Planting just 160 trees per person can transform climate change

Clive Blazey discusses the most powerful weapon to combat climate change.

Planting just 160 trees per person can transform climate change

In our latest summer magazine we introduced our members to the work of a new think tank named Drawdown, which has created a comprehensive plan to solve climate change.

Eighty separate solutions are ranked and evaluated to contribute to a whole earth plan to bring CO2 back under a global warming increase of just +1.5°C by 2050.

Now that is a huge task, since we are on a projection of runaway temperatures, which could reach +3–4°C unless we act urgently.

Now, in case that doesn’t sound as alarming as it really is, remember that our average temperature in Melbourne throughout the year is around 15°C.
A 20%+ average increase creates summer extremes of peak temperature points of +48–52°C which, if prolonged, would turn Australia into a plant-less desert like the Middle East. Plants just cannot survive temperatures over 40°C for prolonged periods.

Australia, being so urbanised, will be impacted above almost all countries.
Many of the trees we depend upon for shade will die and the impacts will be greatest for Australians, because we are one of the most urbanised populations in the world and the built environment retains far more heat than in the country.

Planting trees is the ultimate renewal strategy

One of the problems for the Drawdown scientists is to estimate the number of trees on planet earth, but now there is greater certainty. Dr Crowther, an ecologist, says our tree numbers are much higher than previously thought, which is estimated to be about 3 trillion or 400 trees for every person alive today.

He also creates great hope in the sense that, if we plant another 1.2 trillion trees (i.e. another 160 trees for each person), we can bring down to earth 10 years of carbon-polluting gasses. Even more encouraging is the fact that there is space to plant these trees without interfering with existing farm land, parks, woods or forests.

Now, if Dr Crowther is right, that stay of 10 years might just be enough to keep us on a trajectory of keeping our temperature increase down to just 1.5°C by 2050.

Probably just as important is that trees make people happier

Trees purify our water … they purify our air … they modify pollution … they create soils for other living things to grow, protecting biodiversity … they are nature’s fail-safe mechanism against extinction.

Plants do truly amazing things

Plants provide all the photosynthetic energy for a tiny seed, weighing less than a gram, to grow into a giant sequoia, weighing an estimated 6,000 tonnes during its life. Of course it needs water and nutrients as well as carbon to create the world’s biggest tree, but every single gram is produced absolutely free of charge.

When trees decompose, they enrich the soil that grows our food, our wine and the timber for our houses – and it’s all free! So one has to wonder how it was that humans, given the gift of life for free, put its life in danger?
Current estimates of world tree populations is 3 trillion (i.e. 3 x 1012). Planting 1.2 trillion trees (that’s a 40% increase) will bring back 400 gigatons of CO2 (a gigaton is a billion tonnes of CO2). Planet earth emissions in 2016 were 36 gigatons. That directly relates to about 160 trees per person.

The future

The current coalition government is rumoured to be interested in funding the planting of 1 billion trees which is a laudable objective. However if all countries were to contribute equally, then nothing less than 3.6 billion trees should be our commitment. That’s 160 trees for each of our 25 million Australians.