Giving Compass’ Take:
• Adele Peters reports that a global map identifies opportunities to plant trees around the world to fight climate change.
• How can you use this map to identify opportunities to plant trees in your community? How can planting trees be part of a community effort?
• Learn about the impact trees could have on climate change.
On this new global map, huge swaths of land are dotted in green pixels. These are the areas that could potentially be recovered with forests that have disappeared, according to a new study—and in total, could help capture as much as two-thirds of the carbon that humans have pumped into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.
Planting trees is far from the only thing that needs to happen to fight climate change. But the study makes clear exactly how much it can help. “Our research shows that it should really be considered to be a top solution that must be prioritized,” says Tom Crowther, a professor of global ecosystem ecology at ETH Zurich and one of the authors of the paper.
A UN climate report last year suggested that the world needs another billion hectares of carbon-sucking forests to have a chance of hitting the critical goal of staying under 1.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise. But other researchers had only rough estimates of how much space exists to plant new trees. The new study looked at thousands of photos of forests in protected areas to build a predictive model of how trees naturally grow in various climates, and then used Google Earth Engine to map out the rest of the world. Then they took out areas that are already used for farming or cities to see what was left.
“This study looks at how much it could actually contribute, and where could it contribute,” says Fred Stolle, deputy director of forests at the nonprofit World Resources Institute, who was not involved with the study. “That detail is important. It’s nice if you’re saying that you want to restore a billion hectares and you want to have a gigaton of CO2 sequestered, but this goes further on where that could happen and how much could happen.”
Another key question is how it could happen. The study identified 1.7 billion hectares of land that could feasibly return to forest (0.9 billion hectares of this would be covered in trees), an area greater than the total area of the U.S. and China combined. It’s a project of an almost unimaginable scale, and also costly.
Read the full article about planting trees to fight climate change by Adele Peters at Fast Company.
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