Scientists Warn That Trees Won’t Be Able To Help Fix Our Carbon Emissions Problem By 2100

Stanford researchers have discovered that humans have only about 80 years to do something to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before trees and plants are no longer capable of sucking it up.

Major efforts are being made around the globe to plant trees in an effort to curb climate change.

For instance, Ethiopia recently planted a record 350 million trees in a single day, trees that will help fight desertification and drought while providing cleaner water and producing oxygen for us to drink and breathe.

The enemy of that effort, however, is increasing deforestation that is getting set to skyrocket in the United States as the government prepares to give lumber companies unfettered access to public lands to clear cut America’s forests.

Even if we stop cutting our forests down, we still have a problem with carbon emissions produced by the fossil fuel industry.

Trees used to be able to clean this stuff out of the air very efficiently, but that’s just a few decades from no longer being the case according to a study undertaken by Stanford University Earth System Science professor Rob Jackson and postdoctoral scholar César Terrer.

After much analysis, they found that increased carbon levels will initially help plants grow bigger, which could provide temporary aid in fighting climate change.

“We found that carbon dioxide levels expected by the end of the century should increase plant biomass globally by about one eighth—12 percent or so,” the duo wrote for Scientific American. “The extra 120 billion metric tons of wood are more than is found in all U.S. forests today. Much of the extra growth will be in the tropical hotspots of the Amazon River basin, the Congo basin and Indonesia. We’ll only reap this global benefit, however, if we protect our forests from misuse.”

Indeed, while the extra biomass will help a little, it won’t last for long, especially if we continue to rely on fossil fuels and allow deforestation to continue.

“The amount of biomass we found is substantial, but it’s not as high as you might expect or as some other studies have suggested,” the pair continued. “The reason is largely because of nutrient limitations. If plants can’t take up additional nitrogen and phosphorus through their roots to balance their diet, they aren’t able to use as much of the extra CO2.”

“We were pleased to find that forests appear likely to grow even faster in the future as a result of CO2 fertilization,” Jackson said in a statement. “They aren’t, and won’t be, a substitute for the first order of business — cutting fossil fuel emissions.”

“Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the best way to limit further warming,” Terrer added. “But stopping deforestation and preserving forests so they can grow more is our next-best solution.”

That’s just the cold hard truth of the crisis that everybody needs to hear. The only thing allowing us to breathe oxygen right now are the trees. We are alive today because trees are working overtime to absorb carbon. But at some point, they won’t be able to provide this crucial service, leaving us to struggle for breathable clean air, and regretting that we did nothing while fossil fuel and lumber companies raped the planet out of sheer greed.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.
 

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