NASA’s satellite imagery shows that the world is a greener place today than it was 20 years ago, due to China and India’s ambitious tree planting programs. In the seventies and eighties, both countries went through phases of large-scale deforestation to make room for urban development and agriculture. However, the countries are now committed to reducing air and soil pollution and combating climate change. Pakistan has announced plans to use drone technology for its “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project to fight climate change, since it is an economical and more efficient alternative to planting by hand.
What does this mean?
Almost one half of the forests that once covered the earth are now gone and forests are further disappearing at a fast pace. There are multiple reasons for this tree loss and different levels of impact. Tree cover loss associated with forestry (for wood products), wildfires, and shifting agriculture often come with the possibility to regenerate, while deforestation for mining, oil and gas production, industrial agriculture, and urbanization are typically permanent. But trees are becoming more important as awareness on climate change is growing and its effects are becoming more alarming. The enhancement of forest carbon stocks contributes significantly to global efforts to mitigate climate change. “The Forgotten Solution” Coalition promotes planting trees as an effective and natural way to reduce carbon emissions that, as the name suggests, should not be forgotten.
While India and China are among the world’s biggest polluters, they are also among those countries highly-ranked in suffering from climate damage and air pollution and thus are turning to scalable greening solutions. Technological solutions such as machines sucking carbon dioxide out of the air are praised for not taking up a lot of land, but are costly and not scalable enough. Planting trees is still a cheaper option, it comes with a lot of other benefits (such as increasing biodiversity, improving soil quality, decreasing soil erosion), and – with the help of technology, such as drones – can even be done in areas that are otherwise not easy to reach. As such, the evidence of greening from NASA’s satellite imagery might spark new tree planning schemes.