Climate Change

A Cheap Fix for Climate Change? Pay People Not to Chop Down Trees

As a population of endangered chimpanzees dwindles, Uganda's government searches for creative solutions.

Endangered chimpanzees in the tropical forests of western Uganda are disappearing at shockingly rapid rates as local populations continue to cut down trees for charcoal and subsistence farming, reports The New York Times.

While many experts have been skeptical of “payment for ecosystem services” in the past, a team of researchers in Uganda recently published a study demonstrating the effectiveness of a surprisingly cheap and simple idea: paying landowners small sums not to cut down their trees.

Published in the journal Science, the study outlines the findings of a controlled experiment carried out in the Houma and northern Kibaale districts of Uganda. Using satellite imagery to compare forest land in “control” villages” to those offered voluntary payments, the researchers calculated that the benefits of delaying carbon-release into the atmosphere came to $1.11 a ton, far exceeding the cost of 46 cents a ton. Their experiment serves as a model example for incorporating human needs in effective conservation programs.

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