No problem is more pressing than climate change. To combat climate change we need to reduce emissions and trees are ideally suited to do this as they remove about a quarter of the carbon emissions we produce each year. In the urgent bid to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, countries around the world are planting trees.
The Independent recently reported on a study that suggests trees are, “our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change”. According to an assessment from ecologist Dr Thomas Crowther, forest restoration could erase ten years worth of CO2 emissions. According to this research planting 1.2 trillion trees in parks, woods and abandoned land across the planet would be the most effective single thing we can do to combat climate change.
“There’s 400 gigatons now, in the 3 trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out,” Dr Crowther said, adding trees have the, “potential to tackle the two greatest challenges of our time – climate change and biodiversity loss.”
The IPCC has estimated that between 100 and 1,000 gigatonnes of CO2 will need to be removed from the atmosphere to meet the Paris goals. There is a lot of talk about geoengineering solutions and developing technology that would remove carbon from the atmosphere. However, trees are the most powerful, efficient and cost-effective carbon-capture system on the planet. It has been broadly agreed that the most important natural “carbon sinks” are the world’s forests.
As reported by the Guardian, a group of scientists said that halting deforestation “just as urgent” as reducing emissions by ending fossil fuels. The statement was issued by a group of 40 scientists from five countries. The said protecting and restoring forests would reduce 18 percent of emissions by 2030 and help us to stay within critical upper threshold temperature limits. Right now the Earth’s forest have locked away more than 3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide.
“We must protect and maintain healthy forests to avoid dangerous climate change and to ensure the world’s forests continue to provide services critical for the well-being of the planet and ourselves,” the statement reads. “Our planet’s future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forests”.
Natural climate solutions (include reforestation as well as the restoration of peatlands, salt marsh and seagrass) in North America can help us achieve 37 percent of our climate target, even though they currently receive only 2.5 percent of public climate financing.
Trees are an amazingly efficient way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. One tree can store an average of about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year and recent research shows intact forests are capable of storing the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions of entire countries such as Peru and Colombia. According to a Drawdown estimate the increased investment in the multi-strata agroforestry area could help sequester up to 9.28 gigatons of carbon dioxide, while saving a net $709.8 billion by 2050. Landscape restoration could potentially sequester up to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide every year, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The climate benefits associated with trees are also complimented by social benefits. In less-developed, rural areas community-based sustainable forest management programs can alleviate poverty while reducing deforestation to virtually zero.
We will need a wide range of different solutions including sophisticated technological innovations, however, low tech readily available trees go a long way towards addressing the crisis we face.