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The Carbon Hunters: Watch Video & Share Your Reaction

On the trail of the climate's hottest commodity

May 11, 2010
The Carbon Hunters
FRONTLINE/World journeys to the remote rainforests of Brazil, where several American companies have been on the hunt for an increasingly valuable new commodity -- carbon. But investing in big tracts of forest in order to soak up the carbon they may have to account for in proposed energy legislation is not without its costs.


The Carbon Hunters was reported by Mark Schapiro, produced by Andres Cediel & co-produced by Daniela Broitman.

In a remote corner of Brazil's Atlantic coast, they say time is a fiction. This ancient forest is seemingly unspoiled by modern life -- beyond the reach of men, machines, and markets.

But a closer look reveals something very different happening here.

"I'm tracking a group of hunters," correspondent Mark Schapiro says, as he hikes deep into the forest. "They're after something that has become one of the hottest commodities in recent years -- and they think they can capture it with just a tape measure and a pen."

The men Schapiro is following aren't after illegal game or even illegal logging. They want what is stored inside the trees: carbon dioxide.

"How much carbon would you think is in this tree right here?" Schapiro asks Ricardo da Britez, the chief forest scientist in this reserve, pointing to one of an endless line of trees.

"I think it probably contains between 90 and 100 kilos of carbon," da Britez says. He oversees the carbon counting here, and his measurements are being followed closely by people around the world who are trying to figure out how to buy and sell this carbon on the international market.

So if carbon is selling on the market for about $10 a ton, Schapiro asks, what is this tree worth on the carbon market?

"One dollar," da Britez says.

The math seems simple -- but who gets the dollar?

"The credits from that carbon," da Britez says," belong to General Motors."

How did an American company end up owning the carbon in trees? It all started in 1991, when conservation groups identified this area, known as Guaraquecaba, as one of the most threatened eco-hot spots in the world.
How did an American company end up owning the carbon in trees? It all started in 1991, when conservation groups identified this area, known as Guaraquecaba, as one of the most threatened eco-hot spots in the world. The American group The Nature Conservancy tried for years to raise funds to protect this land, but the big money didn't start pouring into the region until fears began to rise about climate change. And it was a new reason to save the trees -- for their carbon -- that brought in three large American companies.

"The companies were interested in carbon credits," says da Britez.

Da Britez explains how, in 2000, American Electric Power, the utility giant, bought into an area the size of Manhattan. Then came the car company General Motors, and finally, Chevron Oil. The three companies invested a total of $18 million to preserve this forest. The Nature Conservancy brokered the deal through a Brazilian environmental group called SPVS, founded by Clovis Borges.

"We will purchase part of the land of the region and preserve these areas," Borges tells Schapiro. But the carbon credits earned from the land, he says, will belong to these companies.

What is a carbon credit? And why are so many people so interested in buying and selling something that didn't even exist five years ago? It's a question Schapiro has been traveling the globe to investigate. Before leaving for Brazil, he met with veteran Wall Street executive Tom Lewis, now the CEO of NYMex's Green Exchange. "People often ask the question, what is the difference between carbon and other commodities? In many cases, it's exactly the same as other commodities. It trades precisely in the same way," he says. "Globally, it's considered about a $300 billion market today. But the expectation is that within a decade that market could be between $2 and $3 trillion."

Where would all that money come from? Climate legislation before Congress would, for the first time, force big polluters to reduce their emissions, or purchase offsets. One of the nation's biggest emitters is American Electric Power.

"The theory that we have is really pretty straightforward," says CEO Michael Morris. "You give me a carbon credit, and I'll pass it along to my customers."

AEP is the largest operator of coal-fired power plants in the country. He told Schapiro that investing in cleaner technology is expensive and takes time, and the only way he would be able to meet emission targets would be to purchase carbon credits.

"We'll purchase credits; we'll be in the credit market, along with many, many other people," says Morris. "And so we need the kinds of things that will create credits in the most cost-effective way."

The cheapest and most readily available offsets on the market these days are forests. And most of us, if asked, would say it sounds like a great plan: Save a tree, and soak up the carbon.

But most of us don't live here. The people who do, look at it differently.

"The land isn't even theirs; it's ours," says one farmer who lives between the GM and AEP reserves. "We're workers who live from the forest. They don't want human beings in the forest."

With all these new assets on the line, forest enforcement in Guarequecaba has been stepped up. A branch of the state military -- called the Green Police, or Força Verde -- has begun protecting the forest from the people who live there.

Antonio Alves's land borders the GM reserve, and he has had multiple run-ins with the Green Police. On one occasion, he says his roof was leaking and he couldn't afford the materials to fix it. So he went out to find wood in the forest where he lives.

"And then the two police officers showed up. One puts a gun right here," he says. "I looked at him and turned off my chainsaw. They handcuffed me right there."

"There is a law that you can't cut down a tree. It's not legal. But if you're not clear-cutting forest, just cutting three or four trees to build a house, I don't think it's a crime. They think it is."

