Planting Trees Could Be The Key To Saving The Planet, At Least For A While

Forget fancy technology, hard-to-gauge targets and climate change denying politicians because new research suggests the simple act of planting trees could be the key to saving the planet. 

Swiss scientists analysed nearly 80,000 satellite images and identified 900 million hectares of unused land that could be reforested -- that's roughly the size of Australia and New Zealand combined.

Billions of new trees would suck up and store 205 gigatonnes of carbon to buy us 20 years in the fight against climate change.

That roughly equates to five times the amount emitted globally in 2018.

Billions of new trees would suck up and store 205 gigatonnes of carbon to buy us 20 years in the fight against climate change

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” Swiss university ETH Zürich Professor and lead researcher Tom Crowther told The Guardian.

“What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed,” he continued.

The land identified includes grazing land on which the researchers say a few trees can be planted and areas affected by things like logging and on-going burning.

Paddocks used to grow crops are not included.

But the action would need to be taken soon to successfully remove two-thirds of all of the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities.

Up to 223 million hectares of global tree canopy cover is expected to disappear by 2050, with the tropics the most at risk.

It would take between 50 and 100 years for the new forests' full effects to be seen.

While the research published in the journal Scienceargues the potential of a global program, it doesn't address how it would be paid for and delivered.

READ MORE: When It Comes To The Environment, ScoMo Could Learn A Lesson From China

READ MORE: The Country Where Students Must Plant 10 Trees To Graduate

If one trillion trees were planted at a cost of 30 US cents each, the total bill would come to $200 billion.

It's not all about climate change, increased greenery would provide a host of benefits including more biodiversity, improved water quality and reduced erosion.


What initiatives are already underway?

Australia is one of six countries that has been flagged as having "tree restoration potential."

The federal government has pledged to plant 20 million trees by next year to reestablish green corridors and urban forests but critics argue that effort is being undermined by extensive land clearing.

We have one of the highest rates of tree clearing of any developed country with 25 percent rainforest, 45 percent of open forest, 32 percent woodland forest and 30 percent of mallee forest lost within 200 years, according to the Wilderness Society.

Currently, there are 1,000 animal and plant species at risk of extinction.

Meanwhile, Dozens of countries have signed on to the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to bring 350 million hectares of the world's deforested land into restoration by 2030.

In the Phillippines, high school and college students won't be able to graduate unless they plant 10 trees each.

Researchers say that while change is underway, a lot more effort is needed to combat climate change.

We have the land, all we're missing is the people power.