Deforestation in Brazil Carl De Souza/Getty Images

Putting a Price on Rainforests

With the right incentives, people will pay to preserve and renew tropical forests, one of the planet’s best means of storing carbon dioxide. But placing a value on the role trees play in mitigating climate change will require a robust credit market, and there is danger in postponing its creation.

NEW YORK – In early October, shortly after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that his company could, given the opportunity, rebuild the island’s electrical grid using solar power. Coming in the midst of so much human suffering, it was a bold claim. But from a technological perspective, the timing was perfect. By late October, solar panels and high-capacity batteries had been installed at San Juan’s Hospital del Niño, and additional projects are in the works.

This type of response to a natural disaster – replacing a fossil-fuel-reliant power grid with renewable energy – should be applauded. But no matter how clean and efficient renewable energy sources may be, they will never fully mitigate the climatic effects that are bringing more hurricanes like Maria ashore.

There is another way to do that, and it is far cheaper than what Musk has proposed.

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