Campaign News


Replanting trees doesn't fix climate change, scientists warn - 2 Jun 2017

A paper published in recent weeks has debunked the idea that planting vast amounts of trees will pull carbon dioxide out of the air, claiming there just isn't enough land available to make it work.

Forests have long been recognised as essential carbon sinks, capable of storing large amounts of carbon that would otherwise end up in our atmosphere, but many initiatives wrongly assume that replanting areas that have already been deforested is a successful way of restoring the carbon balance.

Some have even advocated the idea of using large plantations full of fast-growing, carbon-storing trees to pull extra carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, a strategy sometimes called “afforestation. However, according to the new study in the journal Earth’s Future, the volume of land and resources this strategy would need would be impractical and would require the destruction of huge amounts of natural ecosystems or productive agricultural land.

Even under more optimistic scenarios, where future carbon emissions are lower and fewer trees would be necessary, it's reported that “high inputs of managed water and fertilisers would be needed in order to avoid fierce competition for land — with potentially negative side-effects for climate and society.”

Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California at Berkeley and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, has said that these biomass energy systems could be valuable, “but only if the biomass is entirely sustainable".

The new study, he says, supports what previous work has suggested — that when the system is not completely sustainable, “the value of a biomass crop for meeting climate targets is non-existent.". Large plantations of fast-growing trees, as explored in the recent paper, are clearly not sustainable.

“Biomass plantations are always seen as a green kind of climate engineering because, you know, everybody likes trees,” said Lena Boysen, a climate researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, who led the study while a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “But we just want to show that that’s not the complete story. They cannot do that much.”



Blog Archive

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Accounting rule loopholes bad news for our forests
20 Jun 2017 - Click for More

Replanting trees doesn't fix climate change, scientists warn
2 Jun 2017 - Click for More

Waste from coffee and poultry provide viable bio-fuel option
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Tree-planting has limited affect on climate change, study finds
30 May 2017 - Click for More

More renewable power than ever before, so why are we still using biomass?
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Is bioenergy increasing emissions in Europe?
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MPs slam government’s carbon record
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