By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

Taken from

This is important, since deforestation and forest degradation are the second-largest source of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions after the burning of fossil fuels. While forests stand, they take in and lock up carbon dioxide; when they burn, they release it into the atmosphere.

International plans to pay developing countries to stop destroying tropical forests could backfire because they fail to account for one important benefit poor agricultural countries get from clearing forests: charcoal to use as a cooking fuel.

A team of African, British and U.S. scientists and economists looked at what was happening in Tanzania, where the poverty level is high, food supplies are insecure and forest is being rapidly converted to farmland.

If a program simply pays Tanzania not to cut down its forest, the people who need cooking charcoal and farmland may be worse off, even as carbon-holding trees stay standing, said the report's lead author, Brendan Fisher.

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