Published: October 18, 2017

By Greg Beach

Planting trees, revitalizing soil, and other natural environmental actions could prove as effective in fighting climate change as ceasing all oil use across the planet, according to new study published by an international team of scientists in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” said the team in a statement. Protection of carbon-storing peatlands, sustainable land management, reforestation, and other natural solutions could account for 37 percent of all emissions reductions required under the Paris Agreement by 2030. Perhaps most astoundingly, a complete re-greening of the planet would have as much of a positive impact on climate change mitigation as completely stopping the global burning of oil for fuel.

climate change, greening Earth, forests, planting trees

Planting trees is a particularly important method for fighting climate change.

The estimates of the potential benefits from natural climate change solutions are about 30 percent higher than that predicted by a 2014 UN panel of climate scientists. In the recently released study, scientists conclude that more sustainable management of natural resources and the environment could result in 11.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of China’s yearly emissions, by 2030. Trees are particularly important to this system, as they act as carbon banks while they are alive. After they die, trees decompose and this carbon is slowly released back into the atmosphere. More trees and more resilient forests means more potential carbon storage, among other health benefits.

climate change, greening Earth, forests, planting trees

Scientists estimate that better management of nature could account for over one-third of the actions required by 2030 in the Paris agreement.

Although the current plans from governments across the globe are insufficient to avert a 2 degree Celsius global temperature rise, the new study offers hope for alternative solutions. “Fortunately, this research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. Unfortunately, the planet is rapidly running out of time before catastrophic climate change upends the world as we know it. “If we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature,” said Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. You heard it here: get out there and start planting trees.