Earth and Life Sciences
What role can forests play in tackling climate change?
Topics: Energy and Low-Carbon Futures
Type: Discussion papers
Publication date: July 2020
This discussion paper consolidates knowledge on the potential environmental, economic and societal benefits of using trees to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It highlights areas for further research and defines the limits of trees’ ability to halt the progress of climate change.
- Trees and forest ecosystems help limit global warming by reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, alongside simultaneous ‘co-benefits’ for biodiversity, local economies, human health and leisure.
- Wherever possible, existing native ecosystems such as savannas, grasslands and forests should be protected, and damaged or destroyed ecosystems should be restored.
- Mixed-tree plantations and managed native forests can help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if they are correctly located, planned and implemented.
- Plantations also can reduce pressure on native forests, yield wood products that replace fossil fuels, and provide socio-economic benefits.
- Sensitivity to both environmental and economic contexts is essential to realising the greatest climate benefits and co-benefits of tree planting.
- Ultimately, tree planting is not a silver bullet to averting climate change. Only rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can halt the ongoing rise in global temperatures.
Download: What role can forests play in tackling climate change? [PDF]
[Image: A view over the rainforest canopy at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica (c) Jessica Murray]
Watch a Q&A discussion with co-authors Dr Bonnie Waring and Professor Martin Siegert: