Reforestation is a climate solution first proposed in the form of an annual planting program by Gordan Sloan in the mid-1900s. While the exact program never took place as replanting trees was largely viewed as uneconomical, the need for reforestation became widely accepted as a necessary implementation during the passing decades. The process gained momentum during the late 1980s due to heightened public concern.
Describe your solution.
Reforestation is the process undertaken to ensure the recovery of forests that have previously been logged and cut down by replanting trees native to the geographic area or by encouraging the regrowth of these plants naturally. The sheer quantity of trees in natural forests is able to assist in sequestering the amount of carbon being emitted by human activity. However, due to the growing demand for wood and wood-based products, some of our largest carbon sinks are being demolished and denied the opportunity to replenish themselves. Combatting this issue simply requires the deforested land to undergo a cost-effective reforestation process, which will restore the forests’ ability to sequester carbon and produce oxygen.
Explain exactly how your solution can help the climate.
Forests play a crucial element in the storage of carbon and help moderate climate change and maintain a global carbon balance. As carbon is a crucial element in the process of photosynthesis, trees and plants are able to transform carbon dioxide into biomass and oxygen. By absorbing over a quarter of carbon emitted by human activity, forests have helped abate the effects of global warming for the past four decades. However, due to increasing deforestation rates and not enough reforestation initiatives, the ability of forests to perform as carbon sinks have been significantly reduced.
To what extent could your solution help the climate?
Our forests already assist in removing 25% of carbon emissions from the atmosphere each year, yet it is clear that they have the potential to do much more. The planet of Earth has room for about 1 billion hectares of additional forest, and the supplementary trees will assist in sequestering approximately 200 gigatons of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere since the 1800s. It is important to note that forests will not permanently store the carbon, and the release of it can be triggered by damaging processes such as deforestation and forest fires. This means that despite being able to sequester a large amount of the emissions, the net levels of carbon will continue to increase if humans do not find ways to decrease reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint. These extra efforts combined with the addition of keeping the “lungs of the earth” as healthy as possible could mitigate the change in climate and slow the process of global warming significantly.
Who would benefit the most from your climate solution?
Forests from all around the world are being logged and destructively removed, so a reforestation initiative would not only assist in sequestering global carbon emissions but also have a positive environmental and human impact in the nation in which the forest is situated. For example, the deforestation rates in the South Asian country of Nepal have increased significantly, with less than 30% of the nation’s forests remaining despite the 70% of the inhabitants estimated to be forest dependent. Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world, and a large amount of the population depends directly on forests for food, shelter, and income. Reforestation would not only help mitigate climate change but also alleviate poverty and boost the living standards of villagers by providing purified water sources and restoring local animal habitats.
How much will it cost and who will pay for it?
The cost of reforestation is low, with the price of a single tree ranging from 10 cents to $20 dollars. This means, at the lowest scale, planting $30 worth of trees removes around one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This sum can be easily supplied by deforestation companies as well as simply by the government as the costs align with what needs to be achieved in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Simply planting around $50-$100 worth of trees per ton of carbon emitted would remove between 15.1 to 33.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2050.
What are the pros and cons of your climate solution?
The pros of reforestation include the exponential increase in forests' ability to act as a carbon sink, sequestering greater amounts of carbon dioxide, and abating the rate of climate change. In addition, reforestation can also rewind the habitat loss that threatens the extinction of one-quarter of life on Earth. It also supplies jobs to those who cannot find employment, therefore simultaneously benefitting the economy and the environment. However, trees do not permanently store carbon, and there is a maximum amount that a plant can store. Likewise, there is also a restricted amount of land available for excessive tree planting, and more and more land is being used due to population growth and economic development. Trees also release carbon, and if not properly managed, can turn into a carbon source instead of a carbon sink.
Has your climate solution already been implemented?
Reforestation incentives have been implemented already by many environmental organizations and charities looking to mitigate the effects of climate change and alleviate other planetary crises that come with it, such as habitat loss and poverty in areas that are highly affected by the destruction of carbon sinks. These include highly forested countries such as Nepal, Madagascar, and even Australia.
Why should we vote for your idea?
Replanting trees and conserving forests are the first and most basic steps in abating the effects of climate change. Mass reforestation can remove as much, if not more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as any negative emissions technology can, and at a much lower price. While it may not completely reverse or ‘fix’ the problem, it is the most obvious and cost-effective way of reducing the impact of our carbon emissions while we find ways to reduce our dependency on environmentally destructive fossil fuels.
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