This is the seventh post in our series of blogs by graduate students on the job market this year.
The debate over deforestation has traditionally weighed the tradeoffs between local economic benefits and the broader ecological footprint measured in carbon emissions (Alix-Garcia et al., 2013; Foster & Rosenzweig, 2003). Consequently, this framing has led to the creation of several multi-billion dollar programs under the umbrella of the United Nations known as REDD+ or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. The idea is simple: in exchange for forgoing the economic benefits of logging and forest land clearing, countries that preserve forests (particularly poorer countries) receive payments from richer countries that benefit from the reduced carbon emissions associated with deforestation.
The underlying principle is that effects of deforestation related emissions are global in nature.
To the contrary, my research finds that the effects of deforestation are substantially larger at the local level due to health externalities (particularly from increased malarial incidence). I find that local health costs of deforestation in Indonesia are an order of magnitude higher than the global carbon externalities. Thus local institutions, as opposed to external governments, may have the strongest incentives for forest preservation. Furthermore, given the productivity, morbidity, mortality and fertility costs associated with malaria (Lucas 2013, Lucas 2010), there may be a double dividend from environmental conservation currently being ignored in policy formulation.
- job market series 2014