Saturday, 17 August, 2019

Planting More Trees Key to Combating Climate Change

But scientists say planting trees is not a substitute for weaning the world off burning fossil fuels But scientists say planting trees is not a substitute for weaning the world off burning fossil fuels
Sandra Phillips | 07 July, 2019, 19:09

After recently publishing the most negative "OMG we're stuffed" post about climate change ever, it is a pleasure to write that we really can cure this, with carbon capture and storage - in trees.

New findings published this week in Science show just how important a role they could play in climate mitigation efforts by calculating "Earth's tree carrying capacity".

The most effective way to fight global warming is to plant lots of trees, a trillion of them, maybe more, according to a new study.

The researchers found Earth could support an additional 1.6 billion hectares more trees than it now has, to make for a total forest area equaling 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover. We mapped the global potential tree coverage to show that 4.4 billion hectares of canopy cover could exist under the current climate.

Once these new trees reach maturity, they could store an estimated 205 billion tonnes of carbon - or about two thirds 300 billion tonnes human activity has driven into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

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.

"However, it will take decades for new forests to mature and achieve this potential".

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Spread across the globe, the greatest potential for reforestation is in just six countries: Russian Federation (151 million hectares), the U.S. (103 million hectares), Canada (78.4 million hectares), Australia (58 million hectares), Brazil (49.7 million hectares), and China (40.2 million hectares). To put that in perspective, humans emit about 10 gigatons of carbon from burning fossil fuels every year, according to Richard Houghton, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, who was not involved with the study.

'Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. It confirms that this scenario projection is "undoubtedly achievable under the current climate". "But the question of whether it is actually feasible to restore this much forest is much more hard", he said.

Several researchers expressed reservations, taking issue with the idea that planting trees was the best climate solution available to the world right now. More than half of that space is not being used by people.

Over decades, the growing trees could suck up almost 830 billion tons (750 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to the study.

In layman's terms, there is an area the size of the U.S. available for tree restoration. The calculations were wrong, because the tree density spent an average of only 30 to 40 percent. However, this would be outweighed by losses in dense tropical forests, which typically have 90-100% tree cover. But a proposal that costs a tenth as much as carbon capture and geoengineering has to be given serious consideration.

The study comes after The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made claims that if we want to limit the rise in global temperature at 1.5C by 2050, an extra 1 billion hectares of trees would be needed. This new research demonstrates how much natural capacity our planet has to grow and sustain additional forest; now, the challenge is to understand how and where we can accelerate this implementation, whilst still feeding our growing global population. Fellow researcher Jean-François Bastin, also of ETH Zürich, agrees that climate action is urgent and asdds, "Governments must now factor [tree restoration] into their national strategies".

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