The One Trillion Trees Initiative was launched at the World Economic Forum last month.
When President Trump announced that the United States would join the tree planting initiative on January 21 in Davos among more than 3,000 world government, business, and NGO leaders, more than half of whom joined the commitment, it garnered little reaction at home. And when he reiterated it in the State of the Union speech address on February 4, the initiative received little response beyond muted skepticism from the usual cast of environmental organizations.
Nature based solutions, as an important part of the response to climate change, strike many as a good idea.
The current initiative has as its roots the idea that “the restoration of trees remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation.” That statement from a 2019 report, The Global Tree Restoration Potential, published by a group of Swiss researchers, Bastin, et al, in Science, found “the restoration of forested land at a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change.”
The study calculates there is enough non agricultural and non urban land in the world to accommodate 1.2 trillion more trees. There are currently approximately 3 trillion trees. Planting that many new trees would significantly cool the Earth by taking 205 gigatonnes of carbon, the equivalent of 25% of the carbon dioxide that is currently in the atmosphere, sequestering it in growing trees.
And beyond carbon dioxide alone, expanded continuous forests could have huge biodiversity benefits, restoring city trees could dramatically reduce urban heat island effect, and more ..
Man has understood the importance of trees since before the Old Testament admonition, when waging a war against a city “.. you must not destroy its trees,” (Deuteronomy 20:19) which has been interpreted far more broadly than only protecting fruit trees, but to stand for the proposition of not destroying God’s creations.
Modern global tree planting initiatives may have begun with Mangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement planting more than 50 million trees across Africa beginning in the 1970s. Later the Billion Tree Campaign declared victory with the planting of the one billionth tree, an African olive, in Ethiopia in 2007.
In full disclosure, I have personally planted trees (.. yes, shovel in the ground) across the world from Israel and Bhutan to Tanzania. In 2018 I had the opportunity to plant a tree in Baltistan, on a day that more than 1.5 million trees were planted, as Plant4Pakistan began a 5 year project of planting 10 billion trees across Pakistan.
In 2020 when climate change is “out” and climate crisis is “in,” in a typical American response, we look to legislate a solution for nearly everything, including a good idea like planting a tree. Last week Rep. Bruce Westerman (R Ark.) introduced the Trillion Trees Act and while the Congressional bill will no doubt be partisan fodder, it is a good read.
There is more information about the One Trillion Trees Initiative at 1T.org.
And yes, a trillion trees is a lot. It is one thousand times one billion, maybe easier thought of as a million millions or a one followed by 12 zeroes.
There is no doubt an opportunity for climate change mitigation through tree planting. So with that large goal, maybe you should get started repairing the world and planting trees?