Here's How Many Trees It Would Take to Cancel Out Climate Change

Looking up at the branches and leaves of a large tree

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Trees are the Earth's way of soaking up our carbon.

If you wanted to plant enough new trees to absorb all the carbon people emit, guess how many you'd have to plant. Go ahead, guess.

1.2 trillion new trees

At least, that's the number Thomas Crowther, a professor and scientific advisor to the UN, came up with. He and his colleagues used machine learning to calculate just how many trees we could plant to soak up our carbon dioxide.

“There’s 400 gigatons [of carbon] now, in the 3 trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out,” he said.

Planting trees is great, but I can't help thinking we also need to stop chopping down forests in the first place. When you chop down a tree, you destroy the entire ecosystem that depended on it. Planting a new tree doesn't bring that back.

And right now, forests are being decimated. The Amazon rainforest, for instance, is being destroyed largely thanks to the Brazilian cattle industry.

"The cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world and is a disaster for the fight against climate change," said Sarah Shoraka, a Greenpeace campaigner. In fact, Greenpeace found cattle ranching is responsible for 80 percent of all Amazonian rainforest destruction.

It'll take legislation to stop that, but individuals can help by doing things like eating less beef or switching to more sustainably "grown" beef (or at least not buying beef from Brazil).