The best way to keep climate change in check is by replanting trees on destroyed forest areas the size of the United States, scientists said on Thursday, as doing so would capture two-thirds of man-made planet-warming emissions. Researchers estimate that even with existing cities and farmland, there is ample house for new trees to veil 9 million sq. kilometres world broad or in regards to the dwelling of the US.
This represents about two-thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution. About 2.8 billion hectares already exist, which means more than 1.6 billion hectares are available for forest restoration.
"Every other climate change solution requires that we all change our behavior, or we need some top-down decision from a politician who may or may not believe in climate change, or it's a scientific discovery we don't yet have", researcher Tom Crowther told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Study author Thomas Crowther says this is the cheapest and best climate change solution.
"However, it will take decades for new forests to mature and achieve this potential". Individuals could make a tangible impact by growing trees themselves, donating to forest restoration organizations and avoiding irresponsible companies, he added.
The researchers say most of the benefit will come early on because trees remove more carbon from the air when they are younger. The scenario, they added, is "undoubtedly achievable under the current climate".
The study shows that the space available for trees is far greater than previously thought, and would reduce Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 25 percent.
If cropland and urban areas were included the study finds that forests could be regrown on a further 1.4 billion hectares of land, adding 0.7 billion hectares of tree canopy.
"But the question of whether it is actually feasible to restore this much forest is much more hard", Field said in an email.
Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China have the most available room for reforestation.
That effort calls for 350 million hectares of degraded land worldwide to be restored by 2030. The Amazon is particularly at-risk since it's also expected to dry out. These gains would be out-weighed by the losses suffered in dense tropical forests, which typically have 90 to 100 percent tree cover. And, as one of the top six countries with the most room for new trees, Australia really could make a big difference if it gets on board. The newly filled out forests would be a huge boon to absorbing new emissions and the carbon pollution we've committed to the atmosphere. "A hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector".
Planting trees alone isn't enough to beat the climate crisis, of course. "Restoring trees at [low] density is not mutually exclusive with grazing".
But if there's a silver lining, it's that we know the solutions. "Restoring the potential areas available, we could store about a quarter of the current amount of carbon held in the atmosphere". It also offers lists of forest restoration organizations.
See more at Crowther Lab.
In order to study this, Jean-Francois Bastin, Thomas Crowther, and team exploited a unique global dataset of forest observations covering around 80,000 forests, integrated with the mapping software of Google Earth Engine. They used this to approximate the natural level of tree cover in each ecosystem. Then they created a model that predicts Earth's potential forest capacity.
The Crowther Lab is part of ETH Zürich, the world's leading University in Earth and Environmental Sciences. To contact the author, please use the contact details within the article.