Stop Planting Trees
Long touted as an environmental panacea, mass tree planting can actually do more harm than good.
There’s a lot to love about trees. They filter the air, provide habitat, and cool down cities. The planet’s 3 trillion trees anchor complex ecosystems and suck up 30% of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
That’s why there are calls for mass tree planting to cover 25% more of Earth’s surface, and governments have pledged to add a trillion new trees. Stewarding existing forests is an important climate solution, but planting trees to cancel out emissions is not.
Tree-planting projects create monocultures, not complex natural forest ecosystems. Monocultures do not support wildlife and are more vulnerable to disease, insect infestations, and wildfires.
Adding trees to grasslands and wetlands exacerbates biodiversity loss, absorbs (rather than reflects) solar radiation, and draws huge quantities of water.
Today—and especially in a hotter future—trees are not reliable carbon storage.
Tree-planting programs harm vulnerable populations. Targeting farmland for tree planting triggers food shortages, forced migration, and violent evictions of Indigenous peoples. Poorly designed tree subsidies wreak havoc in poorer economies.
Cheap tree offsets distract us from the hard work of reducing consumption. Corporations and governments won’t invest in expensive carbon reduction projects when they can win public favor and pay for their carbon sins by planting trees instead.