Why planting one trillion trees won't solve climate change
Published Monday, July 8, 2019 8:39AM EDT
A new report claims the most effective way to fight climate change would be a global effort to plant one trillion trees, but one Canadian expert says that would only be one piece of a much larger puzzle.
The report, which was released last week, found that there is enough room on Earth to add trees to nearly one billion hectares of land – an area nearly the size of the United States. This would mean more than 500 billion trees could be planted, creating storage for more than 200 gigatonnes of carbon once they have matured – or about five times as much carbon as was produced on the entire planet last year.
“Such a change has the potential to cut the atmospheric carbon pool by about 25 per cent,” the report reads.
“This highlights global tree restoration as our most effective climate change solution to date.”
It may be the best solution yet, but it isn’t a complete solution, according to a Carleton University professor whose work focuses on governmental responses to climate change.
“It’s not really a magic bullet,” James Meadowcroft told CTV’s Your Morning.
“If we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases through the combustion of fossil fuels, we can’t really escape climate change.”
While acknowledging that additional tree-planting would help mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases, Meadowcroft said putting aside that much land might not be practical – particularly as the world’s population increases, exerting pressure to use more land for food production.
Biofuels, long hoped to become a replacement for fossil fuels, would also require significant land to produce.
“There are lots of things people might like to do with that land other than dedicate it to trees,” Meadowcroft said.
Even the experts who wrote the report acknowledge that their idea isn’t perfect. They say current warming trends suggest the world will lose nearly seven per cent of its existing tree cover by 2050.
Meadowcroft said people should not feel discouraged to plant trees on their own, but he and the Swiss researchers want to see action on a much more significant scale.
“It has to be a collective effort. It’s really about governments and municipalities and the urban effort and things like that – not just individuals,” he said.
People looking to make a greater impact on the environment should consider using electric vehicles, reducing air travel and demanding political action, Meadowcroft said.
Trees currently take up approximately 3.4 billion hectares of land globally. Russia, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil and China are considered to be the six countries with the most room to add new trees.
With files from The Associated Press