Planting more trees can mitigate climate change — but not on its own

Everywhere we look, we always seem to hear about how planting trees will protect our planet and reverse climate change. Corporations and governments from all over the world have committed to plant trees to offset their carbon emissions. Sounds simple, but will it be enough? 

Forests, such as the Amazon Rainforest, are some of the largest carbon sinks. The vegetation is responsible for storing large amounts of the atmosphere’s carbon, while also providing a home for many kinds of species. Even though these areas are vital to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and climate change mitigation, they are facing drastic rates of destruction and degradation. 

Every six seconds, one football field’s worth of tropical rainforest is lost due to human-induced deforestation. Millions of years’ worth of evolution and growth can be burned down and destroyed in a matter of seconds. Deforestation is actually one of the biggest sources of excess carbon dioxide, because as trees are cut down or burned, their stored carbon is released into the air. 

EARTHDAY.ORG has created The Canopy Project™, aimed at reforesting and protecting biodiverse habitats around the world, while also focusing on strengthening communities at risk from climate change and environmental degradation. We have planted tens of millions of trees and are working with these communities to educate and inform others on the benefits of reforestation. The Canopy Project ensures high survival rates for its trees by raising saplings in nurseries and retaining a full time staff to care for the trees for up to three years after their planting date.

So, if deforestation is such a big contributor to climate change, isn’t planting more trees a simple solution? Yes and no — there are a lot of important factors to consider. 

Climate change has caused an increase in wildfires all around the world. Planting trees incorrectly, or even ignoring them during their first few years of growth, can aid in the spread of forest fires. This will burn down more trees, and further contribute to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Most importantly, it must be noted that it would be impossible to plant enough trees to absorb the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels. We must at the same time diminish our dependency on fossil fuels, and instead move toward green energy. Additionally, environmental protections and broader ecological restoration can accompany reforestation to help in the fight against climate change and provide many other benefits, such as improved water quality. 

Making small changes to your diet is one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on deforestation and protect our remaining forests. Growing crops and raising livestock are some of the most major contributors to deforestation. By avoiding beef and minimizing your overall meat consumption, you can reduce deforestation while also conserving fresh water and decreasing carbon emissions. By avoiding products containing palm oil, a crop causing the destruction of some of the most biodiverse forests in the world, you can protect various species and our planet’s largest carbon sinks. 

Planting native species in your own backyard and supporting tree planting initiatives, such as The Canopy Project, are other great ways to contribute to reforestation. Ultimately, solely planting more trees will not reverse climate change and save our environment. We must also continue to work on reducing our carbon emissions, investing in renewable energy and embracing natural and technological restoration approaches to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change before it is too late.

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Source: Earth Day Network