The Simple Economics of Saving the Amazon Rainforest (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 53)

November 26, 2021 @ 11:00pm


Everyone agrees that massive deforestation is an environmental disaster. But most of the standard solutions — scolding the Brazilians, invoking universal morality — ignore the one solution that might actually work. Originally released on Freakonomics Radio, Steve gives an update on what’s happened in the two years since this episode first ran.

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Relevant Research & References

Here’s where you can learn more about the people and ideas in this episode:


Daniel Nepstad, president and founder of the Earth Innovation Institute.
Michael Greenstone, former chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisors and economics professor at the University of Chicago.
Gretchen Daily, environmental science professor at Stanford University.


“The true cost of carbon pollution,” by the Environmental Defense Fund (Environmental Defense Fund, 2020).
“CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (Our World Data, 2019).
“Impacts of China’s Grain for Green Program on Migration and Household Income,” by Paul Treacy, Pamela Jagger, Conghe Song, Qi Zhang, and Richard E Bilsborrow (Environ Manage, 2018).
“China cuts smog but health damage already done: study,” by David Stanway (Reuters, 2018).
“Farms Here, Forests There: Tropical Deforestation and U.S. Competitiveness in Agriculture and Timber,” by Shari Friedman, David Gardiner & Associates (2010).
“Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Rainforest,” by J. B. Veiga, J.F. Tourrand, R. Poccard-Chapuis, and M.G. Piketty (XII World Forestry Congress, 2003).


Tags: Daniel Nepstad, Gretchen Daily, Michael Greenstone, Morgan Levey, Steve Levitt, Zack Lapiniski

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