Restoring forests may be our most powerful weapon
Or an even better article on the subject:
Restoring forests may be our most powerful weapon in fighting climate change
Adding 2.2 billion acres of tree cover would capture two-thirds of man-made carbon emissions, a new study found. Allowing the Earth’s forests to recover could cancel out the majority of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research.
The worldwide assessment of current and potential forestation using satellite imagery appears Thursday in the journal Science. It shows that letting saplings regrow on land where forests have been cleared would increase global forested area by one-third and remove 205 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. That’s two thirds of the roughly 300 billion metric tons of carbon humans have put up there since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
The findings show forest restoration could be humanity’s single most important tool in fighting climate change. “The point is that [reforestation is] so much more vastly powerful than anyone ever expected,” said Thomas Crowther, a professor of environmental systems science at ETH Zurich and a coauthor of the paper. “By far it’s the top climate change solution in terms of carbon storage potential.”
The message here for policymakers is this: supporting natural systems should be a major component of any climate change mitigation strategy — in addition to deploying clean energy, switching to electric vehicles, and curbing consumption overall.
The challenges of such a massive reforestation effort are immense, however: deforestation is still rampant and is accelerating in some parts of the world. Rather than building up forests as a resource to offset greenhouse gas emissions, we’re currently losing them, and emitting more carbon in the process.
If the goal is to fight climate change, countries have to reverse course on how they use forests. Another paper out this week in Science Advances offers clear advice on where to focus: the places on Earth where forest restoration would be most viable and beneficial to human societies. As average temperatures keep climbing, forests may lose their effectiveness in soaking up emissions, so time is running out.