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article imageCould regreening the Earth fight climate change? (Part 1)

By Karen Graham     Oct 18, 2017 in Environment
Planting trees and other natural environmental actions could prove as effective as ceasing all oil use across the planet in reducing CO2 levels, according to a new study by an international team of scientists led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy.
The new study, published on Monday in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences, claims that taking a natural approach to the regreening of the planet would be just as effective as stopping all fossil fuel production across the planet.
The study offers a series of steps that can be taken to mitigate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, based on what they claim are recent assessments showing how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored in forests, farmland, grasslands, and wetlands using natural climate solutions (NCS).
Human activities such as burning coal and oil inject additional CO2 into the atmosphere  which acts ...
Human activities such as burning coal and oil inject additional CO2 into the atmosphere, which acts as an extra blanket to trap more -- in fact too much -- solar radiation
Miguel Medina, AFP
It's going to take better stewardship of the planet
“Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” said the team in a statement. "We show that NCS can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2 °C."
Alongside aggressive fossil fuel emissions reductions, NCS offers a powerful set of options for nations to deliver on the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement while improving soil productivity, cleaning our air and water, and maintaining biodiversity. They also tie their findings to the stabilization of climate change, while at the same time meeting the "demand for food and fiber from global lands."
Greenhouse gas emissions are now the fastest-growing contributor to ecological overshoot  making up ...
Greenhouse gas emissions are now the fastest-growing contributor to ecological overshoot, making up 60 percent of humanity's demands on nature, says a report from Global Footprint Network
Darek Redos, AFP/File
This is not to say that clean energy sources and clean transportation options are to be left by the wayside. But the basic message is that we need to do more, as a global community. Costwise, the benefits are very nice - The study says their options can be implemented at a cost of around $100 per ton of carbon dioxide, with some costing as little as $10 per ton. By comparison, some of the carbon capture technologies being tested today will cost as much as $1,000 or more per ton.
“Today our impacts on the land cause a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “The way we manage the lands in the future could deliver 37 percent of the solution to climate change. That is huge potential, so if we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport."
The once-verdant land of Haiti has been stripped bare by deforestation
The once-verdant land of Haiti has been stripped bare by deforestation
Hector Retamal, AFP
How do we go about regreening the planet?
Let's start with the biggest natural climate solution - Trees, lots of trees. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), roughly 30.6 percent of the planet's land mass is covered in forests or just under 40 million square kilometers.
Think of it this way — It means that every person on earth has a piece of forest about the size of a football field. Here's another interesting fact about the planet's forests: almost 60,000 square kilometers of forests, an area the size of Ireland, are lost every year due to logging or other human interventions.
Growing human population has increased deforestation in Africa  which reduces chimpanzee habitat  dr...
Growing human population has increased deforestation in Africa, which reduces chimpanzee habitat, driving the species toward extinction, and accelerating climate change.
the Jane Goodall Institute
Our planet's forests have many roles, such as providing renewable raw materials and energy, maintaining biodiversity, and protecting land and water resources. However, they can be damaged by fire, agricultural and urban expansion, and other disturbances, such as mining, wildfires, and deforestation for other purposes.
Forests also have the greatest potential to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions. This is because they absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, removing it from the atmosphere. The study focuses on three options for increasing the number and size of trees. Reforestation, avoiding forest loss, and better forestry practices could cost-effectively remove 7.0 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, equivalent to taking 1.5 billion gasoline-burning cars off the roads.
Embers fly off smoldering trees after flames from the 'Wall fire' tore through a residenti...
Embers fly off smoldering trees after flames from the 'Wall fire' tore through a residential neighborhood near Oroville, California
JOSH EDELSON, AFP
And reforestation and better forest management is the key to getting ahead on reigning in carbon dioxide. This means using or developing better forestry and agricultural practices. The study suggests that we reduce the footprint of livestock, saying that doing so would "release vast areas across the globe for trees and can be achieved while safeguarding food security."
The study also suggests that better forestry practices across expanded and existing working forests can produce more wood fiber while storing more carbon, maintain biodiversity, and help clean our air and water. And this is true, without a doubt. We have seen the results of poor forest management in California recently.
In Part 2, we will examine some of the efforts being undertaken today to mitigate forest loss and the technologies behind better forest management.
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