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  • How Does Tree Planting Help the Environment?

How Does Tree Planting Help the Environment?

Dec 13 2019 Read 1889 Times

Planting over one trillion trees could be the cheapest and most effective way of mitigating the current crisis facing our planet, according to one study published earlier this year. As part of their natural life cycles, trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen. Not only is this essential for us to live, but it could also alleviate global warming.

The study, conducted by ETH Zurich in Switzerland, attempted to quantify exactly how many trees could be planted on available land without encroaching on that currently used for agricultural or residential purposes. They arrived at a figure of just over one trillion trees, which they claim could help to remove around two-thirds of the emissions which are produced by human activity today from the environment.

A science-based approach

The study is the first of its kind to give a concrete figure of how many trees could feasibly be planted without interrupting the status quo. By examining over 80,000 images collected from Google Earth, and cross-referencing that against ten different topography, soil and climate factors, the team were able to ascertain how much room there is for us to grow trees.

Their findings indicated that 8.7 billion hectares of the Earth’s surface area (roughly two-thirds) is suitable for cultivating forested areas. 5.5 billion of those hectares are currently populated by trees, while 1.5 billion hectares are designated for agricultural purposes. That means that there are 1.7 billion hectares which do not currently have much in the way of vegetation, but which could host some 1.2 trillion trees.

As well as absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, the trees could bring a host of other benefits, too. They could provide fecund new habitats for all sorts of flora and fauna, encouraging biodiversity, while also serving as natural flood management barriers and aiding livestock when planted in grazing fields.

A ready-made solution

While the study did not make allowances for how such large-scale tree planting could be achieved from an economic perspective, its lead author Professor Tom Crowther does believe it represents the most cost-effective solution by some distance. Taking a cost price of £0.23 per tree, Crowther estimates that it could be achieved for around £240 billion, which is far by the most affordable solution that has been suggested by anyone to date.

The beauty of the suggestion is that it doesn’t require any new-fangled technology or sophisticated and expensive environmental housekeeping around the refinery – simply the planting of over a trillion trees. This means that it doesn’t need a huge swing in policy from governments, a concerted effort from the world of commerce or even a drastic change in the habits of private citizens.

“[It’s] a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” explained Crowther. “It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.”

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