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CEMMAP Masterclass: Climate and Economics (Tropical Forests)

CEMMAP Masterclass: Climate and Economics (Tropical Forests)


  • Delivered In-Person


You can attend the course in person only.

Speaker: Jose A. Scheinkman (Columbia University)

Estimates of total carbon stored in tropical forests exceed 200 billion tons. If released by
deforestation, this stock would produce CO2 emissions that would exceed the estimates of total
US emissions since pre-industrial times. On the other hand, major tropical forests systems have
been substantially deforested. For instance, an area the size of the US State of Texas has been
deforested in the Brazilian Amazon mostly for use in agriculture. This ecological disaster has also
created an enormous opportunity for carbon capture through reforestation.

The goal of these lectures is to acquaint researchers with data and methods that are used to
evaluate the potential of these natural systems to capture carbon and the associated costs, as
well as other important externalities generated by reforestation. We will use extensive physical
and economic data from the Brazilian Amazon, the largest tropical forest in the world. These data
show marked cross-sectional variability in the potential for carbon absorption and in productivity
of the current alternative uses. We will assess the consequences of imposing alternative social
costs of carbon emissions, including subsidies from abroad, on the optimal spatial/dynamic
allocation of land-use in the Brazilian Amazon. While we consider a single central planner, the
heterogeneity in productivities and natural state-constraints preclude the use of standard
recursive dynamic methods. To treat risk, we will introduce Modified Predic+ve Control, a method
originally developed in control theory and engineering to study multi-plant production in real
time. To deal with the unavoidable uncertainty on the value of crucial parameters, we will
consider model-determined robustness adjustments to the subjective probabilities of these
parameters. We will once again discuss the necessary numerical methods; in this case
Hamiltonian Monte Carlo, a method that has substantial advantage over the familiar MetropolisHastings approach in treating high-dimensional problems.


  • Delivered In-Person in London



North West Wing Gower Street, WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom, London


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