Can trees solve the climate crisis?

President Trump announced that the U.S. is joining the global initiative to plant one trillion trees. But tree planting isn't the single solution on climate change — here's why.

Conservation efforts by conservatives

The U.S. has now joined a global initiative to plant 1 trillion carbon-absorbing trees to fight climate change, President Trump announced. But according to experts, trees alone can’t solve the climate crisis. A single tree can absorb 1 ton of carbon by the time it’s 40 years old. Human activity releases 40 billion tons of carbon every single year — and that number is rising. Animation of U.S. graphic with trees popping up.

Why it matters?

The value of forests in sequestering carbon is an important part of any calculation on how we solve the climate crisis. Worldwide forests capture and hold almost half of the carbon stored on land. One recent study suggested that one important part of a multi-faceted climate solution involves planting a trillion trees around the world. These new trees should be able to soak up some of the extra carbon dioxide warming the planet. That extra carbon dioxide comes from such common acts as burning fossil fuels in cars and factories. Once mature, the new trees could store about one-third as much carbon as humans’ lifestyles have created since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Can't see the forest for the trees

One study suggests that if you covered the entire U.S. in new trees, it would only absorb 10% of the carbon we produce every year. Another says that the number of trees necessary to stop global warming would halt food production and disrupt biospheres. Despite Donald Trump’s disingenuous statement at Davos committing the United States to participate in the trillion trees initiative, his administration is moving exactly in the wrong direction. Trees, plastics and favorable tax policy are at the core of House Republicans’ new push on climate change — an effort to reassure voters they care about the problem after a decade of dismissing it.


January 23, 2020 9:58 PM