Alves spent 11 days in jail for his crime, and has since moved away because of continued harassment by the Green Police. It's a complaint that's increased since the carbon reserves were established.

The Nature Conservancy declined to speak to FRONTLINE/World about this story. In public statements, they point to the jobs they've created in the reserve and their reforestation of degraded lands. They make no mention of those being displaced from the forest. And The Nature Conservancy's local partner, Clovis Burges, doesn't apologize for what they've accomplished there.

"During our 17 years in Guaraquecaba, we were accused of everything," he says. "This is part of the process. We really were able to develop one project that can link the carbon with conservation. Maybe we are not right. We are trying to deal with something very tough, very hard. And we don't have enough time. We are running against time because destruction of nature is happening everywhere, very quickly."

The stakes in Brazil are clear everywhere you go. Deforestation has made Brazil into the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter. For years, they looked the other way. But now Brazil is facing the problem head on.

"The police ahead of us have heard the guys we're going after may be coming down this road to escape as we go toward them," Schapiro says, as he heads out to the frontlines of deforestation with a team of federal agents.

There they were: illegal loggers. Truck after truck, loaded with logs, all day and into the night. This was just one road in one corner of the Amazon, but it was a scene likely playing itself out across the country. The agents took stock of their catch.

"A middleman will sell it to a mill for $1,000," one agent says about the price of one tree. In other words, a tree worth $1 on the carbon market could be worth a thousand times that to an illegal sawmill. Reversing these economics, the UN estimates, will take an immediate global investment of $25 billion. But who will pay for it? And to whom?

For centuries, foreigners have been coming to Brazil to extract its riches, many starting in the port city of Manaus. It's a booming free-for-all, at the gateway to the Amazon. But a local governor, Eduardo Braga, is turning the tables.

"If you come to an Amazonian and say, 'Well, give up all your jobs, all your economic base, because we need to save the trees,' they are going to reply, 'No, I need to feed my kids.'

Braga is a savvy politician, and he is getting political traction by asserting control over his state's forests.

"Taking care of our forests is fundamental for our future generations," he says. "Our people are the guardians of the forest. And we need to be recognized and paid for the environmental benefits that the forest creates for rich countries . . . for the developed countries."

In the remote Juma Reserve, residents are actually paid not to cut down their trees. And any carbon credits generated from this preservation are supposed to come back to the community. Where do they get the money to do all this?

Braga made a deal with the Marriott hotel chain, which gave $2 million to kick this project off the ground. And Braga has been courting corporate sponsors to fund more than a dozen more reserves in the Amazon.

Juma is considered to be the model -- an experiment with a new strategy to protect the trees and pay the people.

Families receive $25 every month through a program called Bolsa Floresta.

But for residents like Dalvina Almeida, it takes a two-day roundtrip journey by boat just to receive their stipend.

"We used to plant a lot," Dalvina's husband says. "When this became a reserve they told us that we could no longer plant in the forest. Everyone signed up for Bolsa Floresta. But Bolsa Floresta can't sustain my family."

And some Brazilians dispute the very idea of relying on corporations to save the forests.

Marina Silva is a senator from Braga's neighboring state. She grew up in the Amazon and is celebrated for slowing Brazil's rates of deforestation.

She says that America needs to reduce its own emissions first, before Brazilian forests are put on the table.

"Otherwise, we are going to transfer the problem one more time to the developing countries," she says. "And the developed countries are going to continue their same practices. The problem is not going to stop."

But carbon credits remain the key ingredient in the American strategy. At Copenhagen, the U.S. government pledged $1 billion to help bring the world's trees into the carbon market.

And, anticipating a new energy bill in Congress, multinationals continue to buy up forests to offset their emissions.

"You always hear this classic win-win line, and I've never really bought much into the win-win -- you win, I win, how can that be?" AEP CEO Morris says. "But at the end of the day, if you think about biodiversity and you think about the capacity of forests to do the things that they do and you know that they are a very effective carbon sink, it just makes sense. And protecting the current and remaining forests of the world and the deforestation effort, we think, makes a lot of sense."

"We can't treat this problem like it is a business, a commercial relationship between countries," says Silva. "To talk about dealing with this issue just from the perspective of carbon credits is to skirt the responsibility we have to deal with the dangers our planet is facing."
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Stephan Schwartzman - Washington, D.C.
Schapiro argues that U.S. corporate investment in forest carbon credits has displaced and impoverished local communities. However, the key premises of several parts of the program are deeply flawed. In my blog I go into more detail (read that here: http://blogs.edf.org/climatetalks/2010/05/13/pbss-the-carbon-hunters-"-hunting-the-elusive-facts/), but here's an overview of where this report went wrong:

1. A carbon market for forest carbon credits doesn't actually exist. Unlike what you might understand from this story, no carbon market currently exists in which "carbon credits" from this project can be traded, and there is no indication in existing or proposed climate polices that they ever could be.

