Can We Plant Our Way Out of Climate Change?

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Can we plant enough trees to suck up all human carbon dioxide emissions? How many trees will it take, and do we have enough land area for it.

We often see photos of politicians planting trees as a gesture of their commitment to climate change. Is this act merely a PR stunt, or does planting a tree make a difference in preventing climate change?

Climate Now video episode, Carbon Dioxide Removal: Removal, explains the potential and limitation of forests and various forestry methods to draw carbon emission out of the atmosphere.

For trees to make an impact when it comes to absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide depends on accounting. On the surface, it makes perfect sense because trees grow by converting CO2 biomass and energy through photosynthesis. Today, the 3 trillion trees that exist can sequester around a third of human-caused GHG emissions released each year.

The video presents various strategies for carbon dioxide removal (CDR):

  • (1) Avoided emissions (when we don’t cut the trees or convert them to other land uses) which accounts for 3.7 gigatons of CO2 annually. The top three deforestation drivers are cattle ranching at 41%, soy and palm oil farming at 18.4%, and paper production at 13%.
  • (2) Forest Management refers to modifying land use activities in forests to increase their net sequestration of CO2. For example, restoring degraded forests or increasing the age of trees to extend harvesting rotation rates could remove up to 2.1 gigatons of CO2 annually, according to the 2019 IPCC report.
  • (3) Reforestation and Afforestation. The former refers to growing new trees in recently deforested land, and the latter is growing trees on the land that has not been forested in the last 50 years.

Watch to video to know the answers to these questions:

  • How much CO2 we can sequester using the CDR methods; the amount of land required or we are willing to use for this effort?
  • What region the world to plant the new forest to optimize CO2 sequestration capacity and avoid maladaptation?
  • What other behavioral changes we need to support reforestation efforts? and
  • What steps we can take further to make sure that our sequestered CO2 through reforestation are stored away permanently?

Source Citation:

Video Episode 2.4 Carbon Dioxide Removal: Forests (2021 November 26). Climate Now. Video]. YouTube.

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