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Study: Planting Trees Can Help in Stemming Global Warming

It is a race against time, however, since a warming planet means the area available for tree planting is shrinking

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planting trees, global warming
A forest guard keeps vigil at the flooded Kaziranga National Park, east of Gauhati, northeastern Assam state, India, July 26, 2016. VOA

Scientists say evidence is mounting that trees can have a far-reaching effect in stemming global warming by removing huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. A recent study bolsters this idea, and tree-planting advocates say it’s something they’ve known for decades.

The recent European study published in Science magazine July 5 says trees could potentially absorb two-thirds of the carbon that has been added to the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.

The study, headed by researchers at the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich, a technical university, found that an extra 500 billion trees, covering an area roughly the size of the United States, could remove 200 gigatons of carbon from the air when they reach maturity.

The study’s authors say that combined with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, adding so many extra trees could replenish the world’s shrinking stock by 2050 and provide the most effective climate change solution to date.

The scientists say that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, the goal of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will require an extra billion hectares of forest, an increase of nearly 20% over existing forest land. It is a race against time, however, since a warming planet means the area available for tree planting is shrinking.

Act locally

There are a few remaining trees in a section of the Angeles National Forest, northeast of Los Angeles, where volunteers are removing invasive species such as mustard and types of thistle, and restoring native plants “… about 40 different species,” said Thierry Rivard of the nonprofit TreePeople.

The newly sown plants are grasses, Rivard said. “Some of them are what you would call shrubs. Some of them are trees — oaks, elderberries.” They had thrived in this area in a balanced ecosystem until recent times, when they were crowded out by other species brought by human activity.

On a recent weekend, dozens of volunteers pulled out invasive plants and carried water buckets through the rolling hills to nurture saplings. The restoration will make the hillsides more resistant to wildfires, since invasive plants dry out in the summer to create conditions for flash fuels. At the heart of the project are trees.

planting trees, global warming
FILE – In the Atlantic Forest in Bahia, fire and deforestation of hill slopes are forbidden by Brazilian law, but law enforcement is ineffective. (Credit: IESB archive). VOA

“Trees have multiple benefits,” said Cindy Montanez, the CEO of TreePeople. “Trees shade humans, the environment, as we see dramatic increases in extreme heat. Trees help retain water in situations where there’s flooding (and) we’re trying to prevent water runoff,” she added.

Reducing deforestation

A major effort to reduce deforestation and expand existing forests is underway around the world, including the Thirty Hills project in Sumatra’s forests, and Trillion Trees, with efforts focused, so far, in parts of South America and Africa .

Both projects were undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund and partner organizations as part of a comprehensive approach that encourages ecologically sound industries. For example, forest-friendly methods of cocoa production in Africa and honey production in Indonesia.

Forest restoration is not without challenges, and researchers must take into account “areas where we have grazing lands, or we have important grasslands, or we need to consider what the land ownership is,” said Christa Anderson, a research fellow with the World Wildlife Fund.

planting trees, global warming
FILE – Mexico’s new climate law promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, which should make a difference in Mexico City, among the most polluted cities in the world. VOA

Anderson said studies have found that so-called boreal forests in northern latitudes absorb light from the sun and can have a warming effect, and that reforestation works better in some places than others. The research paper in Science says six countries have the potential to restore more than half of the needed trees: Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China.

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Scores of governments have pledged to help, joining the Bonn Challenge, an effort to restore 150 million hectares of forest by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. “It’s one of the pieces, and another huge piece is reducing our energy and industry emissions. We really need both things,” Anderson said.

Individuals and local communities can also help, Montanez said. “Take personal responsibility, help plant trees,” she said. “It’s fun, it makes our communities greener, more climate-resilient, more sustainable.” And trees make our planet more livable, she added. (VOA)

Next Story

Escalating Consequences of Climate Change Hit Countries Globally

India was ranked fifth vulnerable globally

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Climate
As Climate impacts begin to result in permanent loss and damage across the world, there is still no specific UN climate finance facility to reimburse the loss of land, culture and human lives. Pixabay

The escalating consequences of Climate change are now hitting both rich and poor countries, a report published on Wednesday said. India was ranked fifth vulnerable globally.

The Climate Risk Index 2020, an annual report by Germanwatch, ranks countries according to their vulnerability to extreme weather events.

It was released in the Spanish capital on the sidelines of the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP25 that is being held in the backdrop of climate impact biting globally.

According to the report, India has also been badly affected, ranking fifth in the overall global vulnerability index in 2018, ranked first in terms of fatalities and second in the world in terms of losses in millions of dollars.

India’s overall ranking has drastically fallen from 14th in 2017, to fifth in 2018.

The report shows that extreme weather, linked with climate change, is affecting not only the poorer countries like Myanmar and Haiti, but also some of the world’s richest countries.

Japan is the worst-hit country in 2018, while Germany and Canada were both also in the ‘bottom 10’ i.e. the most affected.

The results reflect the increasing damage caused by heatwaves, which scientists have found are being worsened by climate change.

To explain this drastic fall in ranking in a year, David Eckstein, Policy Advisor (Climate Finance and Investment) with Germanwatch said: “India’s high rank is due to severe rainfall, followed by heavy flooding and landslides that killed over 1,000 people.”

The state of Kerala was especially impacted. The floods were described as the worst in the last 100 years.

Climate
A report shows that extreme weather, linked with climate change, is affecting not only the poorer countries like Myanmar and Haiti, but also some of the world’s richest countries. Pixabay

According to Eckstein, India was struck by two cyclones in October and November 2018 that also nearly killed 1,000 people. Last but not least, India also suffered from extreme heat. While the human death toll was kept considerably low due to public measures, the economic damage was quite severe.

Other countries ranking in the bottom 20 in the overall climate risk categories are the US at 12th, Vietnam at sixth, Bangladesh at seventh and France at 15th.

The report also points to the importance of negotiations at COP25. As climate impacts begin to result in permanent loss and damage across the world, there is still no specific UN climate finance facility to reimburse the loss of land, culture and human lives.

So far, the industrialised countries have refused to even negotiate it.

But at COP25, for the first time, financial support for climate-related loss and damage is high on the agenda.

For the poorest and most vulnerable countries, this climate summit is, therefore, of the utmost importance. They demand that states agree a deal to support those who are suffering, or at least acknowledge the necessity, with a pathway towards real help.

Otherwise the poorest countries will continue to rely on loans to cope with the consequences of climate change, which means they are threatened with excessive debts, undermining often already vulnerable economies.

In the talks that will last till December 13, India has been ambitious in its actions.

Climate
The escalating consequences of Climate change are now hitting both rich and poor countries, a report published on Wednesday said. India was ranked fifth vulnerable globally. Pixabay

It has emphasised that developed countries should take the lead in undertaking ambitious actions and fulfil their climate finance commitments of mobilising $100 billion per annum by 2020 and progressively and substantially scale up their financial support to inform parties for future action through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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India is also stressing upon the need for fulfilling the pre-2020 commitments by developed countries, and that pre-2020 implementation gaps should not present an additional burden to developing countries in the post-2020 period.

The Indian delegation will be led by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is attending the summit from December 9. (IANS)