2. The "people versus parks" conflict is not new. What Schapiro depicts as the consequence of the carbon market turning trees into commodities is, in fact, the result of a flawed conservation strategy that goes far beyond, and long pre-dates, the Guaraqueaba reserves or any thought of carbon crediting.

3. Schapiro's reporting is often one-sided and inaccurate. The tone and framing of this story are strongly reminiscent of the rhetoric of those environmental organizations that oppose carbon markets and emissions trading on ideological grounds.

4. Juma's "Bolsa Floresta" program for Amazonas state payment for ecosystems services is intentionally misrepresented through a skein of half-truths and misrepresentations. Schapiro was obviously looking for someone to say that the stipend was insufficient, as is evident in Dalvina's comment. What she actually says is, "Yes, it's too little," but the translation says only "it's not enough," obscuring the reporter's leading question to the effect of "Isn't the stipend too little?"

5. Carbon credits are not an easy way out for U.S. companies. Both the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the American Power Act introduced in the U.S. Senate would commit the U.S. to very substantial reductions in our own domestic emissions from fossil fuels. Brazilian reductions in deforestation would amount to at most 4% of the total.

6. Inaccuracy is used for shock value. Schapiro's disregard for basic standards of accuracy is at times breathtaking. He compares the value of a tree on an illegal loggers' truck said to be worth $1,000 at a sawmill with its supposed value of "$1 on the carbon market". But the $1,000 tree is a rare and valuable hardwood species that typically occurs at a density of less than one tree per hectare (2.47 acres) even in the restricted areas where it grows, and is worth a few hundred dollars at most when still in the forest.

In light of Frontline's well-deserved reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting on often controversial topics, the public expects much more rigorous analysis of issues and a much more transparent, less ideological, standard of journalism than this story shows.

My full response is at Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Talks blog: http://blogs.edf.org/climatetalks/2010/05/13/pbss-the-carbon-hunters-"-hunting-the-elusive-facts/

Steve Schwartzman, Director for International Forest Policy, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org)

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Mr. Schwartzman's chief concern is with our focus on Guaraquecaba, located in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, as a place to try to understand how the coming carbon market may work on the ground. This, he argues, is a "flawed premise" because "the alleged carbon-related conflict in Guaraquecaba and forest reserves is not based on any actual or proposed carbon trading program."

He also suggests that the American companies mentioned in our piece did not invest in Guaraquecaba some ten years ago with the expectation of gaining carbon credits. Rather, he says, "GM, Chevron, and AEP invested in this project in the mistaken hope of learning how forest carbon offsets of greenhouse gas emissions might work, and possibly for the purpose of influencing energy and climate policy."

We respect Mr. Schwartzman's long commitment to forest protection, and his knowledge of the realities on the ground in Brazil. But we don't believe that either of these points amount to anything like the gross flaws in our reporting that he claims, if they amount to flaws at all.

First, the question of whether Guaraquecaba is a proper example of a carbon credit forest project for journalists and the general public to consider: As we reported in our story, Clovis Borges, the leader of the local environmental group running the Guaraquecaba project, made clear to us that the companies that invested in the Atlantic Forest--GM, Chevron, and AEP--did so in the hope that they would ultimately gain carbon credits in return. Borges also held up the project as one of the early models of a new strategy linking conservation, carbon, and corporate investment. And, indeed, the ultimate goal of generating carbon credits was written into the original project design and contracts.

When we were in Guarquecaba, we were told by the chief forester there that they were measuring the carbon in the trees precisely for the purpose of preparing the carbon credits for sale. He told us, and The Nature Conservancy confirmed, that they could be sold on the voluntary market--now the only carbon market in the United States.

Schwartzman is right that Guaraquecaba would not currently qualify under the American Power Act, recently introduced in the Senate by John Kerry, but, perhaps more relevant, are the conditions under which the project was launched ten years ago. At that time, The Nature Conservancy, which led the effort in the Atlantic Forest, made clear that gaining avoided deforestation credits for projects like Guaraquecaba was a key part of its strategy to use markets to preserve forests. Additionally, when the Atlantic Forest project was launched, the rules governing the Kyoto Protocols were still being written, and avoided deforestation credits for projects like Guaraquecaba were still an option. That option was removed in December 2001, but the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and others have been urging the United Nations to accept some form of avoided deforestation credits ever since.

It's our understanding that AEP and others have not written off Guaraquecaba as a "mistaken" effort to learn about carbon markets, as Mr. Schwartzman asserts, and they are actively engaged in gaining credit for them. Most recently, the "Tropical Rainforest and Climate Coalition," an alliance of industry and environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and AEP, has been making the case to Congress to broaden the definition of "offsets" to include those projects launched prior to the adoption of government rules, and launched independent of national anti-deforestation strategies--initiatives that could ultimately qualify projects like the one we reported on in Guaraquecaba.

