Science

Best way to fight climate change? Plant a trillion trees

Best way to fight climate change? Plant a trillion trees”

According to a new study in the journal Science, planting billions of trees around the world would be the cheapest and most effective way to tackle the climate crisis. The study's lead author, Jean-Francois Bastin, estimated there's space for at least 1 trillion more trees, and potentially 1.5 trillion, AP reports, on top of the estimated 3 trillion trees now on the planet.

"This is lovely thing, just to think that to fight climate change what you have to do is to plant trees and you can do that everywhere", Bastin said.

Once these trees matured they could pull down around 200 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, some two-thirds of extra carbon from human activities put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

The team said their study evaluated the United Nations claim for the first time, showing where the trees could be restored and how much carbon they could capture.

Scientists say massive reforestation could capture two-thirds of manmade carbon emissions and reduce overall levels in the atmosphere to their lowest in nearly a century.

There's just one slight wrinkle: Climate change could make life in certain parts of the globe inhospitable for some of those new trees, particularly in the tropics.

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.

The Crowther Lab is a group of multi-disciplinary scientists studying the ecological processes that influence climate change, based at ETH Zürich, the world's leading University in Earth and Environmental Sciences. It confirms that this scenario projection is "undoubtedly achievable under the current climate". Now researchers say the best solution is also the simplest: plant more forests.

The Crowther Lab finds that forests could be regrown on 1.7-1.8 billion hectares of land in areas with low human activity that are not now used as urban or agricultural land, adding 0.9 billion hectares of tree canopy. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated a 1 billion hectare (about 2.4 billion acre) increase in forests could limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) by 2050.

If cropland and urban areas were included the study finds that forests could be regrown on a further 1.4 billion hectares of land, adding 0.7 billion hectares of tree canopy.

The researchers identify six countries where the bulk of the forest restoration could occur: Russian Federation (151m hectares), United States (103m), Canada (78m), Australia (58m), Brazil (50m) and China (40m).

There are also many opportunities that present themselves in a reforested and afforested world, including the transformation of the construction industry to wood (continuing to store the Carbon dioxide in buildings as well as trees) and forest farming, which promises "abundance, as well as the kind of resilience a changing climate demands".

At the start of 2019, 48 countries had signed up to the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030.

The study also warns that some existing climate models are wrong in expecting climate change to increase global tree cover. There's as much carbon captured and stored in all the trees of the Amazon as the amount the entire planet has emitted over the past 10 years.

In sum, the researchers assessed the tree cover of more than 78,000 square hectares of land.

They also took into consideration the human-related factors that could skew the estimates, such as farmland or other non-forest green spaces.

And the best way to really see just how much tree cover's out there is using satellite data, which is exactly what the study turned to.

But if there's a silver lining, it's that we know the solutions.

Researchers analyzed tree cover in protected forest areas largely unaffected by human activity across the Earth's ecosystems, from arctic tundra to equatorial rainforest, studying almost 80,000 high resolution satellite photographs.



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