The best way to tackle climate change? Plant 1 trillion trees, experts say

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The fight against climate change is becoming a desperate race to save our planet.

More and more people are joining the movement, with both government and private sectors now taking more serious measures.

But are all our efforts enough?

Not nearly.

Our planet is still warming at an alarming rate, threatening wildlife extinction and rising sea levels.

However, new research now shows there is one cost-effective way to stop climate change:

Plant 1 trillion trees.

Apparently, replenishing the world’s forest on a massive scale would suck enough C02 from the atmosphere to clean a decade’s worth of carbon emissions.

“The planet has enough space to house 1.2 trillion more trees”

The research, which was presented at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C suggests that tree planting is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases – the leading contributor to climate change.

For years, we’ve been underestimating the capacity of the world’s forests. NASA previously estimated that the world only houses about 400 billion trees.

As it turns out, the scientists estimate that there are actually 3 trillion trees on Earth.

Even better news:

They found that there is abundant space to add 1.2 trillion more trees – enough to reverse 10 years worth of harmful emissions.

Ecologist Dr. Thomas Crowther and his team discovered that we can restore millions of acres of additional forests. And that doesn’t even include urban and agricultural land.

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According to Crowther:

“There are 400 gigatons [of CO2 stored] now in the 3 trillion trees.

“If you were to scale that up by another trillion trees, that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out.”

Crowther’s calculation of the global tree density. Green areas represent existing forests, while potential forests are marked in yellow.

Tree-planting as a weapon to fight climate change

Experts believe that tree-planting is still the single most cost-effective way to combat global warming.

Crowther tells The Independent that trees are “our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change.

In a separate interview with CNN, he adds:

“The amount of carbon that we can restore if we plant 1.2 trillion trees, or at least allow those trees to grow, would be way higher than the next best climate change solution.”

And he’s not the only one who believes the power of tree planting.

In findings published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists suggests:

“Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought.”

Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, also actively lobbies for nature-building projects to fight global warming:

“Today our impacts on the land cause a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. The way we manage the lands in the future could deliver 37% of the solution to climate change.

“That is huge potential, so if we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport.

“We are going to have to increase food and timber production to meet the demand of a growing population, but we know we must do so in a way that addresses climate change.”

Christiana Figueres, d former head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and who is spearheading Mission 2020, also weighs in, saying:

“Land use is a key sector where we can both reduce emissions and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. New study shows how we can massively increase action on land use – in tandem with increased action on energy, transport, finance, industry and infrastructure – to put emissions on their downward trajectory by 2020.

“Natural climate solutions are vital to ensuring we achieve our ultimate objective of full decarbonisation and can simultaneously boost jobs and protect communities in developed and developing countries.”

Tree-planting efforts

This all sounds promising.

But can it be done?

In recent years, many organizations have already started executing ambitious plans to plant trees globally.

One youth-led organization is raking in both awards and donations. Plant For The Planet (PFTP), alongside The United Nations’ Trillion Tree Campaign has planted almost 15 billion trees across the globe in recent years.

PFTP chairman Sagar Aryal says:

“I think a trillion trees is achievable. It’s not that we don’t have enough money in the world — maybe governments alone can’t do enough but if we work together with the private sector we can do it.”

Countries like Australia have also joined the movement. The country has vowed to plant a billion more trees by 2050 with their Paris Agreement climate targets.

UN-backed projects like the Bonn Challenge is also aiming to cover 350 million hectares of degraded land with trees by 2030.

Smart tree-planting

However, experts warn that we need to be smart about planting trees. 

We can’t just plant trees anywhere and everywhere. If we’re not careful, we’d be doing more harm than good.

If we want to successfully combat climate change, we need to plant trees on the right kind of land.

Ecosystem science and management at Texas A&M University Professor, Joseph Veldman explains:

“There is no doubt that super-aggressive tree planting efforts that are not done with consideration of the historic ecosystem will be a bad investment.”

And Crowther definitely agrees, saying:

“All the models that previously existed about where forest can be restored disregard whether they should. We don’t just model the forest, we also model grasslands and shrublands and piece them all together to reveal what should be where.”

Detractors would claim that global tree-planting is no quick fix to climate change. And that’s true. It will take decades – 30 to 40 years – for trees to grow enough to effectively reverse CO2 emissions.

However, with such a huge effort shown worldwide, it’s at least one thing going in our fight against climate change.

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