On the matter of "mistakes," AEP's CEO Mike Morris mainly mentioned the sorts of problems with projects like Guaraquecaba that we reported on in "The Carbon Hunters": Some of the initial estimates about the amount of carbon being offset were overstated, he told us, despite the best efforts of the scientists involved, and he conceded that, in fact, there may well have been some negative consequences for the local population due to the new interest by AEP and others in preserving the trees as carbon sinks. We have published Morris' extended interview transcript on our "Carbon Watch" web site:


Clearly, when dealing with legislation that's only recently been introduced, and a carbon market that has yet to be fully established, it's deeply uncertain what may or may not ultimately qualify. But this hardly seems like evidence of a flaw in a reporting project that began well before the current bill was introduced, and which involved a project that started a decade earlier. To the contrary, we believe that it's Guaraquecaba's status as one of the early projects that makes this an ideal place for journalists to look at the impact of conservation strategies built around the prospect of carbon credits.

In terms of some of Mr. Schwartzman's other objections to "The Carbon Hunters," we agree that the "parks v. people" conflict in Brazil's forests "long pre-dates Guaraquecaba reserves or any thought of carbon crediting." But we're not sure why he wouldn't also agree that, as carbon/conservation efforts in these areas are greatly increased, existing parks v. people tensions might not be intensified in ways that are worth understanding as we move forward. Indeed, our reporting tells us that the tensions on the ground in Guaraquecaba and the Atlantic Forest--unlike the historical tensions Mr. Schwartman references--were significantly due to the new pressures and imperatives of carbon investment.

As for our "one-sided, often grossly inaccurate" reporting on another forest project--this one at the Juma reserve in the Brazilian state of Amazonas--we'd like to make clear that we did not head into the forest in search of detractors. Rather, we were following the lead of many we spoke to in the course of our reporting, including Mr. Schwartzman, who have put forward the Juma/REDD program as a model way to channel private support into forest preservation.

We were surprised to discover that conditions in the reserve were not as they'd been presented by the project designers or by other media; and, in the end, we believe we offered a balanced portrait. We reported on a number of noteworthy aspects of the project, including training offered in sustainable economic activities such as the cultivation of nuts, acai, and essences for perfumes. But we were also bound to reveal some of the challenges that we found, including the unintended consequence that some farming families have lost a significant portion of their income when required to shift their food-growing activities from primary to secondary forests, and that the roughly $25 "Bolsa Floresta" stipend has not significantly made up for the short-fall.

It's not at all clear to us on what basis Mr. Schwartzman concludes that our reporter asked a leading question to elicit part of this story from a Juma resident named "Dalvina." Our review of the raw tape of this interview, as well as the version we broadcast, reveals no leading question. The answer came about as the result of a request from a Portuguese-speaking co-producer to have Dalvina restate what she'd just told us off-camera--and this was done precisely because what she'd been telling us was not what we'd expected.

In the end, the question in Juma isn't about whether some people are clearly benefiting from the Juma/REDD program, and others are being disadvantaged--both seem to be true, and there are no doubt lots of shades of gray in between. Rather, our journalistic project here, as throughout "The Carbon Hunters," was to look at hard at projects like Juma/REDD and consider pros and cons, in order to help inform public understanding and future debate at this early stage of so many critical questions about how best to address climate change.

Finally, on the matter of what Mr. Schwartzman believed to have been a "breathtakingly" flawed comparison between a tree's worth on the carbon market and among illegal loggers: Because of the varying estimates of the amount of carbon stored in trees and hectares of different ecosystems, as well as varying black market prices for illegally harvested and milled logs, we stopped short of making the direct comparison that Mr. Schwartzman believes we were attempting. Our point was more broadly to compare the different forces at work in the forest, and how new incentives to preserve trees for carbon might run up against very powerful old incentives to illegally harvest.

FRONTLINE, of course, remains committed to ongoing reporting in this complicated and critical area, and will correct the record on this and other reports whenever new or contrary information comes to light.

We thank Mr. Schwartzman for his appreciation of FRONTLINE's "well deserved reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting on often controversial topics." And we sincerely hope that he will continue to engage with us passionately on future reports.


Mark Schapiro/Senior Correspondent, Center for Investigative Reporting & Andres Cediel/Producer, FRONTLINE/World

Robert Quintero - MIami, Florida
This PBS Documentary was great. Very informative and simple to understand. The Polluters of Greenhouse Gasses in some cases cannot change their process, such as fisheries have large boats to catch fish they consume lots of petrol. Having no other way of changing their process, they must offset their carbon footprint;therefore they purchase carbon credits from a conservancy of this type. Cap and Trade is not a choice for them such as a land fill could recycle and convert waste into energy and earn credits. I hope this explains it a little more and helps people understand why forest conservancy for carbon offsets are going to boom.

