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April 19, 2024
GreentvAfrica News

How Not To Destroy The Planet

This century, we are facing a huge question: how can we prevent the global rise in temperature from exceeding the threshold that sets in motion runaway feedback loops, irreparable biodiversity loss, and the displacement of millions? In other words, how can we save this planet?

The theoretical answer isn’t as complicated as you might think. We have to stop burning fossil fuels very soon, stop cutting down forests, and change the way we produce food. In short, we have to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

But that’s hardly going to be enough, given that we’ve already emitted so much. So we also need to remove past emissions from the atmosphere.

Some people are betting on risky carbon capture technologies to do this. The problem is that these technologies don’t exist yet, and might not be developed in time. A quick look at the global temperature record tells you that it’s getting rather late for future technologies.

But that’s okay. Because we already have a highly effective carbon capture technology — trees. Planting, protecting and restoring forest ecosystems captures and stores carbon, cools the planet, and protects biodiversity. In fact, restoration is able to prevent 60% of projected species extinctions and provide a third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to keep global heating below 2C.

Not all tree planting is equal
The problem is that, without the necessary technical knowledge and local know-how, tree planting can do more harm than good. If you plant monocultures instead of diverse forests, you end up with ecological dead zones. If you plant non-native species, they could become invasive and destroy biodiversity. If you don’t partner with local communities, you’re growing firewood, not forests.

In contrast, when the right species are planted in the right place, they don’t just capture CO2 at scale, but also prevent erosion, stabilize the soil, increase yields and incomes, protect wildlife — and so, so much more. We’ve seen it again and again: when tree planting is done properly, everything changes.

In Senegal, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Morocco, for instance, we plant trees on and around farms. These trees create a cooler microclimate and provide shade, which protects crops in the dry season. They attract rain and restore nutrients to the soil. Smallholder farmers often end up producing more than their family needs, and can sell their surplus. This additional income helps them cover essentials such as school fees and medical bills.

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