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The most effective way to tackle climate change? Plant 1 trillion trees

The most effective way to tackle climate change? Plant 1 trillion trees


London (CNN)What’s low-tech, sustainable and possibly the most effective thing we can do to fight climate change? Planting trees. A trillion of them.


Tom Crowther is a climate change ecologist at Swiss university ETH Zurich. Four years ago he found there are about 3 trillion trees already on earth — much higher than NASA’s previous estimate of 400 billion. Now, his team of researchers has calculated there is enough room on the planet for an additional 1.2 trillion — and that planting them would have huge benefits in terms of absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.
“The amount of carbon that we can restore if we plant 1.2 trillion trees, or at least allow those trees to grow, would be way higher than the next best climate change solution,” Crowther told CNN.

Global tree density, calculated by Crowther's team. Existing forests are shown in green, potential forests are yellow.


Because his research is currently under review for publication in the journal Science, he says he can’t share exact figures of how much extra CO2 could be stored by those trees. But he points to numbers from Project Drawdown — a non-profit that ranks climate solutions by the amount of CO2 they could remove from the atmosphere. Its number one ranked solution — managing the release of HFC greenhouse gases from fridges and air conditioners — could reduce atmospheric CO2 by 90 billion tons. Crowther says planting 1.2 trillion trees would give a reduction “way above” that figure.
To put that in context, global CO2 emissions are around 37 billion tons per year.

Can it be done?

But while there may be space for a trillion new trees, is it actually practical to plant that number?
One organization that thinks so is youth-led Plant for the Planet (PFTP), which is running the “Trillion Tree” campaign to do just that.
Set up as the “Billion Tree” campaign by the UN in 2006, it was later handed over to PFTP, which has upped its planting ambitions in response to Crowther’s work.

Felix Finkbeiner founded Plant for the Planet in 2007, when he was just nine years old. He is now a PhD student at Tom Crowther's lab at ETH Zurich. He's pictured at an award ceremony in 2015.

It has already planted nearly 15 billion trees, with the help of various governments, including India’s, which has planted more than 2 billion trees as part of the initiative.
“I think a trillion trees is achievable,” says PFTP chairman Sagar Aryal. “It’s not that we don’t have enough money in the world — maybe governments alone can’t do enough but if we work together with the private sector we can do it.”

The right location

Crowther is a scientific adviser to Plant for the Planet, providing them with information on the best places to restore trees. He says all the locations identified by his team are on degraded land, rather than agricultural or urban areas.
“These are places where farms have been abandoned, or where there’s been deforestation and it’s been left,” he explains.
To successfully fight climate change, it’s vital that the right land is restored. For example, in parts of northern Europe, planting more trees could reduce the heat and light reflected from snowy ground, and actually increase global warming.

A chemically deforested area of the Amazon caused by illegal mining in southeast Peru,  February 2019.


Joseph Veldman, of the department of ecosystem science and management at Texas A&M University, told CNN that although reforestation can play a role in carbon sequestration, “There is no doubt that super-aggressive tree planting efforts that are not done with consideration of the historic ecosystem will be a bad investment.”
He says some previous reforestation projects have targeted grasslands and savannah ecosystems that already play an important role in storing carbon.
Such schemes often plant exotic trees, like pine and eucalyptus, which are very flammable and also valuable as timber and pulp, he says. As a result, the carbon they store above ground can be lost to wildfires or logging.
Crowther agrees wholeheartedly. “All the models that previously existed about where forest can be restored disregard whether they should,” he said. “We don’t just model the forest, we also model grasslands and shrublands and piece them all together to reveal what should be where.”

Growing in popularity

Tree planting is no quick climate fix. It can take 30 to 40 years of growth for the carbon storage to reach its full potential. A more immediate benefit can come from halting deforestation, says Crowther, which costs our planet around 15 billion trees each year.
But although tree planting on such a colossal scale faces significant challenges (not least identifying who owns the land in question, and securing the rights to plant and maintain trees there), widespread efforts are already underway.
The Australian government has announced it will plant 1 billion trees by 2030; work is underway on a “Great Green Wall” to stop the spread of the Sahara by restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land (and sequester 250 million tons of carbon), and China’s anti-desertification program, also known as the “Great Green Wall,” has planted more than 50 billion trees since the 1970s. The UN-endorsed Bonn Challenge aims to reforest 350 million hectares of degraded land globally by 2030.

