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Tropical Forests, Tipping Points, and the Social Cost of Deforestation

Author

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  • Sergio L. Franklin, Jr.
  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

Recent work has suggested that tropical forest and savanna represent alternative stable states, which are subject to drastic switches at tipping points, in response to changes in rainfall patterns and other drivers. Deforestation cost studies have ignored the likelihood and possible economic impact of a forest-savanna critical transition, therefore underestimating the true social cost of deforestation. We explore the implications of a forest-savanna critical transition and propose an alternative framework for calculating the economic value of a standing tropical forest. Our framework is based on an average incremental cost method, as opposed to currently used marginal cost methods, for the design of optimal land-use policy or payments for ecosystem services. We apply this framework to the calculation of the social cost of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Suggested Citation

  • Sergio L. Franklin, Jr. & Robert S. Pindyck, 2017. "Tropical Forests, Tipping Points, and the Social Cost of Deforestation," NBER Working Papers 23272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23272
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:eee:ecoser:v:1:y:2012:i:1:p:50-61 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Strand, Jon, 2017. "Modeling the marginal value of rainforest losses: A dynamic value function approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 322-329.
    3. Andersen,Lykke E. & Granger,Clive W. J. & Reis,Eustaquio J. & Weinhold,Diana & Wunder,Sven, 2002. "The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521811972, April.
    4. Lykke E. Andersen, 2015. "A Cost-benefit Analysis of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon," Discussion Papers 0065, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA.
    5. Torras, Mariano, 2000. "The total economic value of Amazonian deforestation, 1978-1993," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 283-297, May.
    6. Fearnside, Philip M., 1997. "Environmental services as a strategy for sustainable development in rural Amazonia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 53-70, January.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C6 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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