Why planting trees won’t save the planet

A trillion is the number of trees that an initiative that started in the year of 2020, wanted to start planting throughout the world, to solve what during last years is becoming an increasing problem: climate change.

Nowadays, and according to a study carried out by some investigators of Yale University, on the Earth, there are approximately 3 trillion trees. Even if it is an enormous number, the number of trees on our planet has been reduced by half since the beginning of human civilization, which means that, 10,000 years ago, there were 6 trillion trees on the planet. And, what is even worse, we continue to lose 10 billion trees each year (about 27 million per day).

More complicated than it seems

Stopping climate change with the planting of a trillion trees is more complicated than it could seem. Forests normally have 100 to 200 trees per hectare. Consequently, 1 trillion trees would require a space equivalent to 3 times the area occupied by the United States. And from here diverse questions arise: who would pay for all the expenses? Where would all these trees be planted? By who? Who would make the decisions?

As we can see, apart from that 1 trillion trees wouldn’t have a lot of effect, there isn’t enough space to plant all of them, and its cost would be very high. Trees recover carbon from the atmosphere and they produce oxygen as they grow, but this scarcely compensates for the emitted carbon when the big extensions of trees were deforested in the first place.

Moreover, as is exposed by an article that appeared in the magazine Science in June of 2020, forests are also vulnerable to the harms of the climate crisis, like wildfires, droughts or diseases. In a similar way, the infestations of an insect named “bark beetle”, a voracious tree eater, and with an increased population due to the increase in temperatures, have killed billions of trees, in millions of hectares, in the course of the past two decades, converting regions in which carbon was absorbed to regions where it is emitted.

All this could have very bad consequences. As the article explains, if we continue to burn fossil fuels, the impact on forests could be so elevated that, instead of being a solution to climate change, forests could become an accelerant of this climate crisis.

Advantages of trees

In spite of all that has been explained, it doesn’t mean that planting trees is a bad idea, as the latter has a great number of benefits. For example, they clean the air and water, reduce the risk of floods, provide a habitat for other plants and animals, and they produce a relaxing effect on humans (like all types of plants).

The solution to the climate crisis won’t depend on a single, simple and intelligent idea. Firstly, it would be necessary for us to stop consuming fossil fuels, like carbon, petroleum or natural gas. Planting trees can be a useful part of a solution to climate change, but it won’t be the only taken measure for this proposal.

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