Could the trillion-tree campaign stop climate change?
Updated: Jun 16
By: Samuel Lin
Over the past few years, there has been a global effort to plant more trees. This has been done in an effort to reduce poverty, climate change, and undo deforestation. However, the plan faces opposition from some scientists, who think planting trees will not significantly help prevent these problems.
One area where trees are being planted is in the Brazilian state of Goiás. The Eden Reforestation Project is hiring Kalunga people, who are descended from enslaved people, to plant trees in barren fields near their villages. This provides jobs and money to poor Kalunga people, and makes a positive environmental impact. So far, they have planted 30,000 trees over the course of three weeks.
There are other tree-planting efforts taking place around the world. For instance, the “Great Green Wall” was planted in China to slow the rapidly expanding Gobi Desert that has displaced many residents. In addition, Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2004, started the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which has planted over 30 million trees.
Since 1990, the number of tree-planting groups working in the tropics has nearly quadrupled, according to North Carolina State University ecologist Meredith Martin. Other organizations are also planting trees, such as One Tree Planted, which plants a tree for every dollar donated. Other organizations include Trees for the Future, Trees4Trees, and Plant-for-the-Planet.
Planting trees can create many benefits. In one year, a single tree can take in more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Trees also release oxygen, the gas we breathe in. They also absorb harmful gases, support wildlife, and help prevent soil erosion.
Yet, there has been opposition to the trillion-tree campaign. Many scientists say that the simple solution of planting trees won’t be enough to slow or stop the huge problem of climate change. A group of five scientists wrote in the same journal and agreed that “the claim that global tree restoration is our most effective climate solution is simply incorrect scientifically and dangerously misleading.”
Planting trees to create forests could also destroy other habitats, like grasslands. Some scientists argue that grasslands are just as important as forests, because they also support wildlife and are home to many animals and plants.
“There’s a peculiar forest fetish and obsession,” says William Bond, a professor of ecology at the University of Capetown.
Some scientists are outraged by the tree-planting obsession that could damage other biomes. Researchers recently published a paper that showed that the estimates for how much carbon a tree could absorb were almost five times too high.