I am a believer that eventually, whether we like it or not, humans will burn most of the fossil fuels available to us - and consequently release the carbon into the atmosphere.
Interesting fact: for every kilogram of fuel you burn, you release about 3.7kg of CO² into the atmosphere.
Click below to plant some trees!
We definitely need to develop stronger sources of renewable energy in order to keep our civilization powered after the fossil-fuel era — but in order to control the amount of CO² in the atmosphere, for pollution and global climate concerns — my thoughts have recently been that we need to show some ingenuity and engineer 21st century solutions. But we may not need a high-tech solution to get us started.
A new paper written by Robin Chazdon and Pedro Brancalion, titled Restoring forests as a means to many ends was released just today on the 5th of July 2019. The scientists write:
Earth is approaching environmental thresholds that, if crossed, will create serious disruptions to ecosystems, economies, and society. To avoid the devastating effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, humanity must protect and restore native ecosystems. International conventions and organizations support forest restoration as a method for mitigating hazardous environmental shifts, but questions remain as to where and how to focus such restoration efforts.
In the spirit of combating rising CO² levels, the researchers show how an area equal to United States of America is available for immediate plantation programs. This area is considerably larger than was previously thought (before such an in depth analysis on the topic), and the calculations from here show that we could reduce CO² levels by 25% if we followed through on various plantations program and actually got this done. The scientists writing this paper state their opinion that this is the most effective solution to climate change humanity has at its disposal.
The purpose of this paper was largely to identify how many trees the world can support, but also to identify where and in what quantities we should be planting our potentially man-spawned forests. The paper shows the following countries to have the greatest tree-planting potential: Russia (151m hectares), US (103m), Canada (78m), Australia (58m), Brazil (50m) and China (40m).
Getting into some more numbers: the scientists calculated that the Earth has 2.22bn acres of land ripe for the planting, and once these trees have fully grown, they could draw down 200 gigatonnes of CO² back onto terra firma. This is approximately two thirds of the carbon dioxide released by humans since the industrial revolution, and a quarter of all carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The scientists point out that if we delay on this program, climate change will effect the potential for trees to be planted in the future. We cannot be sure exactly what this change will look like, but future potential land area for plantation projects could be reduced dramatically. When we are considering factors like the ever increasing area used for farmland, the loss of nutrients in the soil, and a reduction in forest-sourced rain, there are many indicators that the area of interest will gradually shrink.
Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief, passed on her praises of the research paper, saying:
"Finally an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas... "A hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector."
There have also, as always, been critics of this paper, and the exact numbers offered can definitely be disputed and made more accurate as future studies confirm or correct these findings.
I find it promising that humanity has such a simple yet very powerful way to control our destiny and to control the future of our Earth. Can we really revert CO² levels to that before the industrial revolution, simply by planting trees?
It would appear that it is only a matter of willpower and money. Could actually have this implemented in only a few years? Do we, the people, have the desire and willpower to actually do something? Whether it be going out and planting trees ourselves, or pressuring the government for action, or being prepared to dedicate our taxes to this venture, will we actually play a part in making our Earth a better place to live on?
Humans have shown their power to change the climate of the Earth. We have dug holes all over the Earth, and drilled shafts deep below the ocean floor. We have engineered the most massive and amazing machines to extract coal and gas — ships of all kind, oil rigs, bucket wheel excavators... — and we are hugely proficient at transporting these commodities all over the world at affordable prices — and we have found a thousand uses for burning these resources. But now... can we prove to the history books that we have the vision and the love to actually plant these aforementioned trees? A lot of trees to be sure! But can we actually do it?