The UN climate report highlights the dangers of natural solutions

The UN climate report highlights the dangers of natural solutions

This process uses the natural ability of crops and other plants to consume greenhouse gas as they grow. In turn, specially designed or retrofitted facilities can use these plants to produce electricity or fuel while capturing and storing the resulting emissions. However, only a few facilities today do so an increasing number are under construction.

But a UN report warns that planting enough crops to remove significant levels of carbon dioxide will require huge amounts of land. This could run counter to efforts to produce food for a growing population and further burden animal and plant species. One study noted that converting enough land to avoid 2 ˚C warming could shift the range of most European bird species to 4 ˚C warming due to climate change.

Numerous groups, including Trillion Trees Initiative, also highlighted the potential of planting trees as a means of combating climate change. Different regions and organizations allow landowners and businesses for the purchase and sale of carbon compensations as part of such efforts.

The report notes that replanting trees in previously forested areas creates multiple benefits. But planting trees where they do not grow naturally can have harmful effects on the environment, it warns.

Growing trees on natural open lawns can reduce the flow of water in streams and increase the intensity of fires. This can even contribute to global warming, as grass repels more heat than forests. Similarly, drying peatlands for the purpose of planting trees can release huge amounts of greenhouse gases from these rich natural carbon sinks.

Ensuring that these approaches reliably remove greenhouse gases, while minimizing downsides, will require careful consideration of the local context and conditions, the authors note. The conclusions also emphasize the importance of applying different approaches to carbon removal, including new technological methods such as direct air intake and use various types of minerals.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the world will have to remove huge amounts of greenhouse gases in the coming decades — and that we don’t know yet how to do it affordably, efficiently or reliably in any vicinity of the required scope.

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