Planting trees and restoring forests is not going to stop climate breakdown. “We need a rapid end to fossil energy use precisely because we want to preserve the world’s existing forests”

By now you will have seen the headlines. The image above is just a small selection. They are based on a paper published in Science titled, “The global tree restoration potential”. While the paper generated wildly optimistic headlines, it also generated a fair bit of criticism.

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Offsetting fossil fuel emissions with tree planting and ‘natural climate solutions’: science, magical thinking, or pure PR?

By Chris Lang (REDD-Monitor) and Simon Counsell (Rainforest Foundation UK)

Unlike carbon capture and storage systems, trees do actually take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it – temporarily, at least. In theory, planting enough new trees, and allowing existing forests to grow and regenerate, could mop up some of the excess CO2 now in the atmosphere. The idea has been around since the mid-1970s, when theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson came up with the idea of planting vast areas with trees (“in countries where labor is cheap”) to soak up the CO2 that burning fossil fuels is putting in the atmosphere.

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