This article explores afforestation as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative which mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love trees. Aesthetically I think they look amazing and I am passionate about their many environmental benefits. I was therefore thrilled when I found the UN FAO posting the following infographic on their social media this morning.
For one ecosystem to contribute so much is simply incredible. The benefits go far beyond the carbon storage capabilities and their use for recreation which are often thought of as their primary benefits.
The authors behind Drawdown begin with the important message that:
“The capacity of trees to synthesise and sequester carbon through photosynthesis as they grow has made afforestation an important practice in the age of warming”
Let’s look at the numbers that allowed afforestation to come in as the 15th most effective solution to reverse global warming. Afforestation could reduce CO2 emissions by 18.06 gigatons, for a net cost of $29.4 billion, but produce $392.3 billion in net savings. These numbers are certainly very impressive.
A lot of people get confused between reforestation and afforestation and it is an easy mistake to make because they sound similar. The authors provide the following explanation.
“Creating new forests where there were none before in areas that have been treeless for at least fifty years is the aim of afforestation.”
The authors make the bold claim that: “almost any space that is unattended or forgotten can help draw down atmospheric carbon.”
The authors do add a cautionary note that: “while afforestation projects have significant carbon sequestration potential, forests, new or old, are vulnerable to fire, drought, pests, and the ax or saw.” This must always be kept in mind.
The most common form of afforestation is through plantation projects. Though controversial, afforestation plantations have been proven to have a “plantation conservation benefit” whereby plantations reduce logging pressures on pristine natural forests.
The authors go to explain that: “creating new forest can sink carbon and support biodiversity, address human needs for firewood, food and medicine, and provide ecosystem services such as flood and drought protection.” This is certainly a great deal of benefits.
What you need to know
This article looked at afforestation as a climate change solution. It was based on Project Drawdown which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.
In their study afforestation was ranked at number 15 and you can see why, with the massive amounts of carbon that could be stored in forests as a result of this activity.
What is also clear is that forests provide far greater benefits than their ability to store carbon. They are life giving entities which can change their local environment and economy and provide ecological services that are of a global significance. We should protect them where they exist and pant them where they do not.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of afforestation as a climate change solution?