Climatic Change

, Volume 63, Issue 1–2, pp 1–48 | Cite as

A Review of Forest Carbon Sequestration Cost Studies: A Dozen Years of Research

  • Kenneth R. Richards
  • Carrie Stokes


Researchers have been analyzing the costs of carbon sequestration for approximately twelve years. The purpose of this paper is to critically review the carbon sequestration cost studies of the past dozen years that have evaluated the cost-effectiveness of the forestry option. Several conclusions emerge. While carbon sequestration cost studies all contain essentially the same components they are not comparable on their face due to the inconsistent use of terms, geographic scope, assumptions, program definitions, and methods. For example, there are at least three distinct definitions for a `ton of carbon' that in turn lead to significantly different meanings for the metric `dollars per ton of carbon'. This difference in carbon accounting further complicates comparison of studies. After adjusting for the variation among the studies, it appears that carbon sequestration may play a substantial role in a global greenhouse gas emissions abatement program. In the cost range of 10 to 150 dollars per ton of carbon it may be possible to sequester 250 to 500 million tons per year in the United States, and globally upwards of 2,000 million tons per year, for several decades. However, there are two unresolved issues that may seriously affect the contribution of carbon sequestration to a greenhouse gas mitigation program, and they will likely have counteracting effects. First, the secondary benefits of agricultural land conversion to forests may be as great as the costs. If that is the case, then the unit costs essentially disappear, making carbon sequestration a no-regrets strategy. In the other direction, if leakage is a serious issue at both the national and international levels, as suggested by some studies, then it may occur that governments will expend billions of dollars in subsidies or other forms of incentives, with little or no net gain in carbon, forests or secondary benefits. Preliminary results suggest that market interactions in carbon sequestration program analyses require considerably more attention. This is especially true for interactions between the forest and agricultural land markets and between the wood product sink and the timber markets.


Carbon Sequestration Forest Carbon Land Market Emission Abatement Secondary Benefit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth R. Richards
    • 1
  • Carrie Stokes
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public and Environmental AffairsIndiana UniversityBloomingtonU.S.A.
  2. 2.U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentWashington, D.C.U.S.A

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