Does planting trees reduce global warming? – Is it good?

From MasterThe source

Via Richard W. Fulmer – April 27, 2022

“The Earth is an unimaginably complex system consisting of an infinite number of subsystems – many of which are poorly understood and some, perhaps still unknown. Science aims to explain systems that are unstable and, well…, complex. ”

It’s very complicated. Trees are natural carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But they also release volatile chemicals that can form methane and ozone, both strong greenhouse gases. One 2014 Research shows that deforestation between 1850 and 2000 could reduce volatile chemical emissions enough to “slightly offset warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. ”

But it’s more complicated than that. Chemical emissions from plants can also form Aerosol that collision climate in different ways. For example, they can create a haze that reflects sunlight back into space. Aerosol particles can alsoacts as the seed for the cloud drops“Similarly reflects sunlight off the Earth.

But wait, it’s even more complicated. Search suggest that aerosol emissions on trees can be reduced due to atmospheric CO2 concentration increased.

Complicating the picture further, soil covered with trees tends to be darker than soil covered with grass, sand, or snow. Dark surface trap more than the heat of the sun, warming the local climate. There is CO2 Do absorbing plants compensate for the heat they absorb? It depends. According to a 2007 research, grow plants in the tropics – where they grow fast and trap a lot of CO2 – has a net cooling effect. However, grow them in the temperate zone between 50 latitudeo and 60o (approximately between the US-Canada border and Fairbanks, Alaska) or no impact, or, under a 2022 research, a mesh warming effect.

UK, all within 50o and 60o latitude, is planning to spend around 750 million pounds ($975 million) to reforest the country by 2025. Net Zero Watchwebsite of the Global Warming Policy Forum, report that the 2022 study “suggests that Government plans are not only wasteful – and often harmful to the environment and food security – but may actually increase global temperatures, opposite to expected action of Net Zero Project. ” [1]

If global warming is indeed an existential crisis, then at least our solutions must not make it worse. Furthermore, costly solutions with little, no or negative impact will quickly depress the public about further projects. A costly mistake could be the last step the government can take in the face of angry voters.

Suppose, however, that after careful research and deliberation, we determine that it is beneficial to plant a tree in a certain location. What plants should be planted? According to to a British tree expert,

Broadleaf species – such as beech, beech and maple – are best because they have a larger leaf surface area that helps generate more photosynthesis, while conifers absorb more heat.

Planting a diverse mix of species will maximize the benefits of trees, as well as support conservation efforts such as insect and wildlife initiatives, and ensure landscapes are prepared. better for pests that can wipe out entire species of trees in an area.

But trees absorb large amounts of groundwater, which could place an unsustainable burden on the area’s water supply. species can exist on little water may be the best option.

On the other hand, high CO levels2 in the factory improvement atmosphere efficient use of water, which will reduce, if not eliminate, the impact on groundwater. In addition, once established, trees can influence the water cycle and increased regional rainfall. On the other hand, while “overall, the impact of trees on rainfall is expected to be positive… it can have complicated ramifications. ”

As Nadine Unger a professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate modeling at the UK’s University of Exeter admit:

The mutual relationship between forests and climate is actually quite complex and not fully understood.

The Earth is an unimaginably complex system consisting of an infinite number of subsystems – many of which are poorly understood and some, perhaps still unknown. Science aims to explain those systems as unstable and, well…, complex.


[1] The analysis here is applicable to The Trillion Tree Act of 2021 and like proposals as a climate strategy.

Richard W. Fulmer is a principal by MasterResource and co-author of Energy: Primary Resource (Kendall / Hunt: 2004). He thanked Craig D. Idso for the helpful comments.

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