ETH Zurich ecologist Dr. Thomas Crowther and his colleagues combined data from ground-based surveys and satellites to analyze the Earths landscape situation. From the information gathered, they established that there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees to grow in parks, woods and abandoned land across the planet.
They arrived at this number by using machine learning and AI to analyze the enormous data set. This method allowed the researchers to predict the number of trees that could feasibly be planted in empty patches around the world.
According to their calculations, if that many trees were to be planted, it would suck enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cancel out a decade of human emissions. Replenishing the world’s forests on a grand scale like this would outstrip every other method for tackling climate change – from building wind turbines to vegetarian diets.
Although, according to Project Drawdown, onshore wind power and improved recycling of fridges and air conditioners are at the top of today’s list for best emission-cutting techniques. Each of these techniques would cut over 80 gigatons of emissions. Reforestation is down at #15 on Project Drawdown’s list of meritable techniques, proving that the world has been severely undervaluing trees.
Dr. Crowther’s research reveals that the scientific community has been massively underestimating the potential for forests to combat climate change. He says:
“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.”
In respect to Dr. Crowther’s findings, the United Nations has renamed a project they have been running known as The Billion Tree Campaign, to The Trillion Tree Campaign. This project has already seen 13.62 billion trees planted in suitable locations around the world.
Dr. Crowther discussed his findings into more detail at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Washington DC. Of everything he explains, what is most important to note is this: his findings clearly show us that trees are “our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change”. However, the rest of the specifics are irrelevant to us actually going out there and making a difference.
The beautiful thing about all this is that anyone, anywhere in the world, can contribute to helping combat climate change. High tech solutions like carbon capture systems are complex, expensive, and aren’t something just anyone can do. But, not tree planting! Any individual, even if they are alone, can plant a tree! Dr. Crowther concludes:
“We are not targeting urban or agricultural area, just degraded or abandoned lands, and it has the potential to tackle the two greatest challenges of our time – climate change and biodiversity loss. It’s a beautiful thing because everyone can get involved. Trees literally just make people happier in urban environments, they improve air quality, water quality, food quality, ecosystem service, it’s such an easy, tangible thing.”