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Planting trees may not be enough to combat climate change

The demand for agricultural products has led to the expansion of crop cultivation areas, which has affected the environment.

Human activities place significant pressure on territorial systems.Increased demand for agricultural products has led to Agricultural land expanded rapidly and extensivelyand the intensification of food and fiber production.

This in turn has major impacts on multiple planetary boundaries, including biosphere integrity, biogeochemical fluxes, and freshwater utilization.These wide-ranging impacts have given rise to questions about The sustainability of current food production systems and their Elasticity climate change.

In addition, agriculture, forestry and other land uses account for approximately 23% of annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (measured in carbon dioxide equivalents).

23% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land uses (Getty Images)

he Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Little attention is paid to the feasibility of elimination plans carbon dioxide Although many countries rely on it as part of their net-zero emissions plans.

this Nature-based climate solutionsLike tree planting, it will not be as big a part of the global climate change solution as governments currently plan to do, and relying on them is “risky,” according to a report I was involved in as first author and part of the project. . King’s College of Londonpublished in the magazine an earth.

Many countries now want to be able to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the future as a way of delaying or avoiding drastic cuts in emissions.

Reforestation is often considered one of the forms of terrestrial CO2 removal, sometimes referred to as “offsetting” or “CDR.” /STRI-FILE

this reforestation One such form is terrestrial CO2 removal, sometimes called “offsetting” or “CDR,” which uses technology or ecological practices to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it away, thereby eliminating its contribution to global warming.

However, as the report shows, while there is much talk about the technical and economic potential of CDR, intergovernmental panel on climate change Little consideration is given to the feasibility of such plans.

The authors suggest that those who defend CoR ignore a number of social, cultural, environmental and institutional factors. Part of the problem lies in the optimistic projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, which were then incorporated into government policy.

For example, if you add up all the commitments around the world to use land-based CO2 removal technologies, approximately 1 billion hectares would be needed – equivalent to 1.5 billion hectares of total farmland on Earth.

A study from King’s College UK shows that coordinating the implementation of large-scale reforestation can be extremely challenging/REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Land-use changes on this scale ignore the fact that we now live on a used planet: there is little land available for CDR without some hard decisions being made.

These complex decisions include converting large swathes of land to forest and changing its current use, such as livestock farming or crop production, with significant implications for security and sustainability.

In addition, global agricultural land is divided into 600 million farms, most of which are smaller than 1 hectare in size, and the ownership of many of these farms is insecure or disputed, making coordinated implementation of large-scale CDR extremely challenging.

Furthermore, the implementation and success of CDR will depend on being able to accurately measure its impact on CO2 emissions, which will require a huge monitoring effort that will pose a challenge to even the wealthiest and most technologically advanced countries.

Vegetation fires disrupt plans to reforest the planet to fight climate change (Daryl Dyke/The Canadian Press via AP)

Another danger highlighted by the research team is that storing so much captured carbon in trees creates a high risk of its release again. This danger becomes more severe as climate change intensifies and threats to forests from disease, drought, and wildfires increase.

When you think about fires and climate change, you think of images of last summer’s fires Greece or north of Canada.

Indeed, they represent a major and growing climate adaptation challenge. However, fire has another important interaction with climate change: limiting our ability to mitigate fires through reforestation.

The worst-case scenario for fire and carbon removal is that large areas are dedicated to planting new forests, only to be reduced to ashes. “

The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (commonly known as COP28) is the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

Other types of terrestrial CDR include increasing carbon stored in soils and BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage). This technology takes advantage of the fact that growing plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Proponents propose large-scale planting of biomass, such as willow trees, and burning them for energy, capturing and safely storing the carbon dioxide produced.

as has been shown Twenty-eighth meeting of the Conference of the PartiesMany countries are basing their net-zero targets on smaller emissions reduction plans now and the belief that they will be able to remove carbon from the atmosphere in the future. In these future scenarios, global temperatures rise first and then fall back below the 1.5°C target, a so-called “overshoot” scenario.

The authors say it’s something of a gamble, given the uncertainty surrounding CDR’s success. Ahead of COP28, there was much discussion about the role of land-based CO2 removal in countries’ decarbonization plans.

Eliminating CO2 from terrestrial sources controversial/EFE/JLCereijido

Eliminating terrestrial CO2 is controversial for many reasons: not least because countries and companies can use it to justify delaying emissions reductions while still claiming they are consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Postponing action on climate change based on future carbon removals is clearly risky. If we fail to achieve the planned phase-out, we will face rising global temperatures with no safe way to lower them. Instead, the report proposes a pathway for offsets to play a more informed and realistic role in net zero policy.

The research paper outlines the reasons for concerns that countries’ land-based carbon dioxide removal plans are unrealistic.

On a more positive note, experts have proposed ways to set more realistic global offset targets as part of an overall strategy to reduce emissions and limit rising global temperatures, which could contribute to more effective policies to combat climate change.

* oliver perkinsthe author works in the Department of Geography at King’s College London and the Leverhulme Center for Forest Fire, Environment and Society, London. U.K.

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