Every year for the next twenty years Ireland plans to plant 22 million trees, totaling 440 million trees planted as part of an overall strategy to combat climate change.
There is increasing momentum that revegetating our natural environments can be a major player in reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. After all, trees are excellent at taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away as part of the tree’s tissue.
Irish officials announced that this will be part of an overall climate action plan and part of an overall goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. The report states:
“The Climate Action Plan puts in place a decarbonisation pathway to 2030 which would be consistent with the adoption of a net zero target in Ireland by 2050.”
The plan is to incentivize farmers to plant more trees on their land, which presents several challenges. This would require farmers to set aside farmland from their primary economic crop or cattle and permanently utilize that land for reforestation.
The strategy of reforestation, specifically to plant new trees, has also come with criticism. Some are arguing that we should not require farmers to plant new trees but to simply let portions of land revegetate on their own, to naturally develop into forests.
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While the species diversity would be greater in a naturally reforested area, the timeline for mature growth trees is longer than planting a grove of saplings to reforest.
Regardless of the methodology on reforestation, recent studies have found that planting trees has the potential to significantly dampen the impacts of climate change. Best of all, this is something every person, company, organization or country can do with no technology and relatively low investment.
There are an estimated 3 trillion trees on Earth, with about 15 billion of them cut down every year due to human activity. In total, since the onset of human agricultural practices, we have cut down about 46% of all trees on Earth.
CO2 Was Higher In Earth’s Past, So Why Do We Care?
The global carbon cycle is complicated and constantly fluctuates. Carbon dioxide has previously (and naturally) been several times what it currently is. During these times plants and animals flourished.
So why are scientists concerned if we know CO2 was higher in Earth’s history? The concern significantly lies in the challenges and hardships involved with adapting to a different global climate.
As once fertile land experiences decades-long drought, natural disasters become increasingly powerful, and sea-level rise floods coastal cities we will see increasing hardship and death associated with human adaptation to a changing climate.
A couple of examples:
- The average elevation of Florida is 6 feet above sea level. As oceans rise in the coming decades and centuries, economic destruction will continue to increase and Floridians will look to move to higher grounds.
- As eastern Russia’s vast frozen land continues to melt it will become more habitable and able to sustain agriculture. Just to the south, you have China and their rapidly growing population that needs to be fed. What stops China from pushing into the unpopulated and desolate north in search of fertile lands to feed its population?
Humans will, undoubtedly, survive and adapt to a changing climate. That is not a risk. The risk lies in the famine, death, war and economic cost of a changing world.