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The Cost of U.S. Forest-based Carbon Sequestration

Robert Stavins and Kenneth Richards

The Pew Center report, The Cost of U.S. Forest-based Carbon Sequestration, investigates the potential for incorporating land-use changes into climate policy. Authored by economists Robert Stavins of Harvard University and Kenneth Richards of Indiana University, the Pew Center report looks at the true “opportunity costs” of using land for sequestration, in contrast with other productive uses. The report also examines the many factors that drive the economics of storing carbon in forests over long periods of time.

Among the authors’ key conclusions: The estimated cost of sequestering up to 300 million tons of carbon per year—an amount that would offset up to one-fifth of current annual U.S. carbon emissions—ranges from about $8 to $23 per ton of CO2. On a per-ton basis, this is comparable to the cost estimated for other options for addressing climate change, including fuel switching and energy efficiency. The report offers new evidence that sequestration can and should play an important role in the United States’ response to climate change.

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