Study Finds The Cheapest And Most Effective Way To Fight Climate Change Is Planting 1 Trillion Trees Worldwide

A forest of conifer trees.
Johannes Plenio / Pixabay

A new study has identified an unconventional approach to fighting climate change that might be more effective than any current plans — planting a total of 1 trillion trees worldwide, covering an area the size of the United States.

A group of Swiss scientists published the results in this week’s edition of the journal Science, noting that the trees would cover a total of 3.5 million square miles. They calculated that the trees would be able to convert 830 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the equivalent of the carbon pollution that humans have emitted in the last 25 years, The Associated Press reported.

The plan would likely require the coordination of a number of nations and planting locations spread out across the globe, but the study found it could be very effective in combating climate change. The report noted that the tree-planting strategy would have strong immediate results, as trees are able to convert more carbon from the air when they are younger. The plan would also be cheaper than anything else that has been proposed, the study’s authors said.

“This is by far — by thousands of times — the cheapest climate change solution,” study co-author Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said (via The Associated Press).

Crowther admitted that it would be an enormous undertaking, but one that would be warranted given the seriousness of the climate change crisis affecting the world.

“It’s certainly a monumental challenge, which is exactly the scale of the problem of climate change,” Crowther said, adding that there would still need to be plans to cut carbon emissions.

As CBS News noted, some scientists disputed the idea that planting trees would be the most effective, saying that the need to cut down burning oil, coal, and gas is still a greater priority.

“Restoration of trees may be ‘among the most effective strategies’, but it is very far indeed from ‘the best climate change solution available,’ and a long way behind reducing fossil fuel emissions to net zero,” said Professor Myles Allen from the University of Oxford.

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As CBS News reported, the scientists conducting the study used Google Earth to map exactly where the trees could be placed, finding that the United States, Russia, Canada, Brazil, China, and Australia would be the most effective locations for the tree-planting plan. They determined areas where the trees could be placed without interfering with existing farmland or cities.