Carbon ranching is a way to protect rainforests, which inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen to help cool the planet. At present, these woodlands are threatened by logging, mining, cattle production and, increasingly, sugar and palm oil plantations to fuel growing demand for ethanol. In fact, destruction of the world’s tropical forests now contributes more to global warming than China’s well-publicized industrial-pollution surge.
A pledge to help poorer nations reduce carbon emissions caused by slashing and burning their forests was in the final communiqué issued at the Group of 8 summit in Germany. The Bush administration has financed some tropical forest conservation projects in the past. Now, as Congress energetically debates new climate-change legislation, greater incentives for carbon ranching are advocated. As usual, the solution is simple economics.