Africa's Great Green Wall aims to slow down desertification.


Crowther says he was once skeptical about the benefits of tree planting, but has now changed his mind.
“Climate change is seen as such an immense and complicated issue — it feels like it’s seen as someone else’s problem, someone else is dealing with it or not dealing with it, and no one has a simple message for how to go about tackling it,” he says.
“I’d like to try and champion this as a solution that everyone can get involved in. If all the millions of people who went on climate marches in recent weeks got involved in tree planting the impact would be huge.”
Indigenous water activist to speak at UN as part of youth-led climate movement

Indigenous water activist to speak at UN as part of youth-led climate movement

Photo Source: Autumn Peltier, a teenage activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ont., addresses the United Nations General Assembly on March 22, 2018. She’ll return to the UN headquarters in New York on Saturday to advocate for water protection in Canada’s Indigenous communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-United Nations-Manuel Elias 

She’s not old enough to get her learner’s permit, but Autumn Peltier has been a driving force in the fight to protect water in Canada’s Indigenous communities for years.The teenage activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario has been engaged in the issue since she first came across a boil-water advisory in a nearby Anishinaabe community when she was eight years old.

But Peltier said she’s had this connection since she was in the womb, where according to cultural teachings, one learns to love water as they love their mother. It traces back even further to her female ancestors, from whom she inherited her traditional role as a water carrier.

As she turns 15 on Friday, the same day students across Canada are expected to march in a massive strike intended to disrupt climate-change inaction, Peltier finds herself at the forefront of an environmental movement being led by youth like her and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.



This weekend, Peltier — the chief water commissioner for Anishinabek Nation, which advocates for 40 member First Nations in Ontario — will return to the United Nations to share her vision for a world in which everyone has access to clean water.


“I’m willing to do my best to represent Canada and the Indigenous people and have a strong voice for our future,” she said by phone from New York.

“I basically want to tell them about the importance of water from a cultural, spiritual level, and then try to tell them that it’s time for action.”

Peltier is set to address hundreds of international guests on Saturday at the Global Landscapes Forum, a platform on land use backed by UN Environment.

It’s her second time speaking at the UN headquarters in Manhattan, having urged the General Assembly to “warrior up” and take a stand for our planet last year.

Peltier, who is nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize by the David Suzuki Foundation, has spread her message at hundreds of events around the world, her mother, Stephanie Peltier, said.

In 2015, Peltier attended the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, and a year later, confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his “broken promises” at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations.

“She has taken Canada’s water crisis on Indigenous lands to the global stage,” Robert Nasi, executive director of the Global Landscapes Forum, said in a statement.

Peltier will help kick off the forum’s conference on ecosystem restoration with a speech drawing on her spiritual knowledge about Indigenous Peoples’ connection to land, water and Mother Earth.

The event comes on the heels of the UN’s Climate Action Summit, where earlier this week 16-year-old Thunberg delivered an impassioned plea and scolded world leaders for their inaction on climate change. Thunberg is expected to attend Friday’s climate protests in Montreal.

Peltier had hoped to meet up with Thunberg in New York, but said making plans proved to be difficult. She’s still excited to connect with other international youth activists, particularly those from Indigenous communities.

Peltier feels her generation is leading the charge on climate change, because while they may not have created the problem, they’re poised to suffer the most severe consequences.

“Will we even have a future to look forward to, for our future children, grandchildren?” she said. “This is our future we’re trying to protect and take care of, because it’s being basically destroyed.”

With youth-led climate strikes sprouting up across the globe, Peltier’s mother said there are signs that adults are finally catching up.

“Where I come from, the youth are our teachers. We learn from them, and so you have to listen to them,” Stephanie Peltier said. “Today, I think it’s just an eye-opener, and the youth are being empowered and they’re being allowed to share.”

