Researchers have quantified how much land around the world is available for reforestation, as well as the extent of carbon emissions these would prevent from being released into the atmosphere.
ABOUT THE STUDY:
- The study was conducted by researchers with the Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich university, it has been published in the journal Science.
- The study team analyzed almost 80,000 satellite photo measurements of tree cover worldwide and combined them with enormous global databases about soil and climate conditions, evaluating one hectare at a time.
- The exercise generated a detailed map of how many trees the earth could naturally support, where forests grow now and where they could grow.
KEY-HIGHLIGHTS OF THE STUDY:
- On the basis of nearly 80,000 images from around the world, the researchers calculated that around 0.9 billion hectares of land would be suitable for reforestation.
- If an area of 0.9 billion hectares is indeed reforested, it could ultimately capture two-thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
- Currently, Earth’s continuous tree cover is 2.8 billion hectares, and the researchers calculated that the land available could support 4.4 billion hectares, or an additional 1.6 billion hectares.
- Out of this, 0.9 billion hectares fulfil the criterion of not being used by humans.
- The researchers had already excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.
WHERE IS THE ENOUGH ROOM :
- In India, there is room for an estimated 9.93 million extra hectares of forest.
- According to the Environment and Forest Ministry’s ‘State of Forest Report 2017’, India’s existing forest cover makes up 7,08,273 sq km (about 70.83 million hectares) and tree cover another 93,815 sq km (9.38 million hectares).
- The study found that the six countries with the greatest reforestation potential are:
- Russia (151 million hectares)
- the US (103 million hectares)
- Canada (78.4 million hectares)
- Australia (58 million hectares)
- Brazil (49.7 million hectares)
- China (40.2 million hectares)
LESSON FROM WARNING:
- The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that adding an additional 3.8 million square miles (10 million square km) of forestland could limit climate change to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) by 2050.
- But this number may change, as climate change factors tend to accelerate quickly, meaning that even more trees than the IPCC calculated in their report may be needed to achieve that goal.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report on climate change. The report gave the following warnings:
- The temperature of earth has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius and could see a catastrophic 1.5-degree Celsius increase between 2030 and 2052.
- By 2100, the global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C.
- The likelihood of the Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.
- Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2.0°C.
- At current rates, human-caused warming is adding around 0.2C to global average temperatures every decade. This is the result of both “past and ongoing emissions”.
HOW WOULD IT BENEFIT MANKIND?
- Increase in forest-cover: Planting trees in these regions would increase Earth’s forest-covered land by a third, all without affecting land humans use for cities and agriculture.
- Absorbing carbon: Once these trees have matured, they could store 225 billion tons (205 billion metric tons) of carbon, or about two-thirds of the 330 billion tons (300 billion metric tons) of carbon that humans have released into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, trees absorb about 25 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, while the oceans absorb another 25 percent. The half that remains in the atmosphere contributes to global warming.
- Limiting climate change: The unfolding greenery could help limit Earth’s warming climate.
- Restoring biodiversity: New forests help in restoring biodiversity, which is crucial because so many plant and animal species are disappearing.
- Clearwater of sediments and pollutants: Not only can these areas store carbon and provide habitat, healthy forests clear water of sediments and pollutants, a boon to humans.
- Deforestation: The first massive challenge is deforestation. Rather than adding trees, in various parts of the world, they’re being cut down on a massive scale.
- No immediate solution: However even if the trees are planted pronto, their effects won’t be immediate. It will take decades for new forests to mature and achieve this potential.
- Not realistic enough: Nor is it easy or realistic to think the world will suddenly go on a tree-planting binge. It is certainly a monumental challenge, which is exactly the scale of the problem of climate change.
- Not an “end-all” solution: Planting trees is not an ‘end-all’ solution. Humans still need to stop burning oil, coal and gas to tackle the climate crisis. None of this works without emissions cuts.
- Threatening agriculture: Replanting may not be as simple as it sounds, more trees consume more water, and this could threaten agriculture or other human activities in dry areas.
- Lack of local involvement: It may also be possible that local people may not want forests if they need to generate income from the land, say from farming or herding.
Though, the above challenges can be addressed with collaboration and effective implementation of the tree plan in order to save the world from climate change.
So, in the current scenario, the most effective way to fight global warming is to plant trillion of trees, maybe more. Forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today but the forests will take time to grow and mature. It is vitally important that we protect the forests that exist today, pursue other climate solutions and continue to phase out fossil fuels from our economies in order to avoid dangerous climate change. Finally the world has an authoritative assessment of how much land can be covered with trees without impinging on food production or living areas. This is a hugely important blueprint for governments and the private sector.
Now, let’s grab some seeds and start planting trees like there is no tomorrow.