As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.
There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.
Deforestation occurs at a pretty swift rate. Each year, we lose about 18 million acres of forest because of deforestation. That's roughly the size of Panama. We've already cleared out half of the world's tropical forests. This summer, an uptick in deforestation resulted in the alarming Amazon fires in Brazil. Although the Amazon doesn't produce 20% of the world's oxygen, the Amazondoes store 25% of the world's carbon, which means it's still important to keep around.
Thunberg and Monboit point out that natural climate change solutions are a cost-effective way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet efforts to use trees as a natural defense are underfunded, receiving only 2% of the money used to cut emissions. "Right now, we are ignoring natural climate solutions," Thunberg said, per the Guardian. "We spend 1,000 times more on global fossil fuel subsidies than on nature-based solutions. This is your money, it is your taxes, and your savings." Planting trees feels like a win-win.
We are seeing reforestation efforts cropping up worldwide. The Bonn Challenge started in 2011, with the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of forest by 2020. The movement now has a goal to restore 350 million hectaresby 2030 — that's an area larger than India. Speaking of India, this year, a million Indians banded together to plant 220 million trees in one single day. They finished by 5 p.m., proving you can do your part to conserve the environment and still get home for dinner.
Of course, it's not enough to just plant a forest and call it a day. We still need to curb our usage of fossil fuels. "Nature is a tool we can use to repair our broken climate," Monbiot said in the Guardian."These solutions could make a massive difference, but only if we leave fossil fuels in the ground as well."
So, if you ever wanted an excuse to plant a tree, now you have a great one. Go out there and get planting!
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