Best way to fight climate change? Plant a trillion trees
07 July, 2019, 19:10
The researchers used Google Earth and artificial intelligence to see what areas could support more trees, while leaving room for people and crops. The earth could do with a third more forests, without towns or agricultural land would be affected, write researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of technology (ETH) in Zurich in the journal "Science".
That's roughly one trillion to 1.5 trillion new trees across an area the size of the entire United States, the team estimates.
"Restoration of trees may be "among the most effective strategies", but it is very far indeed from "the best climate change solution available", and a long way behind reducing fossil fuel emissions to net zero", said Myles Allen, a geosystem science professor at Oxford.
A tool on the Crowther Lab website enables users to look at any point on the globe, and identify the areas for restoration and learn which native tree species exist there.
That would help combat climate change in addition to providing other benefits from recreation to habitat restoration. In forests, trees turn atmospheric carbon into wood. They reported that the Earth can hold enough additional trees to reduce the atmospheric carbon levels by nearly 25%, which is lower than any levels observed for around a century.
"It's certainly a monumental challenge, which is exactly the scale of the problem of climate change", he said.
"Finally an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas", she said in a statement. The study is the first to attempt to quantify how many trees the Earth can support, where to plant them and how much carbon they could store.
According to Prof. Thomas Crowther, co-author of the study and founder of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich: "We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn't really know how big the impact would be".
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"Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today and it provides hard evidence to justify investment".
Planting trees in these regions would increase Earth's forest-covered land by a third, all without affecting land humans use for cities and agriculture.
"However, it will take decades for new forests to mature and achieve this potential". Concurrent with the reforestration program, a dramatic decrease in new emissions will be required as well, since the planting process will take 50 to 100 years to fully sequester the projected 205 gigatons of carbon dioxide suggested by the study. According to the IPCC, do not need to be limited until 2050 not only the climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions, for example in the energy and transport sector, but also up to a billion hectares of Land are newly planted with trees.
It's an all-natural TreeHugger-approved carbon capture and storage plan. The scenario, they added, is "undoubtedly achievable under the current climate".
To make this bold prediction, the researchers identified what tree cover looks like in almost 80,000 half-hectare plots in existing forests.
The study finds that more than half the potential to restore trees can be found in just six countries: Russian Federation (151 million hectares); United States of America (103 million); Canada (78 million); Australia (58 million); Brazil (50 million); and China (40 million).
Over the past three years, Egypt's governorates such as Alexandria, Beheira (Delta) and Giza governorates launched campaigns, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, to plant million fruitful trees in each governorate.