Here’s a tiny skerrick of good news amid the never-ending wave of dread about climate change: scientists have done the math and found that there’s a relatively easy way to make a significant difference in the battle against climate crisis. Their solution: planting billions and billions of trees.
According to new research published in Science, planting trees on unused land – that’s land that isn’t used for agriculture or in urban spaces – could be enough to store about 205 gigatonnes of carbon.
In practical terms, that could mean buying us another 20 years of non-disastrous climate conditions.
Jean-Francois Bastin, a researcher from the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, said of the findings:
This would definitely help to keep us at that maximum of 1.5 degrees by 2050.
The Science research discovered that there are 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land that could be reforested, taking 1.2 trillion (yep, trillion) native trees that would grow without too much hassle in their natural conditions. The land that could be reforested includes large swathes of the east coast of Australia.
Professor Tom Crowther, also from Zurich and leader of the reforestation research, told the Guardian:
This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one. What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.
Although we can’t rest on our laurels yet – especially as the proposed reforestation initiative would take between 50 and 100 years to come into full effect – Crowther said that tree planting is “a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.“
It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.
You heard the man! Go forth and plant some trees, and maybe in twenty years we’ll have staved off the inevitable fiery end of the world enough for us all to retire in robot-assisted comfort.