She said her daughter’s Instagram audience has seen a tenfold increase this week from 5,500 followers to more than 55,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

She assumes that Thunberg’s moment in the global spotlight may be a factor in this exponential growth. She noted that young Indigenous activists have long been advocating for environmental issues, but are only now receiving recognition.

“We know first hand … that our people have been impacted for many years,” she said. “Now everybody’s saying, hey, what about the Indigenous people? They’ve been doing this work too.”

This report was published by The Canadian Press on Sept. 26, 2019.© 2019 Copyright Times Colonist

4Ocean – Ocean Clean Up

4Ocean – Ocean Clean Up

The story begins when Alex and Andrew take a surf trip…

to Bali Indonesia that would inevitably change their lives and the fate of the ocean. Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it. One afternoon they came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore. The two surfers realized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen’s livelihood. Could the fishermen use their nets, they wondered, to pull the plastic from the ocean? This idea stuck with the 2 surfers and they knew it was time to hit the drawing board. After realizing that the demand for seafood was driving the fishermen to focus on fish instead of plastic, they knew they had to create something that could fund the desired cleanup efforts. This is how the 4Ocean Bracelet was born.


Made from recycled materials, every bracelet purchased funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. In less than 2 years, 4Ocean has removed 842.211 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines.


4Ocean currently operates out of multiple countries and employs over 150 people worldwide.


Cleaning the ocean and coastlines, one pound at a time.




Healthy oceans are critical for life on this planet. They provide the food we eat, the oxygen we breathe and their continued health depends on us.


Recycling is still an after-thought in many places around the world. So, part of our mission is to spread this awareness globally.


By giving ocean trash a value, we are changing the way people think about the problem and creating new economies in the process.


We only have this one planet to live on. Preserving its beauty, function and form for the next generations is the ultimate end goal.



700 species of animals are severely threatened because of ocean waste. About 12.8% of waste is plastic, which causes big problems for wildlife. Some animals mistake plastic for food, while others can become entangled in the trash. One way you can help marine life not mistake plastic for food is to not use face wash or toothpaste with micro-beads. The micro-beads go down the drain, eventually making their way to rivers, lakes, and the ocean. These toxic beads look a lot like fish food and it’s not uncommon for bigger fish and sea turtles to munch on them. To learn more about ways you can reduce plastic use go to #4Ocean #OceanConservation #JoinTheMovement #ConservationConversation

More on this project you’ll find on

Kenya bans all plastic bags – following Rowanda’s example nine years later

Kenya bans all plastic bags – following Rowanda’s example nine years later

2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference April 11 - 13, 2018 Morial Convention Center New Orleans, LA

5 Important Results of the Plastic Bag Ban in Kenya

In the slums of many African countries, children’s daily life involves dodging mountains of discarded plastic bags. Now that Rwanda and Kenya are fighting back against the bag, what does this mean for families living in poverty?

5 Important Results of the Plastic Bag Ban in Kenya

Kigali, Rwanda: First impressions are of beautiful, bright colours and crowds of resilient people. Motorbike taxis with two helmets in matching green, blue or red, weave in and out of traffic. The wide streets are lined with new buildings and more are being built, their formwork propped up with thousands of sticks.

One thing, however, is conspicuous by its absence: rubbish. In particular, there are no plastic bags flying through the air or congregating in drains.

Rwanda banned single-use plastic bags in 2008 and heavy fines or jail sentences are in force for people found to be manufacturing, importing, using or selling polythene bags1. In August this year, Kenya instituted a similar law, amid a wave of controversy.

What does this ban mean for children living in poverty? Here is what we found:

1. Some family members may lose their jobs.

Before the ban, Kenya had 176 manufacturers of plastic bags, employing 60,000 people2. The bags they produced were used in Kenya, and were also exported to neighbouring countries. Without intervention, the loss of jobs from these industries could have a devastating effect on local communities. Rwanda softened the blow to industry by offering incentives for manufacturers to buy machinery to recycle plastic, instead of manufacturing it. Even with support for industry, an immediate result of the plastic bag ban may be that many parents lose their jobs and more children are living in poverty. However, establishing alternative industries or retraining, like Compassion’s income generation critical need, could help to fill this void.

