When it comes to fighting global warming, trees have emerged as one of the most popular weapons. With nations making little progress controlling their carbon emissions, many governments and advocates have advanced plans to plant vast numbers of trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an attempt to slow climate change. But emerging research suggests that trees might not always help as much as some hope.
Forest schemes got a big boost from the 2015 Paris climate accord, which for the first time counted all countries’ efforts to offset their carbon emissions from fossil-fuel use and other sources by planting or protecting forests….California is allowing forest owners to sell credits to CO2-emitting companies, and other US states are considering similar programs, which could motivate projects that establish new forests and protect existing ones….
Many scientists applaud the push for expanding forests, but some urge caution. They argue that forests have many more-complex and uncertain climate impacts than policymakers, environmentalists and even some scientists acknowledge. Although trees cool the globe by taking up carbon through photosynthesis, they also emit a complex potpourri of chemicals, some of which warm the planet.
Such concerns have prompted vigorous debate among scientists about how forests in different regions have warming or cooling effects.
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