On the subject of planting trees.

Several years ago, I wrote my first blog on climate change.  Although it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek and not festooned with research data, I still stand behind what I said from a common sense perspective.  And what I had said was that one way to stop “global warming” was to plant more trees.  I don’t thing the GW hard-cores actually took me to heart, but suddenly I hear them talking about planting trees, lots of them.  What gives?  Did I accidentally out myself as a GW believer?

To be fair, tree planting in my mind has very little to do with GW.  Yes, itI could have a significant impact on a local area.  But that’s not to say it will do much in a global way.  My thinking with tree-planting is more about conservation of precious natural resources that are at risk because of deforestation.

When Mao told Chinese peasants to build and operate smelters in the late 50’s, he didn’t have the infrastructure to supply those kilns with coal or other fossil fuel.  The resourceful peasants began to denude the hillsides.   Not only did this allow for erosion of top soil, which contributed to famine, it also accelerated the consumption of ground water aquifers, which vastly increased the amount of wasteland that replaced once-fertile valleys. (See Huntoon.)  Returning trees to these regions will gradually rebuild the aquifers, although it is definitely no quick fix.  In other lands, such as the Sahara region unstable farming practices, exacerbated, no doubt, by political unrest, have not allowed for practices that preserve the habitat, thus greatly reducing the amount of arable land.

It is true that deforestation can lead to the increase in greenhouse gases.  However, if one reads the literature carefully, one also discovers that forestation can do the same thing.  And forestation can also reduce greenhouse gases.  It’s all about the balance of carbon in the atmosphere, in the form of carbon dioxide.  Trees eat carbon dioxide for food, but they also release it into the atmosphere under certain conditions.

Trees and plants store carbon.  Carbon is the main building block of life.  The more carbon stored, the more food available for carbon-based life forms, such as humans.  The thought has been that humans have, by burning wood and other fossil fuels, pumped unrecoverable amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and that these actions have accelerated global warming.  So far, there is no credible evidence of this, despite what we have been led to believe in the media.

I agree that trees help offset the release of carbon.  But, by the scientists’ own admission, trees also increase the amount of greenhouse gasses.  Any attempt to claim the the net result is global warming have failed miserably.  However, I still believe that we should plant more trees.  As the cycle of climate, which vacillates over the centuries, begins again to return us to an ice age, trees will help create more inhabitable land around the equator.  This will become more important as people begin slowly migrating toward the equator to escape the harsher conditions near the arctic and anarctic lines, as the polar ice caps grow.

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