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Plant trees to reduce global warming

Three actions to reduce global warming

Global Cooling Sites

Trees for the Future
Global Cooling Worksheet
Trees for Travel program
Language School that sponsors trees
Negative view about tree planting
Statue of World Peace
Global Awareness Institute protects trees in the Amazon

Relax. Reduce what you can and plant trees in the tropics to absorb the rest.

This book focuses on the three actions you can take to cool the planet. These Global Cooling™ actions are:

1) Use fossil fuels more efficiently and switch to renewable fuels;

2) Protect old-growth trees and rainforest as “warehouses for carbon” and harvest existing forests in a sustainable manner; and

3) Plant trees in the tropics to offset the carbon dioxide that we produce.

Some visitors to this site have pointed out that some of the links are "dead." Apologies. This web site is a voluntary effort to put the concept of "plant trees to offset what you produce." By taxing yourself, you balance what you produce.

If you want to sponsor trees in the Amazon, contact Barbara Brodman at

If you seek data on carbon emissions, go to or just do a search for "carbon emissions EIA"

In 2002, I found the following link to be active:

(THE FOLLOWING IS A PREDICTION): Read Dave Deppner's story about the many tree programs that he has worked for. In over 30 years of trying to make a difference, he has worked with fascinating unsung heroes and villains. Read about the adventures of a modern-day Johnny Appleseed and sponsor 10 trees. That's right, 10 trees will be planted for each book that is purchased. $23 for the book, 1-800-643-0001, or send email to .....or listen to the abridged book on audiotape ($20). Both include 10 trees and postage. (I'VE ENCOURAGED DAVE DEPPNER TO WRITE A BOOK OR AT LEAST TALK INTO A MICROPHONE...I HOPE HE GETS LOTS OF EMAIL REQUESTING HIS BOOK, WHICH GETS "PUBLISHED" BIT BY BIT WHENEVER HE SPEAKS :-) )

Thanks to the innovative program offered by, this book could be in print. You can get the book by contacting or (after Dave writes it).

How do you weigh carbon dioxide?

Answer: don’t use a bathroom scale. Most people find it unbelievable that one gallon of gasoline (weighing about 6 pounds) can turn into 20 pounds of cabon dioxide.

Here’s the calculation: One gallon of gasoline weighs between 5.8 and 6.2 pounds. Gasoline contains carbon with an atomic mass of 12 units and hydrogen (I unit of mass). Carbon dioxide adds two oxygen molecules, each with a mass of 16 units (12 + 16 + 16 = 44). You are adding two oxygens to each carbon when you use gasoline, so 6 pounds of gasoline x 44/13 = 6 x 3.4 = 20.4 pounds of carbon dioxide and water vapor, if burned completely.

Write to me if you want an estimate of your business' or your personal carbon emissions.

Find out how many trees you need to plant annually to offset your emissions of carbon dioxide.

How many miles do you drive each year? (One tree per 2000 miles)

How many miles do you fly each year? (One tree per 2000 miles)

How much electricity do you use each year (kilowattt-hours)? (one tree per 1000 kwhrs)

Does your business use any fossil fuels? If you don't want to do the calculation, send the information to: and I'll calculate it for you.

And now, for a negative view about tree planting. I believe that tree planting programs should embrace the negative press.... We could deny that there is evidence that might discourage large-scale tree planting...but there appears to be some factual infomration in the article below. We tree lovers need to address this issue. (Meanwhile, I'll just continue sponsoring trees.) NOTE: look carefully at the following sentence, taken from near the end of the article.

This isn't to say planting trees is in itself a bad thing. Whether they are absorbing or releasing the gas, they will always be keeping some CO2 out of the atmosphere and providing other ecological benefits. But forests are an insecure way of storing carbon out of harm's way," says Steffen.


And now for the article...... ...

That sinking feeling

Fred Pearce

From New Scientist, 23 October 1999

FOCUS It sounded like a good idea, but planting trees to absorb CO2 is no substitute for cutting fossil fuel emissions

NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, the human race may be about to take a dangerous short cut. Next week, governments from around the world will meet in Bonn, the former German capital, to complete plans for creating forests to soak up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. They see planting trees as a partial alternative to cutting emissions of the gas from power stations and vehicle exhausts.

Unfortunately, just two weeks ago, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the finishing touches to a report that shows this strategy to be based on a dangerous delusion. In reality, say its scientists, planned new forests, called "carbon sinks", will swiftly become saturated with carbon and begin returning most of their carbon to the atmosphere, temporarily accelerating global warming. Peter Cox of the Hadley Centre, part of Britain's Meteorological Office, shares the UN panel's conclusions. "This is not something that may or may not happen as the world warms--it is more or less inevitable," he says.

The result will be no overall reduction in CO2 levels. Despite this, the US and other major CO2 producers will cite the "sink" process as justification for their continuing tardiness in cutting CO2 emissions.

The US Environmental Protection Agency would not comment when approached by New Scientist. But other governments are concerned. Britain's environment department says: "The UK emphasises that the main action should be reducing actual emissions. Sinks are much less secure than carbon in fossil fuels left unburnt."

