A Trillion Trees? Let’s Talk About It…
A recently released study in the journal Science advocates for reforestation as the most effective and affordable tool against climate change. American Forests has long held that tree planting and forest restoration could make a major difference in fighting climate change, so this news isn’t only heartening, it is helpful in supporting a worldwide planting initiative that can start right here at home.
Researchers at ETH – Zürich in Switzerland found, using Google Earth mapping and an existing database of nearly 80,000 forests, that the planet can support nearly 3.5 million square miles more trees without affecting cities or agriculture. The United States alone has over 397,000 square miles available, giving it the most potential for new forests.
Trees store carbon dioxide as they grow, so planting trees can help reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Using their predictive model, researchers concluded that, upon maturity, a trillion trees planted could store up to 205 billion metric tons of carbon — that’s 2/3 of the amount humans have emitted in the last 100 years!
The study may undercount historic climate pollution from human activity and it may have too high an estimate of carbon removal per square mile, but tree planting is still a huge opportunity to mitigate climate change.
“Tree planting is our best bet to mitigate climate change,” says Eric Sprague, American Forests VP of Forest Restoration. “And we need to start now so that the forests can realize their potential in the decades to come.”
We need to do all we can to combat climate change, and we know that nature has the best remedies. Yet, higher temperatures, severe wildfire, pests and diseases and drought are limiting the ability of forests to provide these benefits. Therefore, any tree planting and forest restoration effort must use climate science to ensure forests are able to adapt to these threats. Care should be taken to recognize the importance of other land uses and habitats as well.
The recent study is an encouraging call to action, reminding us that not all hope is lost in our efforts to combat climate change. We cannot rely solely on reforestation to offset our carbon emissions, but working with emission cuts in tandem, we know that the immediate results of plantings trees can both increase our carbon sink while restoring habitat, cleaning the air, and filtering water. That’s a great investment!
Find out more about how you can personally support American Forests in our tree planting and restoration efforts here.