The effects of climate change continue to threaten communities worldwide even with nations’ efforts to mitigate them. According to a study, there is something we can still do to reduce human-caused carbon emissions, and it is the most effective method we can do to fight the climate crisis.
The latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended adding 1 billion hectares of forests to reduce the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. However, experts surmise that if current trends continue, the 1.5-degree global temperature rise will occur as early as 2030.
While planting 1 billion hectares worth of trees seems like a simplified solution to the climate crisis, experts still consider forests to be the biggest allies against climate change. In fact, in a new study, researchers found that adding nearly 1 billion hectares of forest could significantly reduce the carbon emissions humans have been adding to the atmosphere since the 1800s.
Upon mapping the global potential tree coverage, researchers concluded that the planet could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover under the current conditions. So far, there are 2.8 billion hectares of forests, and of the lacking 1.6 billion hectares there are 0.9 billion hectares that are not being used by humans. This is a size comparable to the United States that can potentially be covered climate change-mitigating trees.
Once these forests are mature, they can store up to 205 billion tons of carbon. That is about two thirds of the 300 billion tons of carbon that humans have released since the Industrial Revolution.
Of the nations, Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China show the greatest potential for major reforestation.
Global Tree Cover
According to the authors, many climate models are wrong to say that climate change will increase global tree cover. While it may increase trees in northern boreal forests such as in Siberia, this will be outweighed by the losses in tropical forests.
“Our study shows clearly that reforestation is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as forests take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage,” said Prof. Thomas Crowther, coauthor of the study.
The study is published in Science.