A recent study published by Science Magazine claims that the solution to is to plant more trees. Is it possible that the restoration of forests and other natural ecosystems on our planet could help stall, if not reverse, the negative effects of climate change? These scientists believe so. 

According to the study, there is more land space available to plant trees on Earth then was once previously thought. Excluding cities and pre-existing agricultural areas, the researchers of the study found that there are nearly 3.5 million square miles of land that could be used to plant and preserve trees. Russia is stated to have the most land space available with 583,000 square miles, followed by the United States with 397,700 square miles. Next, Canada comes in with 302,700 square miles, and just ahead of Canada, Australia and China, which all have land space ranging from about 150,000 square miles to around 224,000 square miles each. 

How Can Planting Trees Help? 

Scientists hypothesize that if enough trees were to be planted, CO2 levels in the atmosphere could drop by as much as 25%. This drop would be significant, as it would restore CO2 balance in the atmosphere to levels that have not been seen in almost 100 years. Once matured, it is possible that enough new trees could photosynthesize nearly two-thirds of the extra carbon in the atmosphere that has been gathering and leftover since the industrial revolution. Professor Tom Crowther, senior author of the study, stated that their research “shows clearly that forest reforestation is the best climate change solution available today,” and that their study provides the evidence needed to justify the effort and expenses that will be required in order to plant more trees. 

Determining Where to Plant More Trees 

Despite the optimism surrounding this particular theory, this study has not been without its criticisms. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that if the world is to limit the predicted warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, nearly 2.4 billion acres of trees would need to be planted. Additionally, estimates as to where the trees could be planted in order to have the most impact have been questioned. 

However, through the use of Google Earth technology, scientists behind this particular study were able to map out which areas across the globe can best accommodate new tree and forest growth, as well as how much extra tree cover the earth can actually support. Their estimates came in at 2.22 billion acres, which is just shy of the estimated number of trees needed to prevent global temperatures from rising and climate change from worsening. Additionally, the researcher team used photo-interpretation methods, as well as global dataset observations from over 78,000 forests. 

Can Trees Really Help End Climate Change? 

If we are going to plant more trees in order to reverse climate change, we need to act now. Since it will take decades for the trees themselves and new forests to grow and fully mature, there is no time to spare.  

Some researchers argue that, while planting more trees may be an effective strategy for fighting climate change, it is far from the best solution we have available to us today. Professor Simon Lewis from the University College of London spoke out against the study, stating that the predicted drop in CO2 levels based on the number of trees planted is not supported by previous research and climate change studies in the field.  

Professor Mark Lukac from the University of Reading also expressed his skepticism towards the study’s claims, explaining that the expectation that new trees and forest growth will absorb pre-existing CO2 levels in the atmosphere is simply “too good to be true.”  

If anything is certain, action needs to be taken immediately in order for us to remedy climate change burdens and ultimately reverse global warming as soon as possible. While it may sound too good to be true in some respects, planting trees in order to save the planet may not actually be a bad idea. Any positive change, big or small, is needed now if we are to ensure that our planet is healthy and habitable in the coming decades. 

Resources: 

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48870920 

https://www.livescience.com/65880-planting-trees-fights-climate-change.html 

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6448/24 

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