, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 439-461

Impacts of Climate Change on the Global Forest Sector

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Abstract

The path and magnitude of future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide will likely influence changes in climate that may impact the global forest sector. These responses in the global forest sector may have implications for international efforts to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. This study takes a step toward including the role of global forest sector in integrated assessments of the global carbon cycle by linking global models of climate dynamics, ecosystem processes and forest economics to assess the potential responses of the global forest sector to different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. We utilize three climate scenarios and two economic scenarios to represent a range of greenhouse gas emissions and economic behavior. At the end of the analysis period (2040), the potential responses in regional forest growing stock simulated by the global ecosystem model range from decreases and increases for the low emissions climate scenario to increases in all regions for the high emissions climate scenario. The changes in vegetation are used to adjust timber supply in the softwood and hardwood sectors of the economic model. In general, the global changes in welfare are positive, but small across all scenarios. At the regional level, the changes in welfare can be large and either negative or positive. Markets and trade in forest products play important roles in whether a region realizes any gains associated with climate change. In general, regions with the lowest wood fiber production cost are able to expand harvests. Trade in forest products leads to lower prices elsewhere. The low-cost regions expand market shares and force higher-cost regions to decrease their harvests. Trade produces different economic gains and losses across the globe even though, globally, economic welfare increases. The results of this study indicate that assumptions within alternative climate scenarios and about trade in forest products are important factors that strongly influence the effects of climate change on the global forest sector.