Net-zero carbon is a goal of companies, countries, and cities. Noble goal, and worthy, too, given climate issues the world faces. Various ways to reduce carbon have been advanced – reducing the amount of carbon released in energy production or use, or technologies to pull carbon from the air, for instance. Those kinds of methods are under the umbrella – carbon dioxide removal, or CDR.
Planting trees is one way to soak up carbon, albeit not in a speedy way. “As plants and trees grow, they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into sugars through photosynthesis. In this way, U.S. forests absorb 13 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions; globally, forests store almost a third of the world’s emissions.” (Source)
Trees can hold carbon for the long-term, too.
Trees do not have to be in forests to help. They can be grown alongside crops such as coffee, cocoa and berries, called agro-forestry. (Source) (The US Department of Agriculture has a strategic agro-forestry plan, image left.)
Individuals can put trees in their yards, if they have yards. Some communities have tree committees that can guide what kinds of trees work best for that region. This falls into the “every little bit helps” category.
CDR is a big idea
Quite a few organizations plan on CDR, especially tree-planting, as a strategy to soak-up carbon.
There’s a catch, say some reports. “There’s a limit to how much CO₂ can plausibly be removed. There’s only so much land available,” says a story in Bloomberg.
Land is also be needed for agriculture. “We’ll likely have two billion more mouths to feed by mid-century—more than nine billion people. … the double whammy of population growth and richer diets will require us to roughly double the amount of crops we grow by 2050.” (Source)
BBC ran an excellent overview of the positives and negatives of trees as a carbon sink. Worth the time for anyone interested in the topic, which is complex. (Image, right)
Bottom line: CDR by planting trees is terrific but cannot be considered a “Get out of jail” card for climate change.