The concentration of carbon dioxide particles has skyrocketed since Humans started using fossil fuels, offsetting the balance in the carbon cycle. We’ve been looking for ways to compensate for this for too long.

*Glossary at the end*

Let’s repeat this again, forests make sense.

Economically, they make sense. When well-managed, they provide local, stable and reliable food and natural resources. They are also a natural protection from catastrophes such as floods or landslides, preventing billions worth in damage control and reconstruction.

Socially, they make sense. Ecological services provide remedies for urban illnesses (air pollution respiratory diseases, stress, and even myopia), clean water, pollination for crops and much more.

Ecologically (duh), they make sense. Trees are incredible air and water filters that stabilise, mitigate and neutralise a great variety of man-made pollutants. If allowed to prosper, forests can perpetuate an ecosystem for millions of years. At no cost, the gene pool remains intact (even grows), and the thousands of engineering, medical, commercial undiscovered perspectives are preserved. They are also powerful traps for airborne carbon dioxide (CO2). A tree captures on average a ton of carbon in its lifespan.

Excuse me, what is a carbon trap?

Instead of advocating for trees to mitigate the skyrocketing of CO2 particle concentration in the atmosphere, science proposed a lot of crazy sounding stuff. Carbon capture and sequestration is a series of techniques to seize and isolate carbon emissions. Some of them produce results, like industrial filters in factories.

Some others, well… releasing cooling chemicals in the atmosphere, using former coal mines as underground tombs for CO2 molecules, pouring algae in the oceans to absorb CO2 … All massive projects bound to have some serious unexpected side effects on our ecological balance.

Arizona scientists have even been designing artificial trees to copycat and reproduce the natural phenomenon of carbon assimilation. We’re still pretty far-off, technologically and economically, about 30 years until a decent scalable model.

With Plan A, a tree costs half of an EUR to plant and care for, and captures about a ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

The solution is right out the window

Trees, as opposed to using more chemicals into the atmosphere, are a technology developed by Earth and for Earth. There is a model for just about any environment, and their added-value has been measured. To be fair, they have more than 350 million years experience. If that doesn’t land you an entry level job, then I don’t know what does.

Combine that to the fact that approximately 2 billion hectares of land (that’s roughly the size of Latin America) have potential for plantation or restoration worldwide, and you have yourself the beginning of a solution.

Of course, trees have other integrated features such as shade, which reduces urban heat islands by several degrees. They also have an integrated filterwhich is particularly useful for capturing particulate pollution (diesel emissions for example) and help lower concentrations of other air pollutants such as ozone and nitrous oxide. Did I mention, they were also good for mental health, and hosted the largest biodiversity on land?

Conclusion:

Trees are the best technology we have to mitigate our carbon dioxide emissions.

(That does not mean we can stop looking for other solutions on the side) But that does mean we need to start planting and stop deforesting.

People often overestimate the time it takes to grow a forest. In a continental climate settings, a forest can cover abandoned farmland in less than 50 years. We can just about make it, but it’s up to us to make it happen! Make a difference by helping us plant 100,000 trees. That would be a start, wouldn’t it? And in a few years, we’ll probably be glad we did.

Glossary

Acidification: The decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the dissolving of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Increasing acidity has a range of harmful consequences for marine organisms, such as causing coral bleaching.

Carbon Assimilation: The conversion of inorganic carbon (carbon dioxide in the air) to organic matter by living organisms. The most prominent example is photosynthesis by plants and algae.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: The process of capturing waste CO2 from large point sources, such as power plants, transporting it and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere.

Carbon Cycle: The movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere, as well as long-term processes of carbon sequestration to and release from carbon sinks.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions (CO2): Carbon dioxide is the most significant long-lived greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution, emissions — primarily from use of fossil fuels and deforestation — have rapidly increased its concentration in the atmosphere, leading to global warming. Carbon dioxide also causes ocean acidification because it dissolves in water. Humans release about 40 billion tons in the atmosphere each year, adding globally 2 parts per million per year. That’s a +25% concentration in 50 years.

Pollination: the process by which pollen is transferred to the female reproductive organs of a plant, enabling fertilization to take place. Most commonly, the process of pollination requires pollinators: organisms that carry or move the pollen grains from one flower to another. This is biotic pollination. It’s what bees do!