It can feel hopeless watching hurricanes, floods, and droughts take down economies. Glaciers are melting, and temperatures are reaching levels that are inhabitable.
If we were to solve climate change, does that mean we would have to give up all comforts, and jobs, and society, in order to live an uncomfortable life? Just to survive? Sometimes it feels that way.
“This is by far — by thousands of times — the cheapest climate change solution”
However there is enough room on the planet to plant over a trillion trees. According to this study these trees wouldn’t interfere with populated or agricultural areas.
If we did plant these trees, it would pull out of the atmosphere over 200 gigatonnes of CO2 — equivalent to the amount of CO2 we have put into the atmosphere in the past 25 years.
If we could do this we’d finally be reversing climate change. It would not solve everything, but we’d be moving drastically in the right direction.
Can we really plant one trillion plus trees? Let’s do some math…
What would it take?
It costs $1 to plant a tree. If we were to plant 1.5 Trillion trees (let’s round up to be safe), that means this project would cost $1.5 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money.
The oil and gas industry brought in $2 trillion in 2017. For the equivalent of what the oil and gas industry makes in a year, we could reverse climate change.
Seriously, we should fine them a year’s worth of revenue and fix this — a penalty for hiding what they’ve known for the past 40 years.
If we amortized this over 10 years, it wouldn’t even put them out of business. We could still hit the goal within a decade.
Contextualizing it like that, planting 1 trillion trees sounds achievable.
What if we just did it ourselves?
Let’s say we can’t make the oil and gas industry pay…
1.5 Trillion trees ÷ 7.65 Billion people on the planet = about 200 trees per person.
That comes out to $200 per person. If you amortized that over 10 years, that would amount to $20 per year per person — or a nickel a day.
So if each person set aside a nickel a day for 10 years we could counteract the worst of climate change.
If every person on earth planted 2 trees a month we’d plant all the necessary trees to counteract global warming within a decade.
The impact of a project like that is like a walk in the park compared to the effort that went into the Apollo moonshot. It’s easier than remembering to take your daily vitamins.
We can do this. Easily.
If we wanted to save the planet, take a significant step towards reversing the effects of global warming by 2030, all we need is for everyone to simply plant one tree every other week for a decade. That’s it.
Let’s make it fair
Sadly, nearly half the world lives on less that $5.50 per day. If we distributed the burden “equally” it be a regressive tax hitting the poorest populations the worst. This is a global problem and should be shared fairly.
The US GDP is roughly 1⁄4 the Global GDP so each US citizen’s share of the trillion trees would be about $1,200 over a decade — $120 a year, $10 a month, or 32¢ a day. Even if you’re making minimum wage, couldn’t you afford working an extra hour a month to save the planet?
Even that’s unfair, as the top 10% of US households holds 75% of the wealth. If you’re in the bottom 90%, you should only pay for 1⁄4 the cost. Your bill over ten years would amount to about $320. That’s $32 dollars per year, or less than 10¢ per day. Think of it like a $5/monthly Patreon to save the planet.
Could you afford a dime a day to solve climate change?
If you’re in the top 10% the cost will feel about the same (that’s how progressive taxes work).
Is that all?
Trees are only one part of what we need to do. If planting trees was all we did, we wouldn’t solve the problem. We need to move away from fossil fuels, cut down plastic use, stop factory farming, and eliminate other environmentally destructive practices.
Longer term carbon sinks are important too. Rebuilding grasslands with regenerative soil farming practices can have even more of an impact than planting trees.
But planting 1.5 trillion trees is a cost effective, short-term, realistic goal that we could do immediately. If we did this we could curb the devastation that will happen if we don’t do something now.
It would also provide the time to make the other changes we need, like replace our current energy grid with a smart renewable energy system, replace our plastics with biodegradable sustainable alternatives, move our cattle from factories to fields, and implement soil-building agriculture practices.
Planting trees is a major step we can easily take to save our planet. Wouldn’t it be great to simply be able to pay up a dime a day and just stop worrying?
What you can do RIGHT NOW
If this inspired you that this is doable here’s something you can do right now.
- Go plant a tree. If you want to “cover your share” set up a recurring annual donation for $32. In ten years maybe we’ll have reached the trillion tree goal.
- Go tell other people how easy it is to mitigate climate change.
About the image: Muir Woods