The rains are here with us, in plenty, in fact, heavier than usual, causing loss of life, property, and adverse environmental damages. At a glance, we always think of trees.
As a result, we get warmed up to plant as many trees as we can, which is a fantastic, commendable job. Tree planting is an initial step towards reforesting and mitigating the effects of climate change, such as flooding.
However, most of these tree-planting initiatives are ceremonial; they lack follow-up plans and nurturing, of which most of the trees end up not surviving.
This brings me to my perspective that I echo the arguments of fellow scientists who believe that-
“planting a zillion trees is not enough to address climate change. Reducing carbon emissions should be given a stronger focus than it is receiving now.”
Let me register that trees serve a critical purpose in regulating the climate, acting as windbreakers, holding the soil firmly, reducing soil erosion, reducing the intensity of floods, and act as carbon sinks.
Tree planting is, without a doubt, the easiest way anyone can contribute to action on climate change. It can be done at any time, anywhere in the world.
What’s happening Ethiopia, Kenya
In 2019, Ethiopia, for instance, broke the record with its #4billiontrees initiative that saw the country plant over 350 million tree seedlings in a single day in July. On closing the drive, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, who is also a Nobel peace prize-winner announced they were then headed to care for the trees to ensure they matured and served the primary goal that was to mitigate the climate crisis.
Here at home, we aim to Plant 2.5 billion trees by the year 2030 through the government-led programme. Kenya’s objective is to meet the country’s 10% tree cover target stipulated in the Constitution.
Why the argument?
I write this piece because many people, organizations, businesses, and government agencies globally are planting trees. All of us are planting trees, but very few are committed to growing those trees.
By growing trees, I am referring to taking the initiative to ensure the trees are nurtured from the day they are planted to maturity and taking account of the number of trees or size of forest cover over time.
The big question is, ‘what is your intention of planting those trees?’ Is it for posterity and to increase the forest cover or to vaunt the number of trees planted on a particular day or season? If you answer yes to the first two, then keep it up, you are in the right trajectory, but if you say yes to the latter, I am sorry, you need to rethink your thoughts and plans.
Trees and Carbon emissions
We are overlooking the fact that action on climate change is not a one-off affair; increasing the forest cover takes a willing soul, mind, time, and resources- trees take years to mature. Environmental conservation, thus, is a continuous process.
You should, notwithstanding, awoke to somewhat a possibility that tree planting is being used by some heavy carbon emitters to camouflage their actions. Most of these companies have no emission reduction roadmaps.
In reference to an article on the New York Times, in February 2020, three scientists wrote their claim that ‘focusing on trees as the big solution to climate change is a dangerous diversion,’ is an assertion I concur with.
Major culprit: Greenhouse gas emissions
It seems we are strengthening tree planting but forgetting the major culprit causing global warming- greenhouse gas emissions. We are forgetting burning fossil fuels contributes tons of carbon particles in the atmosphere.
What are we doing to the transport sector, petroleum sector, manufacturing, and processing industries that consume lots of energy run on turbines using fossils and use chemicals that emit massive greenhouse gases?
Are the sectors mentioned above and of similar nature paying for their carbon pollution? Do they have laid down plans they commit to, to ensure they are bending their emission curves?
Remember, the global objective is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050- if we are to meet this target, our priority should be on how human-induced emissions are reduced.
What Scientists say
Scientists argue that we should treat carbon pollution as a problem that we will pay for heavily if we don’t take the correct measures to address it. This means silencing the political impediment that hinders the implementation of environmental policies that has been witnessed across the world in both developing and developed countries.
It also means not allowing business companies to manipulate the society by paying their way out while continuing to inject the killer emissions into the atmosphere.
All said and done, trees absorb significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Thus, no one should be discouraged from planting trees, do it, it is your right, your effort is vital for the planet; nevertheless, ensure those trees grow to maturity.
Article was also published in the Standard Newspaper here Planting trees is not enough to put brakes on climate change
Also in the Star Newspaper here Planting trees not nearly enough
Recommended reads Environment
The article did change my view on environmental conservation. indeed there is the need for a re-look into our typical environmental conservation approaches
Great to know it impacted on you positively.
A lot needs to be done, especially the things we consider hard to do