Climate change is a major global concern — and new research suggests nature might be able to help. Published in the Nature scientific journal, experts at the World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and other institutions charted possible rates of carbon capture from natural forest regrowth.

A Closer Look at Natural Forest Regrowth

This restoration method allows trees to grow back on lands that had been previously cleared for agriculture and other uses. The research team found natural forest regrowth could potentially take in up to 8.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere through 2050. This could be done while still maintaining native grasslands and current food production levels.

Putting this in terms easier to understand, natural forest regrowth could absorb the equivalent of up to 23% global CO2 emissions per year from the atmosphere. Of course, this would be in addition to existing carbon sequestration currently provided by forests, which take in around 30% of CO2 emissions per year.

The Growing Climate Crisis

Earth’s climate has experienced seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, culminating in the end of the last ice age approximately 11,700 years ago, according to NASA. This was the beginning of the modern climate era and human civilization.

At present, the planet’s current warming trend is notable, because there’s a greater than 95% probability it was caused by human activity since the mid-20th century. This is also proceeding at an alarmingly unprecedented rate.

Specifically, Earth’s average surface temperature has increased roughly 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, according to NASA. The bulk of warming activity has occurred during the past 40 years. Even more frightening — the six warmest years on record have occurred since 2014.

Much of this increased heat has been absorbed by the ocean, which has warmed 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969, according to NASA. Also notable in cold climates, Greenland ice sheets have lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019. During this same time period, Antarctica lost around 148 billion tons of ice per year.

Clearly, climate change is an urgent global issue that needs to be addressed immediately, before it’s too late.

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