Global Warming Would be Good for U.S. Timber

by William Yeatman on November 10, 1998

in Blog

Global warming activists have been claiming for some time that a warming planet would have dire economic consequences. In particular, those industries that rely upon renewable natural resources will be hard hit once global warming reduces the availability of those resources.

In a new study published in the American Economic Review (September 1998) Brent Sohngen with the Department of Agriculture, Environmental, and Development Economics, Ohio State University, and Robert Mendelsohn with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University find that the U.S. timber supplies will expand due to global warming, benefiting U.S. timber markets.

Previous studies had used static models to ascertain the effects of global warming on the timber industry. Sohngen and Mendelsohn, however, argue “the adjustment pathways for both ecosystems and economic systems are critical for measuring the welfare impacts of ecosystem change.” They use a dynamic model that takes account of how ecosystems and markets adjust to large-scale ecological change.

For example, the two regions most vulnerable to dieback are the North and the Rocky Mountain regions. As warming increases dieback “the low-productivity northern forests are replaced more quickly by loblolly pines” which are more suited to a warmer climate. Replacing the low-valued species with the high-valued species would be a net benefit to the timber industry.


The study attempts to measure the impacts of an effective doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the timber industry. They ran 36 different combinations of ecological-climate models, all of which found positive results: “across the different model combinations, they exhibited a wide range, from $1 billion to $33 billion of benefits.” They also submitted their results to a sensitivity test to see how the results may change under different assumptions. They found that under varying assumptions there are still positive net benefits to global warming.

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