Reforesting an area the size of the US needed to help avert climate breakdown, say researchers – are they right?
- Jan 30, 2021 12:34 pm GMT
Restoring the world’s forests on an unprecedented scale is “the best climate change solution available”, according to a recent study. The researchers claim that covering 900m hectares of land – roughly the size of the continental US – with trees could store up to 205 billion tonnes of carbon, about two thirds of the carbon that humans have already put into the atmosphere. But it seems the real number is about about 55-60 billion tonnes of carbon.
While the best solution to climate change remains leaving fossil fuels in the ground, we will still need to suck carbon dioxide (CO₂) out of the atmosphere this century if we are to keep global warming below 1.5˚C. So the idea of reforesting much of the world isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.
Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have cut down three trillion trees – about half the trees on Earth. Already 43 countries have pledged to restore 292m hectares of degraded land to forest worldwide. That’s an area ten times the size of the UK. But what the new study advocates is reforesting something like ten times that amount. This article examines the reforestation successes in Western China in the 1990s and the likelihood that we could reproduce this around the world and really plant 1 trillion tree.
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