A new paper in Science reports a quantitative analysis of the impact of tree planting on future atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. They found it to be HUGE.
If you exclude areas of human habitation and farm land, there is enough space to plant billions of trees, each native to its area. And even grazing lands benefit from windbreaks and shelter trees.
Here is the abstract, which is in understandable language (not frequent in academic papers):
The restoration of forested land at a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change. Bastin et al. used direct measurements of forest cover to generate a model of forest restoration potential across the globe. Their spatially explicit maps show how much additional tree cover could exist outside of existing forests and agricultural and urban land. Ecosystems could support an additional 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forest. This would represent a greater than 25% increase in forested area, including more than 500 billion trees and more than 200 gigatonnes of additional carbon at maturity. Such a change has the potential to cut the atmospheric carbon pool by about 25%.
SO, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Mind you, the effect is not immediate. The best trees for soaking up carbon take many years to grow. However, recently I came across a Chinese proverb. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Also, removing carbon already in the atmosphere doesn’t excuse spewing more into the air, and there are also methane and other greenhouse gases.
All we can do is the best we can do — and we must do that.