Scientists Call for More Trees, Fewer Cows, to Restore Climate

Public Domain. Francesco Zuccarelli - Landscape with a Woman Leading a Cow/ Wikipedia

First we have to declare 'peak livestock', then eat less beef and more beans.

TreeHugger Melissa has written that if we all swapped beans for beef, then we could meet emission goals. I have written that planting trees could be a "mind-blowing" solution to climate change, the best available method of carbon capture and storage. Now scientists have put two and two together and come up with four measures, including reducing the land area devoted to livestock and planting it with trees.

Published in the Lancet, the team lead by Helen Harwatt of the Harvard Law School writes:

Restoring natural vegetation, such as forest, is currently the best option at scale for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and must begin immediately to be effective within the required timescale of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The livestock sector, having largely displaced natural carbon sinks, continues to occupy much of the land that must be restored.

The scientists call for four measures, including:

  1. Declaring "peak livestock" when "livestock production from each species would not continue to increase from this point forward."
  2. Identify the largest emissions sources and the largest land occupiers, and set targets for reduction.
  3. Come up with "a best available food strategy to diversify food production by replacing livestock with foods that simultaneously minimise environmental burdens and maximise public health benefits—mainly pulses (including beans, peas, and lentils), grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds."
  4. Finally, where land isn't suitable for grazing, "adopt a natural climate solutions approach where possible, to repurpose land as a carbon sink by restoring native vegetation cover to its maximum carbon sequestration potential."
Public Domain. Civilian Conservation Corps planting trees/ National Archives

Civilian Conservation Corps planting trees/ National Archives/Public Domain

So it is a double-whammy where you reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering our reliance on meat, along with maximizing the growth of native vegetation and trees.

And of course, we have to do it now, because all those other methods of carbon capture are still in the labs. "Without such land restoration, CO2 removal from the atmosphere relies on methods currently unproven at scale, increasing the risk of temperatures rising high enough to tip various Earth systems into unstable states. This instability could result in the loss of coral reefs and major ice sheets, and increases the uncertainty of maintaining life-supporting ecosystems."

This flew by while I was writing this post. Eating less beef and more beans is something we can do right now. Planting trees is not exactly new tech. We have run out of time and cannot wait for many of the fancier technologies, but we can do this. Right?