Trees for future

Jul 18, 2019 | written by:

Climate change is a challenge that we can no longer overlook. The latest report issued by the IPCC (the UN panel on climate change) reiterates this warning, signaling the imperative need to contain the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°. To do this, it is necessary to act on the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere and, for this reason, many initiatives are proliferating, aimed at reducing emissions and, above all, absorbing the excess CO2 already present in the atmosphere.

An Irish startup recently bought the rights to a CO2 capturing technology, developed by Professor Klaus Lackner of the University of Arizona, a real pioneer in the field. This project involves a mechanical tree in which carbon dioxide is brought into contact with hundreds of strips of polymers incorporated with resins that bind to its molecules. The industrial use of this technology promises to absorb a ton of CO2 at a cost of around 100 dollars, but only in best-case scenario. Given the expected performance of this "mechanical tree", one wonders if perhaps the most leading edge technology today, one capable of guaranteeing immediately competitive performance at very low costs, continues to be that of the good old natural tree.

Rehabilitating against climate change
Recently a research carried out by a team led by the Zurich Polytechnic University and published in Science provides estimates and numbers of the saving potential of trees. The title of the research is emblematic "The global tree restoration potential" and the words of Tom Crowther, one of the senior authors of the study, explain well the value of this potential: "Our study clearly shows that forest restoration is the best solution available today to prevent climate change". The analysis found that there are 1.7 billion hectares of land without trees, but on which trees could grow. A surface that represents 11% of the emerged landforms and that corresponds to approximately the surface of the United States and China combined. This estimate excluded urban areas and fields used for food crops. Instead, several pasture areas were included, as sheep and cattle could easily coexist with the presence of trees.

It is necessary to plant immediately
Jean-François Bastin, also a member of the research team, emphasized how urgent it is to intervene quickly. "Governments must incorporate reforestation into their national strategies and do it now".  An urgency also dictated by the fact that the amount of land available for reforestation decreases with the increase in global average temperatures. Even if global warming were limited to only 1.5° by 2050, about 1/5 of the area available for reforestation identified by the study would be lost, as too hot and unsuitable for planting new trees. In addition, many decades are required to grow vital and mature forests sufficient to ensure high levels of absorption. Meanwhile, however, we will continue to release about 40 billion tons of CO2 each year.

Everyone can contribute
"Anyone can plant a tree". With these words Bastin indicated that if on the one hand time is against us, the possibility that anyone can make their own contribution is a concrete hope for the future of the planet. And we guarantee that we’ve not been paid to say this!

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