Originally published by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
By PJ Marshall, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Restore the Earth Foundation.

Trees and Climate Change: Why Reforestation is Vital, released by One Tree Planted, highlights the innate value of nature and increasing need to deploy nature-based solutions to address the growing amount of carbon in our atmosphere.

In reflecting on the past year, we don’t have to go far to learn of another catastrophic emergency or disaster brought about by climate change. From the fires in California, to the unusually active hurricane season, to intense heat waves in 2014, 2015 and 2018 setting record temperatures.

These increasingly regular events, along with the daunting reports released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US National Climate Assessment, paint an increasingly dire scenario for the country and the world.

“…The amount of CO2 that is already in the atmosphere, due to human activities such as fossil fuel production, has already warmed the world by 1° C (as compared with pre-industrial data), is on track to get that up to +1.5° C in a decade or two, and that number will continue to rise if we don’t take immediate global and systematic action to cut emissions and reduce those that are already in the atmosphere. If we continue with extractive and polluting business as usual, we’re currently on track to hit a whopping +3.4° C increase by 2100. 

Interestingly, the actions required to reduce global warming would also help to reduce global poverty, since a healthier environment would increase nutritious agricultural yields… and it would improve global health. Those side benefits are in addition to the priceless conservation and expansion of plant and wildlife biodiversity.” – Trees and Climate Change: Why Reforestation is Vital

While we grapple with how to respond to these new realities and what it will mean for our day-to-day lives, it is important to focus on the actions and solutions that we can implement now to redirect our current path.

Mother Nature knows best and has already provided us with the tools to address and respond to the damage and impacts we have created. Forests and wetlands are essential for carbon capture, and while leveraging innovative green technologies to secure renewable energy sources plays an integral role in meeting sustainability goals, trees and wetlands remain the most cost effective, self-sustaining tools we have today to store and sequester carbon and clean our air and water.

According to the Nature Conservancy, U.S. forests store and filter more than half of the nation’s water supply. Further, the organization reports that U.S. forests currently serve as a carbon ‘sink’, offsetting approximately 15 percent of all fossil fuel emissions in the United States.

Visionary projects like Restore the Earth Foundation’s 1 million acre North America’s Amazon restoration project shows real promise in combating climate change by restoring huge swaths of land to benefit both the planet and people. In addition to the environmental benefits of this work, there are additional co-benefits created, including:

  • Reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 2 percent
  • Generating $12 billion in shared environmental, economic, and social value
  • Reversing the impact of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone by 12 percent
  • Building community and business resilience by creating      a natural buffer against storms and floods that are exacerbated by climate change
  • Restoring 1 million acres would provide for a minimum of 200,000,000 metric tons of carbon emissions reduction

Working with nature, rather than against it, by restoring and reforesting at landscape scale is one of the least recognized and most powerful tools we have in our arsenal to permanently curb our carbon emissions.

Landscape scale restoration is safe, proven effective and shovel-ready; indeed, forests are the most effective carbon sinks on earth. Restoration can turn wasteland into thriving ecosystems that deliver an abundance of social, environmental, and economic benefits. And by restoring our vast landscapes, we could reduce global warming by an estimated 0.5°C by the end of the century.

It takes landscapes 30 years to reach their full carbon sequestration potential. If they are to contribute to keeping the world within the two degrees warming threshold between now and mid-century, we cannot delay; we must start a restoration revolution today and harness the power and know-how of nature and natural systems.

Click here to learn more about Restore the Earth Foundation’s 1 million acre initiative in North America’s Amazon.

Click here to learn why trees and forests are one of the best tools in our tool box in fighting climate change.