The Problem

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Global climate change, embodied in global warming and related effects, has raised strong concerns over the future of our planet Earth. Those concerns are based on unabated rates of carbon release from human activities into the atmosphere causing a buildup of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Those carbon releases have already ordained significant climate change impacts in the years ahead. Future GHG buildups must be curtailed if we are to avoid serious, perhaps catastrophic, changes to life of all formsClimate Change 2007 – The Physical Science Basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007. ISBN-13:97805217059767.

Poorer communities will be disproportionately affected by both near and longer term global climate change.Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007., as they are by climate variability from all sources.

A response to this challenge has emerged through the concept of carbon trading, whereby those who increase the carbon loading of the atmosphere can buy “carbon credits” from those in a position to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Those carbon credits can then be used help poorer communities adapt to unavoidable climate change impacts while allowing those communities to contribute to longer term sustainable mitigation of future GHG build-up.

Taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it (or carbon sequestration) requires the conversion of carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere into material such as long-lived plants or through dissolution into the oceans. Of available choices, tropical biomes (forests and savannahs) contain 60% of the above ground global carbon stock in vegetation and, therefore, offer greatest opportunity for sustainable vegetative carbon sequestration on Earth.IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry. The tropics also are home the largest percentage of the world’s poorer communities. Thus carbon trading represents a remarkable potential for increased equity between the developed and the developing world while attacking the root cause of global climate change. Using the flow of wealth derived from carbon trading to a) protect the environment through carbon sequestration and b) reduce poverty and enhance the economic status of recipient states, will require careful application of the best research and expertise in climate, environmental and agricultural science as well as ethics, social and economic policy and communication. The issues are not simple, nor do they align with traditional academic disciplines, but challenge those working in the field to develop strong and deep interdisciplinary ties that can address the complexity inherent in the problem. Furthermore, researchers in both donor and recipient states must combine for the best application of carbon trading.