The discovery that forests are not a panacea for global warming only emerged after they were given a central role in the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty signed two years ago by most of the world's governments in a bid to stem the greenhouse effect. "Just a couple of years ago, the issue of sink saturation was barely known," says Will Steffen of Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences, who chairs the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, which has pioneered research into the global carbon cycle. The first public warning came in the March issue of the IGBP newsletter. And this month, the IPCC incorporated its analysis into a forthcoming report on land use change and forestry.

Each year, CO2 emissions from human activity pour just over 6 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Around a third is absorbed by the world's forests. The discovery of this large carbon sink encouraged policy makers to believe that CO2 pollution could be cut by planting more trees. But now it seems the sink is a recent phenomenon, and a temporary one. In fact, the suggestion that planting trees means less atmospheric CO2 ignores simple logic.

Before the large-scale development of industry, mature forests were in equilibrium with the atmosphere. Photosynthesis, the process that creates plant matter, absorbs CO2 from the air. But trees also release CO2 back into the air when plant matter breaks down the sugars they make during photosynthesis. This process is called respiration. Much the same happens in forest soils, which absorb carbon from trees and release CO2 as microorganisms break down plant matter.

This equilibrium has been increasingly upset by the higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. Usually, the low level of CO2 is what limits photosynthesis. Higher CO2 levels promote "CO2 fertilisation", accelerating both forest growth and the accumulation of carbon in forest soils. And as the forests grow faster, they absorb more CO2, helping to stave off climate change--for a while. (see diagram) Until a few months ago, researchers had assumed that as long as CO2 levels in the air went on rising, the forest sink would continue to grow. The IPCC's last assessment, published in 1996, concluded that forests would soak up around 290 billion tonnes of carbon next century, even without extra planting.

But this now seems highly unlikely. Experts such as Bob Scholes of the South African government's research agency, CSIR, argue that CO2 fertilisation may already have peaked and that respiration may be about to accelerate. Early in the next century, forests planted to protect the planet from global warming could be contributing to it.

How did researchers get it so wrong? Scholes, a leading light in the IGBP's Global Carbon Project, says that the confusion was caused by a time-lag. CO2 fertilisation is an instantaneous process. But respiration increases in response to temperature rises triggered by the CO2. That warming has a built-in delay of about fifty years, caused largely by the thermal inertia of the oceans. So the extra outpouring of CO2 from the world's forests would not yet be apparent. "During this delay there is an apparent carbon sink," he says.

At the Hadley Centre, Cox has just finished modelling the likely future carbon cycle. He warns that we are on a "saturation curve", where extra CO2 has an ever-smaller effect on plant growth. Respiration, on the other hand, continues to increase with temperature. Soil respiration in particular goes up exponentially with temperature, at least for a time, says Cox. So if CO2 levels in the air continue to rise, fertilisation rates will flatten out while respiration rates soar. He predicts that by 2050, forests will have released much of what they have absorbed. The overall reduction in CO2 levels will therefore have been small.

"The timing is uncertain but we are pretty certain it will happen," he says. Wolfgang Cramer of the Potsdam Institute in Germany has recently reached a similar conclusion. Neither study is yet published.

The effect of accelerated respiration on the atmosphere could be even more dangerous if, as predicted by some scientists, the heat and drought caused by global warming degrade tropical forests at the same time.

This isn't to say planting trees is in itself a bad thing. Whether they are absorbing or releasing the gas, they will always be keeping some CO2 out of the atmosphere and providing other ecological benefits. But forests are an insecure way of storing carbon out of harm's way," says Steffen.

The real danger, he says, arises when countries use plans to plant forests as a justification for not cutting their CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. And next week, the politicians and climate negotiators meeting in Bonn will be doing just that. They are meeting to agree rules for implementing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which give the planting of forest sinks equal value to emissions cuts as a way to meeting its targets.

Many countries, including the US, which produces about a quarter of the world's CO2 emissions, are relying to a large degree on the supposed benefits of tree planting to meet their targets. And dozens of forestry companies are already planning to join the anticipated global market in certificated carbon sinks. Typical is a new project, announced by a Norwegian forestry company last month, to plant fast-growing pine and eucalyptus trees on 150 square kilometres of grassy plain in southwest Tanzania. The company, called Treefarms, promises that by 2010 the Kilombero Forest will store more than a million tonnes of carbon. But will it?

Such claims are based on models of CO2 accumulation that assume current rates of CO2 fertilisation will continue. But Scholes believes the carbon sink will start to decline within the next few decades. This would make the certificates for carbon stored in forests such as Kilombero worthless.

Ultimately, says Steffen, we will only save the world from catastrophic climate change by cutting emissions. "New forests are temporary reservoirs that can buy valuable time to reduce industrial emissions, not permanent offsets to these emissions." But the Kyoto Protocol does not reflect that--and nor will next week's negotiations. It could prove a devastating mistake.

"The carbon cycle has a very long equilibrium time," says Scholes. "The consequences of actions taken now will persist for many centuries.


After reading this opinion, you might decide not to use tree planting as a way to offset carbon emissions. However, if you (like me) believe that planting a tree is a good thing, then do this:


sponsor a tree at TREES FOR THE FUTURE