Saving the rainforest — and making money off of it

12 June 2012

ONE OF THE GREATEST weapons against climate change sits on vast tracts of undeveloped Brazilian land. The country is home to nearly half of Earth’s rainforests, gobbling up 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year — a third of the United States’ 2010 greenhouse gas output. Maintaining, and expanding, what the Economist aptly termed “the world’s lungs” will be essential to fighting global warming, not to mention preserving biological diversity and water systems.

The good news: With the help of satellite monitoring and other tools, Brazil last year slowed illegal deforestation to a fifth of its peak in 1995, when the country lost a whopping 29,000 square kilometers of its rainforest to unauthorized slashing. The bad news: Brazil’s government is weakening its landmark Forest Code, the legal basis for that improved enforcement.