2009-2012

Evolving US Energy Policies: Promise or peril for tropical conservation

Researchers

Principal Investigator
Postdoctoral scholar
Senior Fellow
  • William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Professor, by courtesy, Economics
  • Senior Fellow and Founding Director, Center on Food Security and the Environment

Tropical forests store more than 340 billion tons of carbon, which is 40 times the total current worldwide annual fossil fuel emissions. This has huge implications for global warming, if we continue to expand our farmland into tropical forests at such high rates- Holly Gibbs

This project is helping to inform the churning debate concerning the impact of biofuels on tropical land use change and carbon emissions. The researchers are evaluating the land sources for new croplands across the tropics by analyzing detailed satellite data and have concluded that intact and disturbed rainforests are the land sources for new croplands more than 80 percent of the time. As these forests are cleared to make room for new croplands, they are often burned sending their stored carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, creating a carbon debt that requires decades to centuries for the carbon savings from using biofuels in place of petroleum fuels to repay.