Solving Climate Change With Trees

Andrew Shindyapin

Andrew Shindyapin

March 8, 2019
Solving Climate Change With Trees

Let's start with a few facts that I hope are not too controversial:

The primary cause of global warming is the dumping of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the sky.

The primary cause of that is the burning of coal, natural gas, and petroleum products in order to generate electricity, heat, and move vehicles around.

We must follow the kindergarten-level principle, "if you make a mess, you have to clean it up" (or pay for cleanup). We must take carbon dioxide out of the sky, and keep it out.

One of the best ways to take out carbon dioxide from the sky is with trees. Trees take out carbon dioxide, put the oxygen back into the air, and use the carbon to grow, storing it in the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves.

Trees For the Future is a non-profit organization that plants new trees to feed families who are among the world’s poorest. These forest gardens provide families with food for themselves and livestock. They also provide products for sale that increase income for those families.

For the average American, you can pay to clean your portion of the carbon dioxide mess to the tune of $15 per person, per year. This donation buys 150 trees that offset your carbon footprint in just ten years, and continue absorbing CO2 for decades afterwards.

Here's the math on that number: the average American generates 22 tons of CO2 yearly. The average tree in the tropical and subtropical regions will sequester the equivalent of 34 pounds of CO2 annually. So 150 trees will take out 25 tons of CO2 over ten years. The calculation assumes a tree will grow for ten years before being cut down or dying, with the CO2 being released back into the air eventually. This is a very conservative assumption, because the trees can grow for over 25 years, and they could easily be made into lumber or other wood products that don't release the CO2 back into the air, or buried in a hügelkultur.

In the process of sequestering CO2, you enable people in poverty to grow their own food, and sell some food to climb out of poverty. And if you are skeptical about the role of CO2 in climate change, then by that logic taking CO2 out of the air will not do any harm; will still help people in poverty, as described above; and provide cleaner air from the planted food forests.

There seemed to be only one problem with this plan to sequester CO2: it wasn't scaleable to billions of people (planting over a trillion trees). Conventional wisdom claimed there wasn't enough room for all the trees needed to be planted. However, a recent study found enough space for 1.2 trillion trees, which would be more than enough to take out the CO2 produced by human activities.

I have been offsetting my family's carbon for the last four years. If you want to join me in cleaning up the mess we have made, donate now; then add a repeating event to your calendar to donate every year.