smoke coming from wildfire with mountains in background


Economic Assessment of Land-Based Strategies to Mitigate Climate Change in California


The Productive Landscapes Group at emLab is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to study strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California. Land-based interventions such as fuels management and land conservation can offset greenhouse gas emissions while providing a host of additional environmental benefits.  We are conducting an economic assessment of alternative interventions such as 1) avoided conversion of natural lands to cropland and urban uses, 2) restoration of woodlands and riparian areas, and 3) fuels management to reduce wildfire severity. Our main objective is to quantify the costs of these interventions, associated offsets of greenhouse gases, and additional benefits such as avoided costs of wildfire suppression and avoided flood damages.  We are working at two scales: a focused study on Merced County, CA and a broader statewide analysis. 


The State of California has set ambitious targets for future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. There are many opportunities to use land-based strategies to offset emissions. Our assessment will identify strategies that can achieve cost-effective emissions reductions while generating additional environmental benefits.


For the statewide analysis, we are using the Land Use and Carbon Scenario Simulator (LUCAS) to analyze a set of interventions.  LUCAS is a dynamic spatially-explicit model that tracks changes in land use, land cover, land management, and disturbance, and their impacts on carbon storage and flux.  We introduce interventions that modify land use and land management and analyze their effects on carbon storage and other biophysical changes on the landscape.  Each intervention is evaluated in terms of opportunity costs (e.g., value of foregone commodity production) and additional benefits generated. 


The Economic Assessment of Land-Based Strategies to Mitigate Climate Change in California is a collaborative effort between The Productive Landscapes Group at emLab, Bowdoin College, and The Nature Conservancy.