy. The bills will have a tough time passing the Senate and would be pretty much DOA in the House.

Climate Talks Deadlock and the Fiscal Cliff Spark Fresh Interest in Carbon Taxes

This is a joint post with Lawrence MacDonald.

What do the stalled climate talks getting underway in Doha, Qatar, this week and the partisan jousting in Washington over the impending “fiscal cliff” have in common? Not much if you get your information from the mainstream media, which has mostly either ignored the idea or poured cold water on it. Below the surface, however, there is fresh interest in the United States in taxing carbon pollution, including from some unexpected quarters. Such a move can’t come soon enough.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index -- David Wheeler

This Wonkcast was originally recorded in April 2011.

Rapid climate change is upon us, and governments, multilateral organizations, and development agencies are preparing to dole out billions of dollars in adaptation assistance. Nevertheless, little research has gone into calculating which countries are most vulnerable to global warming.

On this Wonkcast, I’m joined by David Wheeler, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, who created an index for determining which countries should be prioritized when the money starts to flow. His paper, “Quantifying Vulnerability to Climate Change: Implications for Adaptation Assistance”, provides an index for comparison of cross-country vulnerability to some of the most extreme climate threats. An accompanying map makes it easy to see which countries will be hit hardest.

Hurricane Sandy and Development

Will Hurricane Sandy be the wake-up call that Americans need to finally recognize that rapid climate change is already upon us and the rest of the world?  Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist, told the Los Angeles Times it may be a galvanizing event, “a Cuyahoga River moment for climate change.” The superstorm, Mann says, “has galvanized attention to this issue and the role that climate change may be playing with regard to the intensification of extreme weather.” Cleveland’s Cuyohaga River in

South Korea Wins Green Climate Fund: Now Comes the Hard Part

This is a joint post with Lawrence MacDonald.

In a break with the post-World War II practice of international organizations being headquartered in either Europe or the US, South Korea beat five nations to become the host of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a new entity that may become a key player in international efforts to avert runaway climate change. The GCF interim secretariat announced late last month that Songdo International Business District, a gleaming new satellite city adjacent to South Korea’s main airport, won the competition to host the fund. The decision is expected to be confirmed at the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will get underway in Doha, Qatar, later this month.

Recognizing and Rewarding the Best Development Professionals

This blog post is co-authored with Martin Ravallion, who has been the Director of the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Group for several years and is currently Acting Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the Bank. The blog is cross-posted on the World Bank site here.

These days there is a lot of discussion within development organizations and governments across the globe (including the World Bank) about how to assure a greater emphasis on development impact. It would no doubt help if senior management gave stronger verbal signals on the ultimate goals of the institution, and more actively supported staff to attain those goals. But such “low-powered incentives” have been tried before, and the problems seem to persist.

The Population Problem: Additional Factors in the Equation

Despite major fertility declines that have taken place in recent decades almost all over the world, population growth is far from over. As Ken Weiss points out in a recent five-part series in the Los Angeles Times, the adverse effects of population growth are well documented and wide ranging. But population reduction through fertility declines may also have unintended consequences if proper policies aren’t in place early on.

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