Discussion Paper

Land-Use Change and Carbon Sinks

Jan 20, 2005 | Ruben N. Lubowski, Andrew J. Plantinga, Robert N. Stavins


When and if the United States chooses to implement a greenhouse gas reduction program, it will be necessary to decide whether carbon sequestration policies — such as those that promote forestation and discourage deforestation — should be part of the domestic portfolio ofcompliance activities. We investigate the cost of forest-based carbon sequestration. In contrast with previous approaches, we econometrically examine micro-data on revealed landowner preferences, modeling six major private land uses in a comprehensive analysis of the contiguous United States. The econometric estimates are used to simulate landowner responses to sequestration policies. Key commodity prices are treated as endogenous and a carbon sink model is used to predict changes in carbon storage. Our estimated marginal costs of carbon sequestration are greater than those from previous engineering cost analyses and sectoral optimization models. Our estimated sequestration supply function is similar to the carbon abatement supply function from energy-based analyses, suggesting that forest-based carbon sequestration merits inclusion in a cost-effective portfolio of domestic U.S. climate change strategies.