According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change from researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia, humans have planted enough vegetation since 2003 to consume four billion tons of carbon worldwide, thanks largely in part to China.
Of course, that four billion is a drop in the bucket: There’re a whopping 60 billion tons of fossil fuel-emitted carbon that still need slurping up.
The study used satellite surveillance to track changes in the Earth’s biomass, monitoring satellite measurements of natural radio waves our planet emits. It found that the spike in plant life can thank a few factors, including increased rainfall in Australian, African, and South American savannas.
But China’s “Great Green Wall” project has been the biggest boost. It’s an initiative to cover a span of 2,800 miles in northern China with greenery to halt the ever-expanding Gobi desert. Planting the mondo forest began in 1978, and the aim is to hit a billion trees by 2050. (China releases the most GHG emissions in the world, followed by the U.S. and then the E.U.)
This isn’t the first time in recent years forests have been man-made en masse. Across the pond in Japan, renowned octogenarian botanist Akira Miyawaki has helped plant 40 million trees in 1700 global locations—and even developed a means of buffering tsunami waves using dense planted forests built on high artificial hills.
As for fighting climate change? We can channel our inner Johnny Appleseeds all we want, but ditching dependence on gross fossil fuels needs to be top priority.