As humanity grows, so does the demand for quick, available energy. Burning fossil fuels like coal and gas is an easy solution but it produces carbon dioxide. Scientists have demonstrated a natural solution to removing this harmful gas: planting more trees. Trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen; thus widespread reforestation would slow the process of climate change.
Reforestation and forest protection are important for two reasons: reducing carbon in the atmosphere and protecting wildlife habitat. Currently over 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually and the deforestation rate is doubling annually in some regions. These effects combine to accelerate global warming. However, by mass reforestation in countries that have removed substantial amounts of their forests (i.e. Brazil, Russia, USA, China, Canada, and Australia), global warming could be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to the projected 5 degrees globally averaged if we do nothing. Calculations reveal that the forest coverage on Earth could be increased by a third without disrupting modern life. Reforestation could also solve another immediate problem: the potential mass extinction of nearly 1 million endangered species worldwide. By preserving forests and increasing tree coverage, these populations could recover.
Many countries, especially in Africa, have already embraced reforestation as a means to help the environment. By maximizing forest coverage, scientists predict that the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be reduced by a quarter—back to levels from a hundred years ago. However, as ocean levels rise and emissions continue to grow, the available land is shrinking. Thus, the process must begin soon.
Managing Correspondent: Cari Cesarotti
Image Credit: BBC News, Getty Images