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Tree planting: the 'greenhouse' effects.

Tree planting: The 'greenhouse' effects

Increasing global reforestation between now and the year 2000 by an area nearly twice the size of Texas could not only return the world's supply of wood for fuel and industry to a sustainable level, but also help stabilize watersheds and highly erodable, wind-prone areas, according to Sandra Postel and Lori Heise of the Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute. A less obvious benefit would be the capture and storage of considerable carbon, which could reduce the rate of global warming. Carbon emitted by fossil-fuel burning and deforestation--largely as carbon dioxide (CO.sub.2)--has been accumulating in earth's atmosphere. A "greenhouse" gas, atmospheric carbon dioxide can contribute to climate warming. But in "Reforesting the Earth," a report published last week, Postel and Heise present "rough calculations" that suggest that preserving tropical forests and planting new trees could play "a significant role" in slowing the CO.sub.2 buildup.

During photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon. Cutting trees down begins a cycle that will lead to the release of that carbon. Adding 120 million hectares of forest cover would store about 780 million tons of carbon annually, the Worldwatch analysts estimate. Halving deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia and Cote d'Ivoire -- the leading contributors of deforestation-related carbon dioxide -- would cut net annual carbon releases from tropical forests more than 20 percent. Postel and Heise calculate that these measures, taken together, could remove two-thirds of the annual carbon emissions attributable to deforestation, or 17 percent of the carbon emissions from all sources, including fossil fuels.

Such measures could buy the world time to wean itself from an addiction to fossil fuels. And that's important, Postel and Heise believe, arguing that "Boosting energy efficiency and shifting to alternative energy sources will buy the greatest degree of climate insurance for the dollar."
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Title Annotation:reforestation may reduce rate of global warming
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 30, 1988
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