Planting trees

A universal cure for climate change?

Planting trees



With forest projects, companies and private individuals can make voluntary CO2 offsets.

However, whether this form of compensation makes sense is highly questionable.


What is the problem?


According to Atmosfair, a forest must last 50 to 100 years to have a climate-relevant impact even if it is not cut down or infested by pests before. Project operators, in other countries in particular, however cannot guarantee that the forest will last that long.


In many countries where trees are planted as CO2 offsets, there is so-called land use pressure, as several parties compete for different uses of the land. The trees planted on it are therefore subject to a high risk of being cleared to gain more arable, farming or pastureland.


In addition, the problem of deforestation in many regions is often only “postponed”. When a project operator begins to protect a certain part of the forest and issues CO2 certificates for it, the problem of deforestation simply shifts to another part of the forest and the certificate loses all meaning.


In some cases forest certificates are issued before the forest even exists. With these “upfront certificates”, the project operators then finance the high investments that are made at the beginning of such a project.


As a buyer you are soothing your conscience with trees that will be able to compensate the consumed Co2 only years later (or not)…


How effectively one can combat climate change through reforestation is fundamentally very controversial, anyway.


A study of researchers of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, published in the science magazine, came in to the assessment that the climatic change can be fought through nothing so effectively as by afforestation.


1. The earth could tolerate a third more forests without affecting cities or agricultural land.
2. Planting trees has the potential to reduce two-thirds of the climate-damaging
emissions caused by humans.
3. The new forests could store 205 billion tons of carbon when they grow up – about two-thirds of the 300 billion tons of additional carbon that have remained in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution caused by humans.


Falsely the study assumes that soils in ecosystems without trees contain no carbon.


This is wrong as in many habitats, such as savannas and peat bogs, more carbon is sequestered in the soil than in above-ground vegetation.


Ecological restoration of grasslands, savannas, scrublands, and peatlands could make more sense than planting trees in many cases for this reason.


In addition, there has been criticism that (future) grazing land has been evaluated as a potential area for reforestation.


Why might this be unrealistic?


It is expected that pasture land will continue to expand around the world over the next few decades and will then no longer be available for tree planting. Including these areas in the study, critics say, distorts the results.


Don’t get me wrong. I love forests and trees! I understand that it gives a good feeling to „plant“ a tree!


Nevertheless, there should rather be a change in thinking, to avoid climate-detrimental actions in the first place, instead of calming the conscience by planting trees in order to to compensate the damages.


If planting trees serves as an excuse, to avoid the change all of us should be part of, the “compensation game” is toxic!


This text* was originally published on Instagram @nachhaltig.kritisch – Check out their great account, please. Those guys do an amazing research job- always looking behind the curtain.
*The content of the original text was slightly adapted to make it more readable in english.

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