Nathan Scandella - Seattle, WA
A number of viewers have commented that the root cause of climate change, and other related problems, is overpopulation. This clearly is a link that hasn't been explored very deeply by the media. But, even that fails to recognize a further upstream cause ... religion. The vast majority of the world's population participates in some way in organized religions, virtually all of which make a virtue of reproducing. And because it's religion, to question it is taboo.Until we can have an honest discussion, where not having children is socially acceptable, and having more than two is considered selfish and extravagant, all the carbon credits in the world don't amount to a hill of soybeans. When religion was invented by mankind, we were struggling to persist in the face of famine and disease. The human race as a whole is now winning that war handily, so social mechanisms for promoting reproduction should be retired.

Earl Nissen - Desert Hot Springs, California
I watched "The Carbon Hunters" and wanted to thank PBS / Frontline for the excellent reporting. Since corporations have commoditized biological organisms like trees, it makes me realize that people are given a monetary value, too. As this documentary showed, people in the rich First World have more value than the struggling people in the Third World.

Gerald Rogan - Sacramento, CA
We each pollute when we drive our commute. When gas is cheap less carbon we reap. If we each take the time burn the fat in our bodies with exercise when going to work, we will be healthier and better looking, and need less health care.

vivian pereira - porto velho, rondonia
I live in Rondnia state located in Amazonia. I see REDD in a very positive way as long as it is made a deep study in the region in which the project will be deploying, should respect the necessities of the traditional populations who are the guardians of the natural forest and that also depend on the forest for their livelihood. The local people should be part of the project and receive a financial payment and not just a worthy charity since they play an essential role in the contest to preserve the forest.
And secondly I believe that the developed countries should not only pay to pollute but actually are acquired within a system for reducing CO2 emission through new technologies obviously subsidized by the government and also as a supplement to keep the market of carbon credits heated.
As a matter of fact in the end of the day if each one of us do our part (environmental conscience)we all (both developed countries and the developing countries)will be saving the planet.

Fitra Jaya Piliang - Pasaman. West Sumatra, Indonesia
I don't want this to happen to my forest rich area.

Adriano Couto - Manaus, AM
Unfortunatelly, something else which is not mentioned here is that the if the stipend paid for forest dwellers in Juma reserve is about US$ 25.00 / month, the monthly payment the Juma Project foundation director, Mr Virgilio Viana, earns to support such project is up to 1000 (yes, one thousand) times the value one family receives to protect the forests - up to US$ 25,000 per month. It is a profitable way to save the forests.

Kyle Cook - Stillwater, Oklahoma
Why is it the people that get the easiest degrees in college (business degrees) continue to be allowed to run the world with there narrow minded half of the picture ideas. I had a rant prepared but I just lost the nerve to post it. Maybe one day enough of us will be forced to deal with these issues and start laying down laws on these multinational corps. Until then enjoy the air Houston.

Kjell Khne - Mexico City, Mexico
Congratulations for working your way through all these comments!As for population growth, if we want to save the planet, the most effective strategy would be to reduce US population! The average US citizen emits over 20 tons of CO2 per annum, double that of a European, four times that of a Chinese and more than 20 times that of the average African. I don't suggest we make use of this strategy, just would like to point to these proportions.I am happy that many people mention the necessity and the possibility to start solving the problem at home. A few big chunks worth addressing are air travel, big cars, heating and cooling around the house and over consumption (buying stuff you don't really need). All of these are rather easy to reduce if lessening your carbon footprint is your goal. If we listen to scientists (those who publish in peer-reviewed journals, not the ones paid by the industry to make noise and spread distortions), we can keep emitting 2-3 tons of CO2 per person per year (please compare to the figures above) for the next 40 years, until around 2050.By that time we will need to have completed the transformation to a zero-emissions society, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. That is a huge challenge, but I guess our beautiful planet and the well being of our children and grandchildren are worth trying. Let's just start to move.

Chris Lang - Jakarta, Indonesia
Perhaps not surprisingly, Environmental Defense Fund's Steve Schwartzman doesn't like to see this sort of investigative journalism on REDD. But Schwartzman's arguments are simply a series of straw men created in a weak attempt to undermine Frontline's reporting. Here's a link to my response to "The Carbon Hunters" and to Schwartzman's straw men (on REDD-Monitor): http://bit.ly/c5E6TI

William Bewick - Bogota, Colombia
This program is a bit biased and paints an unfair picture of carbon projects, as if they are inherently predatory towards vulnerable communities. Cutting down a few trees to build a house has almost no impact on generating carbon credits, nor does fishing. If there were real investment in protecting forests, then the payments would be sufficient for the families to sustain themselves. The incentives are still insufficient. Mr. Shapiro also fails to mention what would likely happen without any incentives in a country like Brazil that has one of the world's highest deforestation rates. When the forest becomes soy or is logged, where to the people he highlights go? The global community should focus more on improving this idea and supporting the communities involved in projects, making sure that they are able to live sustainably and then large companies or governments do not take unfair advantage of the forest commodities.

