Planting more trees is one way to offset deforestation. However, if we want a shot at combatting the climate crisis, among other efforts, we’ll need to cut down fewer trees to begin with.

Every year, an estimated 15 billion trees are chopped down across the planet to make room for agricultural and urban lands and other uses. We’ve cut down so many, in fact, that what’s left is about half of the number of trees that the Earth supported before the rise of human civilisation, and scientists warn that it’s not helping our climate.

Planting more trees is one way to offset deforestation. But now, a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that to have a shot at combatting the climate crisis, among other efforts, we’ll need to cut down fewer trees to begin with.

Global deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Of all the land-use-related carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2016—between 2.6 and 7.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide yearly – most of it comes from deforestation, the IPCC report’s authors estimate. And, as Rebecca Leber explains:

“The way we eat, farm, and cut down forests contributes in a major way to the climate problem. Deforestation, agriculture, and other land use are already responsible for 23 percent of the rise in human-caused greenhouse gases, and agriculture is responsible for 44 percent of methane emissions.”

Those numbers will certainly grow without changes in land management – changes like growing forests and improving soil’s carbon capture with more native plants and crops.

Climate mitigation efforts like planting trees may be a long-term and an admittedly quixotic solution, but there is also the option of slowing down or putting a halt to deforestation. “I do think eliminating deforestation is more important than planting new forest,” says Stanford University professor Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project and is an author of a forthcoming study on the ability of forests to store carbon as more CO2 enters the atmosphere. But “it’s not an either-or, of course,” he says. “We can do both.”

Original source: www.motherjones.com

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