New Research shows trees may no longer be effective Carbon Scrubbers

Updated: Jun 15

The belief that environmentalist have been kicking around for awhile now, is planting trees to increase absorption of Co2 from the earth's atmosphere. There is presently 40 billion tons of Co2 released into the atmosphere each year. On average a typical hardwood tree will store approximately 1 ton of Co2 though-out 40 years. Using these estimates 1.6 trillion trees would have to be planted in the next year just stabilize the Co2 emitted into the atmosphere each year. The world has a current estimate of 3 trillion trees, so almost 50% more trees are needed to scrub out the excessive Co2 generated at todays levels. Using the higher estimate of 100,000 trees per square km, 16 million sq km of trees would have to be planted, the area of Russia is 17.1 million sq km so tree huggers and environmentalist certainly got their work cut out for themselves in reaching this goal of using trees to balance Co2 emissions.


This is balance of Co2 might remain adequate for about 4 decades, and then it becomes a added problem as trees begin to die and decay releasing their stored Co2 back into the environment. Unless trees are harvested and the Co2 is stored intact in wood products the global green house effect will become worse with older forest dying off and decaying. Forests can do little to improve the future climate or decrease the atmosphere's Co2 levels. A must watch video, The Economist Climate change: the trouble with trees

There are other problems that mankind and nature provide that will unbalance this theory of using trees for Co2 scrubbing. Deforestation eliminates a estimate of 3.5 billion to 7 billion trees a year, covering a area of 35,000 to 70,000 sq km. In Canada and the United States, forest fires burn a average of 43,000 sq km of trees each year. Pine beetles have also killed huge numbers of trees though out western North America. The mountain Pine Beetle is aggressively devastating forests in all 19 Western States and Canada, destroying approximately 88 million acres of timber at a 70–90% kill rate. The results forests have not captured more carbon than they've emitted since 2001

For the environmentalist plan of planting trees to have any kind of effect of eliminating Co2 emission, additional tree will have to be planted. The Trillion Tree Campaign is a project which aims to plant one trillion trees worldwide, but the speed of this program is far behind projected numbers needed to make a positive effect on Co2 emissions. The question we need to ask is what happens when all these tree mature and start to die, decay and begin to release all their stored carbon.


Dead forest releasing carbon back into the atmosphere

New research now shows that instead of carbon sinks, some forests emit more carbon than they store. Forests aren’t always carbon sinks, older forest can sometimes be a carbon source. When a forest releases more carbon than it absorbs, such as during a forest fire or when there are more dead than living trees, it is a carbon source In western North America, outbreaks of mountain pine beetles have killed billions of trees from Mexico to Alaska over the last decade. Given that large forested areas play crucial roles in taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and turning it into biomass, an important question is what happens to that stored carbon when large numbers of trees die.


A Canadian and American team of forest scientists that went into the woods in northern Manitoba to measure the carbon cycle of a forest ecosystem. After 22,000 hours of intensive measurements of the soil, the surface of the ground, and all the way up through the 120-year-old forest past the canopy to open air the research team learned carbon goes both ways. ​

In three of the four years they measured, the forest was putting slightly more carbon into the air than it took out. Older forests actually emit more carbon than they absorb. Planting new trees is only a short term fix and not a solution to reducing carbon in the atmosphere. When tress die and decay or when a forest fire occurs all the carbon a tree has absorbed in its life is released. Decaying wood in older tress releases huge amounts of carbon. Carbon is likely to become a ‘big business’ in its own right as governments around the world are introducing carbon offset programs and carbon taxes. Carbon offsets should not be relied upon as a loophole to justify carbon emissions such as Justin Trudeau using 2 jets to travel with his campaign parade in 2019.