Antonio Claparols - Makati, Philippines
Rain Forest are our real Carbon sinks.Why do we need to destroy them and trade it in Carbon credits.
it is just passing the pollution to someone else. We are one planet.REDD must be scraped as we need our forest and not plantations.We must bring CO2 down to 350ppm to save the people and planet.

Jenny - Portland, OR
Total SCAM. An excuse to pollute and nothing more. This reminds me of going to church on Sunday offering a big tithing so you can sin all week. A joke, like how through religion, parties attempt manipulation for a false sense of control.

Sylvania, Ohio
Deforestation must stop. Period. Reforestation must begin. Period.

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux - Georgina Is. First Nation, Canada
The saddest thing in all of this is the $25.00 stipend, which is far too similar to the $25.00 Treaty payment received by our people in Canada, glorified welfare to keep them quiet and hungry while their legacy is eroded by big corporations and their families villainized. They have a right to live as they have and harvest and cull trees as they have done for centuries. Where is the humanity in this? We all must think about the planet, not only our selfish desires to be rampant consumers. I would bet if we compared pop. growth and consumption, that the U.S. would be the culprit not the farmers and familes of Brazil, shame on those who place the blame on the Indigenous pop.'s because they have no real idea of the underlying facts and realities of indigenous peoples everywhere on the planet, they are your wake-up call folks. My support goes to sustainable and humane ways of protecting life and resources for everyone, everywhere. What have you done lately to make a difference in this world?

William Marlowe - New York, New York
This is another scam by the companies that are causing global warming to figure out how they can keep doing what they are doing by buying and bribing... This is BS

Durham, NH
Corporate America destroying life while we sit and watch.

charles may - compton, ca
The irony of the story, is that GM, a company that makes a product (automobile) that pollutes the earth, more than any other product, can buy a forest, and continue to act irresponsibly. This is not a problem created, by Brazil, It is not a problem that can be solved by Brazil. This is a problem, created, and can be solved easily by the West ( USA, EUROPE, ETC). Let's not be fooled by the act of kindness, offered to the people of Brazil. If the West is so interested in changing the world's climate they should start in NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES, and other big cities. Pay people to reduce their pollution.They say charity begins at home. Let's clean our house before we start telling others how to clean theirs.

Louisville, Ky
how odd here in Louisville, Kentucky I have my DVR set to catch every Frontline, however this wasn't recorded as far as I know. I guess I'm just red state paranoid.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
You can watch the story online on our web site. Here is the link: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/carbonwatch/2010/05/the-carbon-hunters.html

In my opinion, it is the developed countries that need to be held accountable for their carbon foot print. These big corporations believe and are sold on the idea that by simply buying a patch of forest thousands of miles away will make carbon go away. Corporations will never learn, they are selfish and greedy. Why doesn't the U.S. start planting more tress to counteract carbon? Dirty politics that's all.

Mike Smyth - Saint Augustine, Florida
I had to stop watching. Al "Gorleone" must think people are stupid. This is the biggest hoax perpetrated thus far in the 21st century. Standby!

Philip Dooley - Tolland, CT
Thank you for airing a story showing the good and bad sides of carbon trading. However, either the author or the forest management people do not understand the carbon cycle. Preserving the rainforest is very important, but it does not adsorb net CO2 unless people remove mature trees and dead wood.

Preventing clear cutting is step one, but selective logging and using the branches for fuel or charcoal production is the only way to make the forest a carbon sink.

Leaving the wood to rot in the forest releases all of the CO2 ,that has been adsorbed by the tree, back in to the atmosphere. The only carbon naturally sequestered in a forest is in those trees that fall into a bog and eventually become coal. These facts are not well understood by the general public, it is your writers job to inform more completely.

Gabriel Ribenboim - Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

Given to the increasing attention to the pioneering work of the Juma REDD Project, FAS have received a number of queries about its components and strategy. Please find below some questions and answers that are most frequently asked.

Q1. How do the families receive the Bolsa Floresta Family benefit?

A1. The Bolsa Floresta Family consists on the payment of a monthly grant of R$50 (US$25), to the mothers of families living inside Conservation Units, willing to commit to environmental conservation and sustainable development. It is an important way to get the population involved in the deforestation combat activities.

The participants receive the monthly benefit through a credit card and once they go to the nearest city to shop or get medical assistance, they can withdraw the money in an ATM machine or pay the shopping with the credit card. They do so every month or every several months. Often times they go on a community boat, which carries tens of people.

Q2. Is the monthly payment of US$25 payment enough to sustain a family?

A2. The Bolsa Floresta Family it is NOT MEANT to provide all the necessary cash income to sustain and improve livelihoods in the communities. The concept of cash payment is seen as a reward, a short-term return for families that make a commitment for zero deforestation.

It is ONLY ONE of the four components of the Program. The strategy to increase income is focused on the Bolsa Floresta Income, which invests an average of US$70,000 per reserve per year (the program is being implemented in 14 reserves, Juma is only one). These investments resulted in gains such as in the case of Brazil nuts: the price was increased from R$4 to R$12 per can of nuts.

