“The Madre de Dios” by avialpert

Left Intact, Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest Is Worth $8.2 Billion Annually

Brazil recently elected a new president, Jair Bolsonaro, who ran on a platform of climate change denial paired with a vow to increase deforestation of the Amazon rainforest for commercial use. But it’s important to take a look at the possible effects — and costs — of doing so.

While Bolsonaro and other climate deniers might see the Brazilian Amazon rainforest as merely a resource to be leveled for lumber and agricultural land, it turns out that leaving it intact would be a massive boon to the Brazilian economy.

According to an impressive new economic study, if left forested and carefully managed, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil could be worth $8.2 billion USD annually.

This unique analysis painstakingly evaluates the portion of the Amazon rainforest located within Brazil — roughly 60 percent — and examines the potential value that would come from resource exploitation and agriculture, as well as the impact of mass deforestation.

From a short-sighted perspective, using forest land to farm would likely mean a swift boost to the Brazilian economy. However, somewhat ironically, removing the forest would have a severely negative impact on agriculture. Ecologically, the Amazon rainforest is crucial in regulating the regional climate. Without the tree cover, rainfall would decrease dramatically, meaning that new agriculture operations would be made difficult — if not impossible — to maintain at a profit.

Reduced rainfall would also adversely affect hydroelectric power generation in Brazil.

Additionally, the Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role as a CO2 sink. Under REDD — or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, an international agreement which seeks to reduce CO2 emissions globally — countries like Brazil are subsidized to leave their natural carbon sinks untouched. In effect, that conserved forest acts as a meaningful source of income for the Brazilian economy.

But that isn’t to say the Amazon rainforest in Brazil can’t be utilized intelligently. Timber is a significant industry in Brazil — however, were logging operations to focus on reduced impact, they could continue in the long-term without causing permanent damage to the ecosystem.

As the study points out, rapid mass logging combined with periodic natural forest fire damages would swiftly create diminishing returns for the lumber industry, as it will necessarily force loggers to move operations ever further from processing centers.

And, of course, there is money to be made outside of timber, which would dry up with mass deforestation. This includes Brazil nut harvesting and rubber extraction, both industries that play no small role in Brazil’s economy.

Even for those who are unwilling to accept the established science behind carbon emissions and climate change, it is difficult to argue against money. Such realities — that conservation can actually be economically beneficial — are becoming especially difficult to deny.

Originally published at Care2.com on Dec. 7, 2019.

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