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Tree-huggers know more than you think

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Trees are hot. By that, I mean that trees are cool. More specifically, trees are cooling. Planting trees is in vogue, with tree-planting projects involving billions and even trillions of trees sprouting up across the planet.

Science supports such initiatives, but a seed of doubt belongs with every sapling. Green thumbs are no substitute for emissions red lines. Shade is good, but it must not overshadow the hard work of cutting greenhouse gasses.

Planting trees is good for the environment and good for the species that work, play, reproduce or otherwise take up space in it. The first and most immediate benefit — and the focus of much of the fascination — is their ability to remove particulate matter and other forms of air pollution.

Much of the current vogue stems from their carbon dioxide scrubbing capability: A mature tree absorbs about 22 kg of carbon dioxide from the air per year. Scientists reckon that there is room for an extra 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover in the world, which would store 205 gigatons of carbon, meaning that “global tree restoration is one of the most effective carbon drawdown solutions to date.”

Those numbers have inspired a number of tree-planting projects, the most ambitious of which is the World Economic Forum’s 1 Trillion Trees initiative (1t.org). Launched last year, it aims to plant 1 trillion trees by 2030, which would, the WEF forecasts, remove two-thirds of carbon emissions created by human behavior and reduce carbon in the atmosphere by 25%.

The EU got in the game in 2018. The Green New Deal aims to expand the EU’s sequestration of carbon to 310 million tons from a current target of 265 million tons, and a key piece of that is planting 3 billion new trees by 2030.

At first glance, that is a lot of lumber. The EU is estimated to have planted almost 300 million additional trees between 2010 and 2015, so this goal would roughly double its existing........

© The Japan Times

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