The Power of Forests to Fight Climate Change

by Alexandra Patel

A new study published in the journal Science reveals that restoration of forested land on a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change at an unprecedented rate.

Why This Matters: Trees and forests play a crucial role in maintaining balance within our environment and atmosphere, as they absorb released carbon dioxide and the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that humans emit. Analyses reveal that the effort to increase forest cover could capture around 205 metric gigatons of carbon in just a century. Restored tropical tree cover alone could contribute 23% to the total global mitigation needed to reach the Paris Climate Agreement goals. To get serious about stopping climate change, we need to focus not only on developing new technologies, but also recognize that the best tools to fight the climate crisis have been with us all along. 

The Power of Forests: Planting .09 billion hectares of trees could result in trapping two-thirds of all the carbon released since the beginning of the industrial age. Science News  reported that there’s plenty of available land for these reforestation efforts, adding that “without knocking down cities or taking over farms or natural grasslands, reforested pieces could add up to new tree cover totaling just about the area of the United States.”

A History of Destruction: Today’s forests span across just 30% of the world’s land area and have lost significant coverage over the last two decades. From 1990 to 2016, about 1.3 million square miles of forest were cut down and destroyed. According to a study in the journal Nature, 46% of all forests have been felled, and 17% of the Amazonian rainforest has been eradicated over the last half-century.

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