1 trillion trees proposal causes controversy

Photo from The White House, on flickr

Tyler Chalfant | February 11th, 2020

Last week’s State of the Union address made history‒ marking the first time a president has proposed a policy to reduce carbon emissions in the annual address to Congress. President Trump, who has previously denied evidence of climate change and rolled back nearly 100 environmental regulations, as well as pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, announced that the U.S. is joining the 1 trillion trees initiative.

The president first voiced support of this proposal, for governments and private businesses to plant 1 trillion trees, at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. The idea was proposed by Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, who committed his company to planting 100 million trees. 

A study last year showed that planting a trillion new trees could remove as much as a third of all greenhouse gases that humans have released since the industrial revolution, calling ecosystem restoration the most effective solution for mitigating climate change. However, several scientists have critiqued the study’s claims, saying that it greatly overestimates the impact that planting trees could have.

Scientists have also criticized the proposal by arguing, along with climate activist Greta Thunberg, that wealth and resources would be better spent elsewhere. Some have argued that world leaders should focus on the preservation of existing forests in places like Brazil and Australia, where wildfires have devastated ecosystems.

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