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ENVIRONMENT

‘Mind Blowing’ Research Says Planting Trees is Top Answer to Climate Change

George Cruz collects weeds as Jorge Cristobal, both 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight volunteer conservation officers, inventories tree species on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, April 12, 2014. The site is home to 17 newly-planted native limestone forest tree species, to include the Yoga, Ifit and Ahgao trees. These trees provide vital habitat for the threatened and endangered Mariana fruit bat. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White/Released)
George Cruz collects weeds as Jorge Cristobal, both 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight volunteer conservation officers, inventories tree species on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, April 12, 2014. The site is home to 17 newly-planted native limestone forest tree species, to include the Yoga, Ifit and Ahgao trees. These trees provide vital habitat for the threatened and endangered Mariana fruit bat. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White/Released)

“For a fraction of the cost of the Trump tax cuts, we could pay for a trillion new trees and offset 2/3rd of all emissions to date.”

New research from the journal Science shows that reforestation could play a much larger role than previously anticipated in removing human-caused carbon emissions from the atmosphere. The scientists, who calculated how many trees could be planted without intruding on urban areas or agricultural areas, found results they described as “mind-blowing.”

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” Professor Tom Crowther, a co-author of the study, told the Guardian. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Crowther’s team estimates that there are currently around 3 trillion trees in the world, which is about half the number that existed before human society. The researchers calculate that they could plant one trillion trees, which would soak up 205 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere, for $300 billion dollars. Humans are believed to have released around 300 billion metric tons since the beginning of the industrial revolution, making mass reforestation capable of removing two-thirds of human emissions, according to the research.

“For a fraction of the cost of the Trump tax cuts, we could pay for a trillion new trees and offset 2/3rd of all emissions to date,” tweeted the Sunrise Movement. “We have solutions ready to go; we’re just missing the political will to act.”

Critics contend that planting trees is not a panacea to the multifaceted environmental crisis, as the full benefits of reforestation would take decades to manifest at a time of rapid extinction and increasing carbon emissions.

The acceleration of deforestation in Brazil, home to 60% of the Amazon rainforest, is the most significant driver in global deforestation. The rate of deforestation rose 88% in June 2019 as opposed to June 2018, a consequence of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy. The Brazilian president denies climate change and holds close ties to the agribusiness sector.

But Bolsonaro cannot be entirely blamed for the rapid deforestation, as rainforest development is fueled by huge global demand for products like soy and beef in China and other countries. Some argue raising consumer awareness of deforestation would be a more effective strategy in defending the Amazon than focusing on Bolsonaro.

Other critics argue monoculture forests can be aesthetically displeasing and harmful to native wildlife. Ireland’s ambitious forestation efforts, for example, have inspired backlash from local communities who argue their government’s initiative represents a top-down effort without consideration for the unique needs of different areas.

“We’re not anti-trees, we’re anti-this,” Willie Stewart of Drumnadober, Ireland, told the Guardian. “It’s industrial monoculture – a green barrier all around us. It’s horrible.”

But while reforestation may not be a “silver bullet” in addressing the climate crisis, experts believe it could be an integral element of a broader strategy including reduced emissions and renewable energy.

Jean-François Bastin, a scientist involved in the study, said the new findings should impact public policy: “Governments must now factor [tree restoration] into their national strategies.”

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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4 Comments

  1. Paul July 9, 2019

    So, if planting trees is the #1 soln to reversing #ClimateChange, then global deforestation must be at least tied as a leading cause. And given the #1 driver of global deforestation is BigMeat&Dairy (60% of all lands now used by humans are used to graze farmed animals and grow feed crops for farmed animals- in the US alone 70% of all grains are used as feed crops for farmed animals) then that makes giving up our Meat&Dairy habits the #1 soln to ClimateChange.

    It’s nothing less than stunning the hoops that the IPCC and FAO have jumped through over the past two decades to cover up this simple logical fact.

    Reply
  2. Alfonso July 9, 2019

    Weren’t the millions of buffalo grazing the Plains in greater numbers than our cows, and did the buffalo cause climate change? Also, if we get rid of cows, that eliminates dogs and cats, because a lot of dog and cat food is made with beef, but they probably aren’t that important either.

    Reply
    1. Larry Stout July 9, 2019

      Alfonso, no deforestation was involved in the bisons’ grazing on the natural Great Plains.

  3. Larry Stout July 9, 2019

    “…rainforest development is fueled by huge global demand for products like soy and beef in China and other countries.”

    Overpopulation is the root of nearly all of mankind’s great proglems. Overpopulation = unsustainable demand = destruction of the natural world that has sustained us and is necessary to prevent our self-extinction.

    Reply

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