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I’ve heard this twice from people that are experts in their fields, and now the BBC News writer Matt McGrath is reporting  on a new study published in  Science that recommends planting trees~billions of trees~to counter global warming.

Trees have a natural ability to capture carbon dioxide on a remarkable scale, and estimates suggest that there is a capacity the size of the United States that could be reforested around the world. Of course while tree planting may be an effective strategy it is still critical to arrest fossil fuel emissions. Estimates in the research study suggest trees can neutralize two-thirds of all carbon burden. That means that planting 900 million hectares of trees would result in an additional storage of 205 billion tons of carbon.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that if the world wanted to limit the rise to 1.5C by 2050, an extra 1bn hectares (2.4bn acres) of trees would be needed. The problem has been that accurate estimates of just how many trees the world can support have been hard to come by.This new report aims to show not just how many trees can be grown, but where they could be planted and how much of an impact they would have on carbon emissions.

Scientists from ETH-Zurich used Google Earth mapping software to create a predictive map exploring where new tree canopy could be located. Excluding farms and cities, they estimate that globally nearly 1 billion hectares of tree cover could be added. And those trees once matured “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.”

Imagine~with a reduction of carbon dioxide by 25 percent, the air would be a similar quality to that of 100 years ago. This finally provides a definitive assessment of the amounts of trees needed and even identifies which countries can reforest.

I have previously written about the Little Ice Age that occurred in Europe in the 1500’s when colonization and disease decimated North American First Nations, reducing the population from 60 million to an estimated 5 to 6 million in a short century. Called the “Great Dying”, scientists claim that the wilding of hundreds of thousands of hectares of abandoned indigenous agricultural lands by trees and other vegetation “pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.” 

This new report on planting trees to  mitigate today’s pollution is a first step to examining how to capture carbon dioxide without compromising agricultural or urban lands.  You can also take a look at this link from Global News for more information.

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Comments

  1. Doing my part! Planted 2 bushes and 3 trees at my new place. Although I noticed the people that own my old house have butchered the 2 trees in the front yard. Well, gonna have to do some illicit planting in Gray’s park I think. 🙂

  2. The calculation lacks efficacy. It does not apply to the planet that humans live on because they are actually quite busy removing trees not planting trees. The calculation does not matter.

    1. We’re also quite busy driving ICE cars, heating with fossil fuels etc. So your argument is that we shouldn’t change what we’re doing because we haven’t done very well so far at changing what we’re doing? You sound an awful lot like somebody else who posts to this blog.

      There’s so many great reasons to plant trees besides the obvious CO2 sequestration. We know there used to be far more of them – globally three to four times more forest than now – so it’s something that has a low risk of unforeseen consequences. They add beauty and clean the air of other pollutants. They absorb and transpire enormous amounts of water, both the tree and the soil they stabilize which leads to less flooding and more consistent rains. They reduce the power of wind storms. They’re great wildlife habitat. And they can provide sustainable resources for building products and fibre – if managed properly. What’s not to like.

      But planting billions or trillions of trees is no simple project. Thankfully it is low skill and can be scaled globally. But it’s a lot more than planting and waiting. Many of those trees are likely going to need care and attention for years afterward to ensure sufficient water and to beat back invasive species that have likely taken hold in many areas where healthy forest once grew. One need only see how that plays out in our own city forests where new tress are often smothered or overtaken by dozens of aggressive invasives that don’t usually take hold in established forests. So the good news is that the more they establish and grow the more they will resist the invasives on their own, the more they will regulate their hydrological cycles and the more they will sequester CO2 and the more they will contribute to a natural cycle of rejuvenation. It’s one of the few things we can do that will become more effective with time with fewer costs over time.

      1. The calculation lacks efficacy. Such a calculation cannot be realized with-in a decade (the deadline to cut emissions) when it takes a tree 60 plus years to reach maturity.

        It is only a graphic illustration – so much area – so many trees = so much sequestered CO2. It’s not something that can be a reality because we don’t have that much time anymore to plant trees all over the place and watch them grow and become the climate change solution.

        1. Well that’s not exactly true. We’ll need to be removing carbon from the atmosphere for a century and probably much longer so trees planted today are going to help with that. And while there’s still too much ongoing tree loss there has also been some carbon offset tree planting happening for a few decades that are just beginning to help us out. And I’m well aware that some of that has been a scam, collecting credits for trees that would have been planted anyway. But not all of it has been and most of it has still resulted in more planted trees.

          Ecosia.org is the search engine I use because they’re committed to planting trees as part of their organizational model – over 61m so far with a ticking clock to keep track. Try it.

          You’re correct that planting trees today isn’t going to help at all with our need to significantly slash emissions within a decade, but it isn’t going to hurt either. There’s really no good reason not to do it.

          It’s also interesting to think how sequestering carbon in timber buildings might help. It’s just one extra little nothing that could add up to something if scaled broadly. It’s not just the sequestered carbon but the avoidance of high emission concrete and steel. Every little bit is going to help.

      2. Further to my comments about water retention in planted areas. Here’s an interesting observation of a long row of identical trees planted between the Maynards redevelopment and the Cambie bridge. Every single tree in that row that shares the space with a cluster of shrubbery looks healthy, Every single one planted by itself is all but dead. Even though the order is somewhat random the outcome is black and white.

        Admittedly the size of the opening in the pavement plays a role, but I’ll bet the moisture retention and recycling among the shrubs is significant.

  3. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project alone will potentially release almost 1.3 billion tonnes of life cycle CO2 per decade* (~40% released within Canada) should its maximum planned output be reached. That is just one pipeline of three that is on the books for Alberta. Moreover, that figure could virtually double when the tanker return trips carry refined petroleum products (condensate or fuel).

    Planting trees is an important part of the climate mitigation strategy, but it is not nearly enough. Emissions must be dramatically reduced too. The realization of some planned policies to decarbonize will certainly help (e.g. Toyota announcing that half their world wide production will be in electric vehicles by 2025), though the rhetoric by carbonized special interests clearly indicates those interests seem to be willfully ignorant of the laws of physics. The scientific illiteracy of the political and economic cognoscenti must be called out every day.

    * Based on TMX published data and Natural Resources Canada emissions calculations on bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands.

    1. I’d take Toyota more seriously if they weren’t opening plants in states like Alabama. If you reward Trump-supporting juridictions with jobs, you’re part of the problem.

    2. The adoption of electric vehicles for much of the world is dependent on developing renewable energy supplies for charging stations. To get to zero emissions we will need deep technological transformation far beyond the user product.

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