A study has found that planting trees on an extreme scale may prove effective in reducing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study used satellite images, tree cover assessments, and computer modelling to identify available areas which could be potential sites for cultivating new forests. Accounting for locations with suitable conditions, a total area of 0.9 billion hectares, roughly the size of the USA, was identified as viable for forestation which is primarily spread across 6 countries (Australia, Canada, Brazil, USA, China, Russia).
The planting of trees on a mass scale could help reduce carbon if this is done in addition to human based mitigation measures. The suggested strategy does not detract from our need to curb current emissions and make use of renewable energy sources, particularly since the plan would require time to reach its full potential as forests would need approximately 50-100 years to absorb the desired CO2 levels from the atmosphere. However, despite the time restraint the concept of planting billions of trees can still prove effective since it’s a cost effective and simple option given that the areas identified are currently unoccupied by either urban or agricultural land use, and it doesn’t require investment in new technology.
While scientists from the study speculate that establishing new forests could remove a quarter of the CO2 currently in the atmosphere (two thirds of anthropogenic carbon dioxide released post-industrial revolution), other scientists have suggested this estimate may be too high as it doesn’t account for stored CO2 present in ecosystems or the time-frame necessary to become fully effective. Raising the potential benefits of planting forests is particularly relevant in order to emphasise the need to preserve current forests such as the rapidly disappearing Amazon rainforest. While some scientists may debate the precise volume of CO2 which can be removed from the atmosphere after planting billions of trees, the results would certainly be advantageous given the current climate crisis.
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