2. Helping mum with the shopping could get a bit more complicated.

Plastic bags are much cheaper to produce than paper or woven alternatives but they are seldom used more than once. Even in communities where people live in poverty, shops are likely to provide plastic bags for shoppers to carry their groceries and other products. In fact, 24 million plastic bags were used in Kenya each month before the ban3.

Removing all plastic bags from the shops will require retailers and shoppers to be more resourceful. Kenya’s largest supermarket chain anticipated the ban and started using net bags for its vegetables earlier in the year4. The Rwandan government offered tax incentives to companies which manufacture environmentally friendly bags5 and many Rwandans use woven baskets to carry groceries home on their heads.

3. The children’s surroundings will be cleaner.

Countries across Africa are being swamped with abandoned plastic bags, as increased use of the bags outstrips the limited resources of local waste management services. Roads and pathways are littered with outcrops of plastic waste, which could take hundreds of years to break down.

Growing up in the Kibera and Dandora slums of Nairobi, Paul Omondi found that the dumping of plastic bags became an even greater health hazard because they were used for the disposal of human waste. He explained why it wasn’t a good idea to walk around after sunset. “People answered the call of nature in their … rooms and they would store that in plastics bags and wait until dark sets in at about 8:00pm, when all the poos would be flying through the window,” Paul said. Without adequate sanitation and healthcare, children and infants were falling sick and dying. Through Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, Paul had access to clean water, health education and sanitation. He survived to complete his education and fulfil his dreams but many of his friends didn’t.

Alternative methods of human waste disposal need to be integrated into the slums, so children aren’t exposed to the devastating diseases brought about by unhygienic surroundings. At the Compassion child development centres, providing clean, safe toilet facilities is a high priority.

4. The families’ livestock will be healthier.

Animals and birds don’t distinguish between plastic bags and food when rummaging through rubbish for something to eat. Abattoirs in Kenya have noticed an increase in the amount of plastics in the stomachs of the cattle and goats they process. The non-degradable plastic in the animal’s digestive system makes it difficult to resist disease and sometimes the livestock even starve to death because the bags completely fill their stomachs. Many farmers have welcomed the ban because they believe their animals will be healthier6.

5. The children’s homes, schools, and churches will be less likely to flood.

By design, plastic bags are waterproof. When they become litter, many find their way into drains and other waterways, clogging the pipes and restricting water flow. In times of heavy rain, water cannot run off fast enough, streams overflow their banks and the surrounding land is flooded.

Both Kenya and Rwanda experience seasons of heavy rainfall every year and overflowing drains can flood the surrounding regions with contaminated water. Makeshift homes and infrastructure are less likely to resist the force of the water, so floods are more devastating in poverty-stricken areas. Compassion provides emergency assistance to the registered children and their families at these times; restoring lost items and repairing damaged homes and child development centres.

Sadly, sometimes the result of flooding cannot be repaired, such as in the serious injury or death of a child or family member. It is far better to prevent flooding by keeping the storm water drains clean and—with a reduction in the use of plastic bags—authorities and plastic recyclers can clean the waterways and be confident it will take much longer for them to be blocked again.

Like many aspects of poverty, the results of the ban on plastic bags in Kenya will be complicated. For some children, the transition will be difficult, particularly if family members lose their livelihood because of the ban. But, if the immediate problems associated with such a major change to the economy are well managed, the long-term consequences will be very positive, providing a cleaner, safer environment for children to grow and thrive.

To help more children like Paul Omondi to achieve their dreams, sponsor a child today.

Words by Vivienne Hughes

Photo by Silas Irungu

  1. Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda (2008)
  2. The Guardian, (2017)
  3. Ong’unya, R.O.; Aurah, C.M.; Nabwire, J.L. and Songok, J.R. (2014) The Plastic Waste Menace in Kenya: A Nairobi City Situation, International Journal of Current Research, Vol. 6, Issue 04, pp. 6175 – 6079.
  5. Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, Director General of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, quoted in The Delicious Day, (2012)