Planting trees may not slow climate change as much as was thought for these reasons

We know that trees absorb carbon dioxide and water and through the process of photosynthesis they create glucose which supports the tree. Essentially, they remove carbon dioxide, a global warming gas, from the atmosphere and therefore planting trees should help protect the planet from long-term global warming. Trees do this but their benefits may not be quite as substantial as was once thought for the following reasons.

Planting trees may not slow climate change as much as was thought
Planting trees may not slow climate change as much as was thoughtbecause forests can raise temperatures in several ways as well as help to cool the planet by absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the global warming effect.

Trees dampen down the reflectivity of the land: this is referred to as ‘changing the albedo of the land’. It is seen in the boreal forest encircling the northern hemisphere of planet Earth where dark trees planted on snowy land results in more of the sun’s energy being absorbed rather than reflected back into space.

Volatile organic compounds released: this is a reference, for example, to the pine smell of Scandinavian forests. These volatile organic compounds deplete a type of oxygen that would have destroyed methane which is a highly potent global warming gas more effective in that respect than carbon dioxide. These volatile organic compounds can also increase ozone which is another significant greenhouse gas.

Plans to cover the planet with a trillion more trees

There are plans which are not discussed in public that much as far as I can tell, to plant a trillion more trees on the planet to absorb carbon dioxide and help tackle global warming. These plans are backed by governments and oil companies. In addition to slowing global warming they will provide a habitat for wildlife which is very necessary.

But the reality is not quite so simple according to researchers. They found that a third of the cooling effect from new forests through absorbing carbon dioxide might be undone by the way that more trees affect atmospheric chemistry and their absorption of the sun’s energy as mentioned above.

Dr. James Weber of the University of Sheffield the lead author of this study, said that, “We are not saying trees are bad, we are saying trees have a part to play, but we need to think about how they affect the whole Earth system”. The study is published in the online journal Science.

The implication is that humankind will have to do more to decarbonise the world’s economies more deeply than they once had thought when they believe that planting trees might be a sort of panacea to the problem.

The plan was to add an extra 750 million ha of forest by 2095. On planet Earth there are currently about 4 million ha of forest. They cover about 31% of the planet’s land surface.

If global mean temperatures increase by 4°C during this century, in this hot a future scenario the warming effect of huge new forests will offset by as much as 31% the benefits of CO2 removal. In the scenario where global temperatures increased by 2°C, 18% of the cooling effect of the presence of trees is undone for the reasons stated at the beginning of the article.

RELATED: Novak Djokovic has a connection with a single tree in Melbourne Botanical Gardens

Source: The Times newspaper of 23rd February 2024. Thank you.

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