The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
ConservationEconomy.net Home
Learning Network The Roots of Our Work Contact Us A project of Ecotrust
Browse Mode
Explore Whole Patterns
Explore Patterns Images
Explore Pattern Case Studies
Pattern Image

Old-growth forests have an exceptional ability to store carbon, helping to stabilize the global climate.
Image by Seth Zuckerman.

Climate Services

Industrial emissions, deforestation, and other human activities have systematically increased the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, methane, CFCs, and other compounds known to induce global climate change. An international scientific consensus predicts extensive and dangerous consequences, including increased incidence of coastal flooding, hurricanes, drought, and other extreme weather events.

Substances like carbon dioxide and water vapor allow visible light from the sun to pass through them while trapping some of the reflected heat radiation from earth. This atmospheric "greenhouse effect" has been used by living organisms to maintain a temperature conducive to life. Ancient ice samples from Antarctica demonstrate that mean temperature undergoes short and long term variations, but is always closely correlated with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have already increased some twenty-five percent over their pre-industrial levels, resulting in an estimated half-degree temperature change. If current trends are extrapolated for fifty years, a three to six degree change will occur with disastrous consequences. By examining global climate models and quantifying the resulting economic damage, detailed studies place annual costs due to climate change at several hundred billion dollars by 2050.

Because of their economic importance, climate services are beginning to be directly valued by the international community. Taxes in the range of $10–$100/ton of carbon dioxide have been proposed, along with a variety of pollution emissions trading schemes including the Kyoto Accord. The Chicago Climate Exchange has already been established to promote trading of carbon emissions credits. Such True Cost Pricing schemes must be designed with Social Equity considerations paramount in order to address the gulf between the industrial and non-industrial nations and rich and poor within nations.

In a , climate is fully stabilized by using Renewable Energy and Sustainable Materials Cycles. Activities that release carbon dioxide and other compounds inducing climate change are phased out within one generation using a combination of emissions taxes and trading schemes. In particular, fossil fuel combustion, a non-reversible process liberating carbon dioxide from ancient biological deposits, is replaced with hydrogen combustion. This process is fully reversible, converting between water plus renewable energy and hydrogen plus oxygen.

Sustainable Forestry and Sustainable Agriculture both maintain a greater net carbon storage than their conventional counterparts. For instance, increasing forestry rotation cycles in the Pacific Northwest from their current industrial levels of 40–60 years to 100–150 years would keep a significant amount of carbon — on an average annual basis — out of the atmosphere. Protocols are currently being developed to assign carbon credits that reflect the enhanced carbon storage of sustainable over non-sustainable practices.

In one recent deal, the Oregon-based Climate Trust, a non-profit created to provide carbon mitigation for new fossil fuel powered plants, purchased carbon credits from the Lummi tribe, making a significant financial contribution toward the tribe's purchase of the culturally significant Arlecho Creek forest. Such compensation for the Ecosystem Services, in this case carbon storage, provided by standing forests and sustainable agriculture can provide a critical incentive for land conservation and restoration.

Provide incentives for climate stabilization through carbon taxes and emissions trading agreements. Shift from a fossil fuel based economy to a hydrogen economy. Award carbon credits to landowners practicing sustainable forestry and sustainable agriculture.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Climate Neutral Network
The Climate Neutral Network is a non-profit organziation dedicated to helping companies, communities, and consumers achieve a net zero impact on the Earth's climate. Building and promoting a new Climate Cool marketplace through the development of profitable products and partnerships is the core mission of the Climate Neutral Network.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

The Climate Trust

Chicago Climate Exchange


Schneider, S.H. Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can't Afford to Lose. Basic Books. New York, NY. 1997.

« Previous Pattern | Next Pattern »

Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling