The economic costs of planting, preserving, and managing the world’s forests to mitigate climate change

Austin, K. G. et al. | Nature Communications | 2020 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Forests are critical for stabilizing our climate, but costs of mitigation over space, time, and stakeholder group remain uncertain. Using the Global Timber Model, we project mitigation potential and costs for four abatement activities across 16 regions for carbon price scenarios of $5–$100/tCO2. We project 0.6–6.0 GtCO2 yr−1 in global mitigation by 2055 at costs of 2–393 billion USD yr−1, with avoided tropical deforestation comprising 30–54% of total mitigation. Higher prices incentivize larger mitigation proportions via rotation and forest management activities in temperate and boreal biomes. Forest area increases 415–875 Mha relative to the baseline by 2055 at prices $35–$100/tCO2, with intensive plantations comprising <7% of this increase. Mitigation costs borne by private land managers comprise less than one-quarter of total costs. For forests to contribute ~10% of mitigation needed to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, carbon prices will need to reach $281/tCO2 in 2055.

Habitat type

  • Boreal forests and taiga
  • Temperate coniferous forests
  • Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
  • Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests
  • Tropical-subtropical-dry and monsoon broadleaf forests
  • Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

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