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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Tree planting not a panacea on climate change

Because trees and forests absorb carbon, tree planting is often touted as a strategy for combating climate change. Governments, industry, non-government organisations and individuals have embraced the notion that planting trees can offset carbon emissions. Trees enhance ecosystem resilience, help mitigate heat and extreme weather impacts, and provide habitat for numerous species. That's why I've planted hundreds of trees and am protecting 50 hectares of woodland at Wombat Ridge Nature Reserve in NSW. But it's crucial to dispel the misconception that planting trees can be a panacea for addressing CO2 emissions.


The sheer volume of global emissions, renders tree planting insufficient in offsetting emissions. A back-of-the-envelope estimate from MIT found that US emissions alone would require 30 million additional hectares of forests each year. Globally, the scale required to counterbalance emissions from all sources worldwide is impractical. And even if it were, there would be major impacts on food security and food prices through the taking up of arable land for afforestation projects.


Tree planting as an emissions reductions strategy also requires the carbon offset industry which has failed to prove itself reliable when it comes to afforestation and avoided deforestation credits. Projects claiming to offset emissions through tree planting have consistently fallen short of their promises, raising serious concerns about integrity and effectiveness. A recent investigation found that forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading certifier - and used by big companies like Disney, Shell, Gucci - were not only worthless but likely to be making global heating worse.


Finally, recent scientific analysis shows that climate change is affecting trees' capacity to photosynthesise. In increasingly warmer and drier climates, trees struggle with CO2 sequestration. When stressed, they switch from photosynthesis to photorespiration which releases CO2 back into the atmosphere. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study's results mean that as climate change kicks in, the capacity of trees and forests to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere will be diminished. They won't be reliable carbon sinks like they have been.


While tree planting is a valuable tool in response to climate change adaptation, it is essential to recognise its limits as an emissions reduction tool. While there are many good reasons to plant trees, the belief that we can offset emissions from flights or new gas projects through afforestation is a misconception. It hinders the pursuit of what's urgently needed - transition to zero emissions. And emerging scientific evidence about the impacts of climate change on trees adds a concerning layer to the conversation, emphasising the need for urgent direct emissions reductions to avoid the worst of climate change and the collapse of our remaining forests and woodlands as carbon sinks and lungs for Earth.


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8 comentarios


mitosis-paints0b
04 feb

through the taking up of arable land for afforestation projects.”


this phrase indicates to me you need to think a little harder about the causes of deforestation and the potential for a very simple* remedy for the vast majority of past, present and future woodland and forest destruction globally.


the vast majority of woodland and forest cleaning done historically and until very recently in Australia when agricultural land clear clearing was scaled back majorly (for the Kyoto credits scam Howard’s ministers came up with) and indeed the entire land surface of Earth has not been for access to “arable land” so much as for the production of livestock.


cropping on much of this land was either a) not the intended…


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Maxine Barry
Maxine Barry
04 feb

Seaweed and mangrove reforestation appear to be more promising and reliable (and faster) as carbon sinks.

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mitosis-paints0b
04 feb
Contestando a

was talking about mangrove on the above somment. seaweeds possibly scale better, but many seaweeds have specific ocean depth, nutrient and climatic requirements, so it’s not as simple as filling the ocean with ropes hanging from buoys and bobs your uncle. or maybe it is but i’ve never seen any serious research indicating this is possible.

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Jeff Tombleson
Jeff Tombleson
03 feb

Very confused writing above regarding tree planting for the (mumbo jumbo) voluntary carbon market versus removals under LULUCF as reported by all 197 countries committed to the Paris agreement


Google Climate Tracker and learn something about removals (Forests and land use). Click on Australia under the Countries tab and learn why Australian forests until recent years have been a source of emissions.

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mitosis-paints0b
04 feb
Contestando a

you seem to have missed the point. if you think there is confusion in someone’s writing, identify the errors and correct them is the best policy. making a general claim of confusion is the definition of hand waving and and following up with “google LULUCF and australia” is a tacit strawman claim to authority on no specific point.


and just in case you think i’m confused, i was a contributor the BZE Land Use Report and produced dozens of maps, diagrams graphs and other data science polishing up of the lead author’s five years of desktop research work.


AIL

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Mikel Areso Salinas
Mikel Areso Salinas
03 feb

What if we injected moisture into the atmosphere?

Check my posts in linkedin

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