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Trees won't cut it.

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The verdict is in and planting trillions of new trees as we do today could just as well be causing more harm than good. There are more effective pathways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Wait, aren’t trees carbon sinks?
The tree-hugging hippies of the 80’s had it right: save old trees. Trees that are roughly 30-80 years old have immense potential to capture and store carbon. A tree takes 20-30 years until it actually starts becoming a carbon sink. It takes 80-100 years for a tree to absorb 650 kg-1 metric tonne co2. That is if it’s still standing. After about 200 years it starts decaying and the uptake of carbon decreases (Source: SVT and New EU Forest Strategy for 2030).
“The secondary forests are like teenagers. They soak up carbon like crazy and they empty your fridge,” says Lourens Poorter, professor in functional ecology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “If you look at old people, they consume very little, and it’s the same as the old growth forest. What we want to advocate is: ‘Please value those secondary forests, and in areas where you can, please let those forests regrow back again naturally.” (Source: The Guardian).
Planting new trees may, however, have an adverse effect on our planet. An overwhelming amount of scientific studies have found high climate-driven risks to the carbon mitigation potential of planting trees. In Chile, a study found that 25 years of forest subsidies had decreased biodiversity whilst not increasing total carbon stored.
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Why planting a trillion new trees won’t save us:
Trees are increasingly vulnerable to drought, wildfires, disease and human interference. (Source: Science).
Planting trees on a large-scale can be harmful to nature, minimizing biodiversity and harming native species. Many projects plant non-native invasive species that are not meant for the local climate, which in turn can wipe out local species. By planting only one type of tree, monocultures also lead to lack of biodiversity, drying out the soil and leading to drought.
Tree compensation projects have burned in wildfires in the past years. If we look at one example in California, roughly 153,000 hectares of climate-compensated forest burned up in a wildfire. This forest was planned to capture 32 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is calculated on the basis that one hectare absorbs 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. (Source: NY Times).

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We don’t have time:
In order to remain under the IPCC’s recommended 1,5 degrees we need to remove 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year until 2050. If we’re relying on new trees, we will already have reached 2050 by the time these trees start absorbing carbon, if they are still standing. Instead, we need to invest in fast, scalable, viable and innovative carbon removal technologies. Want to learn more about carbon removal? Subscribe to our newsletter on Linkedin or head over to our web!

Our sources:


New EU Forest Strategy for 2030


The Guardian

NY Times

Want to read more?
Here are a few reads on planting trees:

  • Peter Kamau

    29 w

    There's so much truth in that.There's need to explore for more carbon removal techniques than just hyping "trees are the best natural carbon sinks."

    • Sarah Chabane

      32 w

      Interesting article, and it's obvious that tree planting is not the one solution that fits all, but what's another alternative that you are proposing? :)

      • Removement

        31 w

        @sarah_chabane hi sarah! we are proposing other methods for removing carbon from the atmosphere that are verified, fast and effective. These include: growin c4 grass, sinking kelp, regenerative agriculture, bio-oil and biochar which you can find out about here

      • Edwin wangombe

        33 w

        What if we do both cut emissions and plant trees??

        • Johannes Luiga

          32 w

          @edwin_wangombe totally agree!

          • Removement

            31 w

            @Johannes_Luiga so what we are suggesting is yes, absolutely cut emissions, but that rather than invest in planting trees we need to invest in faster methods of removing carbon such as sinking kelp, regenerative agriculture, c4 grass, to name a few. Here on our website we have more about carbon removal

          • Mats Nilsson

            33 w

            A lot of info here. Better to stop emitting than to just plant trees, yes we know that of course.

            • Removement

              31 w

              @Mats_Nilsson exactly, and even if we stop emitting we also need to remove historic carbon from the atmosphere, which is why it's essential that we invest in carbon removal technologies!

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