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World Security: Protecting The Whole Amazon Rainforest At 17.5% Of The US Military Budget

This article was partly inspired by a recent podcast episode, The Simple Economics Of Saving The Amazon Rainforest, but it also contains wild assumptions. Please leave better data, calculations and thoughts in comments.

It is estimated to cost $50 per hectare to effectively protect the rainforest, while delivering sustainable benefits and incentives to the inhabitants.

At 7 million square kilometers (in 9 countries – with the majority in Brazil), this comes to $3.5 trillion to protect the whole rainforest.

If we’d like to make it more digestible, we can think of payments being spread over 10 years while allowing receivers to borrow against it. They’re to receive the full $50 right away, and it costs $350 billion per year.

If it’s backed by the G7 (assuming this means longterm credit-worthy and a bit of teeth behind it, should land be lost) with some back and forth, everyone should also be able to agree on 50% of this and a 12-year period, bringing the yearly payment to only $145 billion per year.

Now this is a very decent price for solving a huge problem and for improved world and national security. The long-term economic benefit for the world of not destroying the Amazonian rainforest likely stands at a multitude (feel free to quote numbers and studies — some estimates are at *45 the value of non-deforestation as opposed to cattle ranching). It’s also much simpler to look at the whole Amazonian rainforest across all 9 countries, which completely removes most of the current protection problems and in-efficiencies. We might ask, what do we get for it? What do we get for military expenditure? We might say a safer world and better national security. Both apply to Amazonian rainforest protection at such a scale.

Considering the US military budget is estimated at $800 billion per year, and Germany at $55 billion per year, France at $50 billion, Japan at $50 billion, South Korea at $40 billion, Italy and Spain between $15-25 billion, UK at $50 billion, and Canada at $22 billion, the money is there. At 12.5% ($145 billion per year) of the military expenditure of the G7, it shouldn’t take too long to get a protection contract signed, and leaves a lot of military at disposal as a backstop to make sure the contracts are kept.

(Note: You can also think of it in terms of the corporate tax rate of the top 10 global tech companies.)

The world (especially the G7) has to offer something attractive to get an agreement done in its own interest. The rainforests of the world are an enormous national security asset, so treat it with the respective resources.

Featured image: Andre Deak, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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