Another strategic part of the Program is the Bolsa Floresta Social, which invests an average of US$70,000 per reserve per year (the program is being implemented in 14 reserves, Juma is only one). The School in Juma became a landmark for environmental and sustainability education in the Amazon.

Finally, the Program includes the Bolsa Floresta Association, which support local grassroots organizations with the costs of their logistics (average of US$500 per year per association) plus a speedboat, solar panel, internet connection, computer and supplies. This is a key element in empowering local leaders for their rights. In the Juma Reserve, during 2009, investments of the Bolsa Floresta Program, totaled US$685,000 - a very significant amount for the region.

Q3. Can participants continue to produce agricultural crops?

A3. Participants from the Bolsa Floresta Program CAN continue their traditional agricultural practices, as they use to do. They only make a commitment not to further deforest primary forests. They usually grow their crops on secondary forests and can continue to do so.

The Program is investing in innovative technologies for sustainable agricultural production and capacity building - such as permaculture.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
In "The Carbon Hunters," FRONLTLINE/World traveled to the Juma reserve because the REDD project there has been receiving a lot of international attention for its innovative approaches to forest management.

In our story, we reported on a number of noteworthy aspects of the Juma/REDD project, including the sustainable harvesting of forest products, keeping local peoples on their land, and paying families a $25 monthly stipend through the Bolsa Floresta program.

At the same time, we reported on some of the challenges the project faces. Specifically, we found that the program's requirement for farming families to move from primary to secondary forests has left them, effectively, unable to earn the income they had previously earned. For those we spoke with, the short-term reward of the $25 Bolsa Floresta stipend is not replacing the income lost by giving up their former agricultural practices, and it's leaving some struggling to make ends meet.

Since the Juma/REDD project is still in its early stages, it remains to be seen whether this unintended consequence of the program will be remedied, and how the project may evolve to meet these and other challenges.

Hernan Caicedo - Reno, Nevada
A license to kill -- that's what the so-called offset credits are. The developed world needs to change its wasting way of life: waste of water, waste of energy in all forms, waste of natural resources. And the developing countries need to address their uncontrolled growing population. But it is like the drug war: cut the demand and the supply will have no reason.
The whole world needs the forests from all over the world and to keep the diversity of animal species, but at the current rate of consumption -- call it plainly waste -- the future is for a dead world!

jim kennedy - ft worth, tx
if the cap and trade legislation passes and becomes law, won't it simply create a new market for carbon credits ripe with speculation and fraud? this is a very bad idea.

Alyssa Ramon - San Francisco, USA
A well presented documentary which raises some very troubling issues. Do we have to put a financial value on everything? Is everything a commodity? I can understand that most things are, such as our houses and cars and gold, but we are pushing the limits now. Carbon has a price? Like in dollars per tonne? That is so hard to picture, and so what next? The oxygen molecules we all breathe will be given a financial value? I reject this kind of thinking. We need trees, water, air to live, it is part of the global commons. It is not for Chevron or GM to own. Carbon trading illustrates how capitalism vulgarizes nature - by putting a financial value on it. Unfortunately, it is this same line of thinking that has led us down the climate crisis. Unless we rein in these corporations and these idealogues, we are going downhill fast.

Mark Weir - Ashland, OR
I found this to be a very interesting approach. The small sustainable building company I run (www.strawjet.com) has been working with families in Malawi who end up having to cut down the forest to create firewood to cook. Hopefully a new product we have developed will allow them to use the maze stalks as a fuel wood substitute. Kind of a double win.

Chris Weingartner - Vancouver, WA
I am in my 70's. Since I was a teenager, I have spoken out, to no avail, for people to realize the impact on the world of growing populations.(My wife and I only had one child.) Perhaps the problem is much deeper than that. How can man have such a big and super wired brain and yet behave in such stupid ways? The problem will resolve itself when the population is drastically reduced. Since we haven't kept our numbers in check, I will leave it to your imagination how that could happen.

Richard Johnston - Wanakena, NY
Population growth certainly is one of the majors issues, it falls squarely within the bigger picture of unsustainable life practices. In the end it won't matter how much forest we preserve or how much wilderness we create if we can't manage to live sustainably on the lands that we use for our day to day existance. But the ultimate answer does not lie in a separation of humans and nature. But rather, living within nature and its' limits.

The carbon market does provide some short-term protection of forests, which is needed, but it is not an answer unto itself. We need to start with our own issues of consumption. Thinking globally and acting locally does not mean dumping our problems on someone else to take care of so we can continue with our own unsustainable lifestyles.

The people of the the Brazilian rain forest have a legitimate gripe on that point. The US has been one of the biggest importers of tropical hardwood in the world. Purchased by US consumers, many of whom profess to be "environmentalist". Also, there is plenty of forest to protect here in the U.S., both as wilderness and as working forest land. We need both.

