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How Much Can Trees Really Help Fight Climate Change?

Updated: Feb 15

Trees act like sponges that soak up emissions, so there’s always been the question: Could humans plant enough trees to absorb the greenhouse gasses we have put in the atmosphere? A team of scientists sought to quantify the answer. In 2019, a study led by researchers at ETH Zurich found that the planet could support nearly 2.5 billion additional acres of forests, without shrinking any cities or farms, and that these trees could store an estimated 200 gigatons of carbon. The study was heavily critiqued. A new study published in November 2023 in the journal Nature, finds that if forests were restored to where they occur naturally, then the trees could absorb 226 gigatons of carbon.

 

The increased discussion on the subject has brought new waves to forestation as a method to fight climate change. Firstly, planting trees can not be used to green wash. Planting trees and conservation can only do so much, and the entire world needs to look at multifaceted solutions. Secondly, tree-planting and conservation needs to be community led. Trees need to be native to the region and planted in areas they can thrive. Also, many communities rely on deforested areas to survive, so working with locals to find ways for both the forests and local community to thrive is essential. 

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