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Why fighting climate change with trees is like emptying a sinking boat with a spoon

Climate change is happening, and its effects are now more intense that ever. Here are some of the most worrying news you might read recently:

So is the climate change real? If you try to search the internet for the two contradicting theories you will find several articles supporting both. Climate change deniers usually use silly reasons to support their claims, like individual record snow-falls, or ice-cover in arctic during winters. Deniers also state the Earth is currently at a global warming phase, which is the reason for the global temperature rise. Is this the case? I wouldn't guess so. The undeniable truth is that the carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere is constantly rising to new record values, causing a greenhouse effect in our planet's atmosphere. The sun's radiation is being trapped -and finally absorded- in Earth's surface, causing the planet to slowly "boil" and the tempratures to constantly increase.

So, how bad is it? Are we doomed? Climate change is a very complex process and can't be accurately predicted by scientists. There many unpredictable factors that play an important role to the problem. For example, the sun's radiation. Scientists have created models for predicting solar activity in the future. Thos models claim that in the upcoming decades the sun's radiation will decrease, causing theories about an approacing mini ice-age. Will this save us from the climate change? Unfortunately, no. That is a myth. The human impact on the Earth's atmosphere is so intense that we might have completely driven the glacial cycles to go out of sync. So, are we doomed? We really don't know! Some scientists claim that we have 12 years to limit the catastrophy, while others are more pessimistic.

So why are forests so much related to the climate change? Can we turn deserts into forests and alter our fortune? Can we turn Sahara into a forest? Thechnically, we can do these things. Would this reverse the climate change? Probably, no. Do not mess trees with climate change. Let's explain this a little better.

Trees are good! Trees absord carbon dioxide and create oxygen! Sure, this is true. But trees are not the basic oxygen supplier of the atmosphere! Research has been done about a world without trees. Humans have enough oxygen to survive for thousands of years without trees. Does this mean that we don't need them? No, for sure no! Forests are part of our ecosystem -the one climate change destroys- and they will actually play a crucial role on whether humans will survive or not.

Let's study the forests' current and future state. Where do we stand? Should we worry about deforestration? Rainforests of the world are in danger, but this is a problem mostly for bio-diversity, and ecosystem's balance, not for the the world's tree population. Europe's forests are growing every year. Even at a global scale, researches claim that the tree population is rising, not shrinking. This rise in the Earth's forests is not enough though. There are many countries in the world that plant trees to fight the climate change. If we don't change our emissions, we need to plant the entire planet with trees in order for a change to have effect. All the above suggest that Earth's forests have a bright future ahead of them, and our planet is becoming greener!

If forests are growing, what is the problem then? The answer is pretty simple. It is emissions. It is they way we live. We need to stop our sinking boat for taking new water in before we start emptying it. Although the world's leaders agreed to reduce emissions back in 2015, in fact they never did. Carbon dioxide emissions are constantly increasing, because no country will ever sacrifice financial growth for ecology. Not only we continue to emit greenhouse gases, but we do it with an constantly increasing rate! While technology advances, millions of people from poorer countries are able to adopt a western lifestyle today. But there is a problem. Western lifestyle is not viable. Owning a house, a car, and eating meat every day is something that can't scale to all of the 7 billion people of this planet. We need to reconsider our way of living the impact we have on nature. We need to understand that we need nature, nature doesn't need us.

Note: I wrote this article based on my personal research about climate change I did during my free time over the internet. As a software engineer I am not an expert at this subject. Feel free to contact me at rigaspapas@gmail.com if you think that something is not accurate.

Cover image: Dan Otis