Reforesting the World Will Cancel Out a Decade or More of CO2 Emissions

There’s space to plant 1.2 trillion more trees in parks, woods and abandoned land around the planet, according to research by Thomas Crowther presented over the weekend.

The trees that could be planted in available spaces would be enough to absorb more carbon than human emissions each year, and suck out enough carbon from the atmosphere to cancel out a decade or more of anthropogenic emissions.

The analysis suggests that reforesting the planet on a large scale would have a greater impact on the planet’s environment than other climate change mitigation measures. According to the new data, ETH Zurich researcher Thomas Crowther told The Independent, “There’s 400 gigatons now, in the 3 trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out”.

Lack of accurate data meant that for years the number of trees on Earth has been dramatically underestimated. Using data from ground-based surveys and satellites, researchers arrived at a figure of 3 trillion trees, which is more than seven times the previous NASA estimate.

Crowther also presented soil data taken by thousands of local scientists, revealing that most of the world’s carbon is stored in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. The warming of these ecosystems is causing an extra release of carbon, a process he says may accelerate climate change by 17%. The research is revealing that the restoration of the planet’s vegetation and soil is humanity’s best weapon to combat climate change.



Photo: “Seedling Planting” by Pacific Southwest Region 5 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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