When will we take our share of the blame and get about the business of changing our ways?

Steven Henkes - Burlington, KY
So anyone (or consortium with woodland can "register" their property as a "carbon offset" then sell the offsets to big industry. Interesting....

Alan Higgison - Dublin, Co. Louth
We're simply counting the days this planet has left and only hope our efforts can make amends.

Washington, DC
Completely agree with Marina Silva - it is imperative that countries like the US, China, India, Australia, etc,. decrease their OWN emissions, before even contemplating offset schemes. Where's the additionality and non-leakage coming from if we just allow people to continue behaving in an unsustainable manner to support an unsustainable lifestyle and wrecking the lives of others? I hope that organisztions like WWF, TNC, CI, WCS, and others that work on REDD begin to pay attention to these details, and begin to work on the CONSUMPTION side of things, as much as the conservation side of things to ensure that atrocities of this sort do not continue.

Westlake, Ohio
I don't get it. The trees are already there. How can this guy sell this land anyway?

Portland, OR
These carbon credits are an enormous SCAM!The trees are there so they do not offset any CO2 released into the air by the industry. I agree that preserving the forests is important, but this is not the way. It is not a carbon offset - it is only a license to pollute. Nature Conservancy is an admirable organization, and I understand their zeal in preserving as much forest as possible, but in this case they have made "a deal with the devil."On another issue - the people there need to decide if they want to join the global economy or not. If so, then they need to limit family size. That is a responsibility that needs to be addressed. All is very well to look sympathetically on the family and kids, but the Brazilian population cannot go on expanding. Everyone will be saying "It is our forests to exploit as we see fit!" Soon there will be nothing left,and then where will we all be?

Keith Brown - chicago, illinois
The carbon story was really done well. To tell a story and not give a direct link to how we as Americans can help does the story and the people an injustice. That is what we as Americans do, we are informed about a problem and we help those who are in need.

Jack Pedigo - Seattle, Washington
As with all environmental reports these days a critical issue is missing or deliberately left out: population growth. It helps no species on this planet if our numbers don't stop increasing; the indigenous peoples are a particular case in point. They have little enough and by increasing their need to support large families everything will break down despite efforts by well meaning people or corporations. This needs to be emphasized more in order to bring more balance into reports such as this.

Rosalind Peterson - Redwood Valley, California
May 12, 2010In California and many other areas of the world our trees, trees which benefit all of us in the world, are being auctioned off to allow polluters to offset their pollution instead of reducing it.

The bankers, Wall Street, the polluters, and those wishing to pollute at ever increasing rates are jumping on the offset bandwagon.

U.S. Senator Kerry is introducing a new Cap & Trade Climate Bill full of offsets and other gifts to corporate and other polluters on Wednesday, May 12, 2010.

This bill under (PRI) Pollution Investment Reduction will not reduce a single pollutant for more than 10 years...and it allows polluters to buy or be given free offsets in order to continue to pollute.

The problem is that the pollution will kill the trees in the end. And the power of the EPA is being gutted, along with the Clean Air and Water Acts...so that they won't be regulating or reducing future greenhouse gas pollution.

The Carbon Hunters, polluting corporations, know that the bill is weak and know that they can make $Trillions polluting the environment without restriction if this bill passes.

We all lose in the offsets markets except the polluting corporations, the banks, offset venture capitalists, and Wall Street.

The rest of us will all suffer with ever-increasing pollution...and when the corporations who are investing in trees have taken all the profits out of them...these forest lands will be then cut down in the end.

It is a sad scenario but one that will hinge on whether Senator Kerry's bill passes this year in the U.S. Senate.

I encourage everyone to oppose this legislation...a giveaway to polluters is another way for the wealth of the people to be put in the hands of the few for private gain.

The pollution from these companies will eventually kill the trees, pollute our air and water, and increase diseases from these pollutants...costing all of us in the end.

Thank you for airing this program.Respectfully,Rosalind Peterson, President

Michael Wertz - Mercedes, Texas
My AP Environmental Science students and I found the piece very eye opening. Students had just finished the 2010 College Board AP environmental science exam and found much to reflect on in terms of their future choices of food, beverage, fiber, and energy.

Patrick O'Leary - Jacksonville, Florida
Rain forests are pretty far afield. Sure they need and deserve protection, but solving our problems can be done right here at home. US energy eficiency numbers are as bad as they are because we haven't used some simple tools that have long been available to us. Reducing our standard of living is NOT required, it isn't even advisable.

Debbie Miller - San Diego, California
I plan on sharing this video with my high school class. We have been working with environmental issues this month and this will be a great complement to our program.

John Smithe - Boston, MA
Great reporting, thanks. Opened up a new understanding for me on the issues around the carbon market.

Austin Kuder - Seven Hills, Ohio
When will PBS and the world address the underlying problem of Central America, immigration, deforestation, inter-species transmission of disease, etc. World population growth must be stopped!