NEW YORK — The world’s business and government leaders may have found a way to fight climate change without having to call global warming by its name or agree on what is causing it.
Last week, the World Economic Forum (WEF) – which dedicated its 2020 gathering in Davos, Switzerland, to climate change and sustainability – launched the 1t.org platform to drive the planting of one trillion trees worldwide.
Scientists have long pushed reforestation as a win-win method to limit climate change.
Environmentalists say looking after existing forests and restoring damaged ones prevents flooding, limits climate change by storing heat-trapping carbon and protects biodiversity.
Replanting destroyed forest areas the size of the United States could capture two-thirds of man-made planet-warming emissions, a 2019 study by Switzerland’s Crowther Lab found.
But other researchers said it overestimated the potential of tree planting, flagging issues with the study’s maps and data and urging greater efforts to cut emissions by other means.
Backers of the new WEF initiative include a host of public figures, from U.N. Environment Program head Inger Andersen to U.S. President Donald Trump, a long-time climate change skeptic.
“Who’s against the trees? Everyone’s for the trees,” said Marc Benioff, CEO of cloud-based software company Salesforce which has pledged to plant 100 million trees.
“Trees are a bipartisan issue. I haven’t met any anti-tree people yet,” he told the 1t.org launch.
Trump has rolled back regulations to curb air and water pollution and started pulling his country out of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
In the past, the Republican politician also has referred to climate change as a hoax – a claim he refuted this month.
At the WEF meeting, Trump signed the United States up to the trillion tree-planting initiative.
“We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world,” he said in a keynote address that avoided any direct reference to climate change.
Benioff said the U.S. government was researching how it could contribute, and the country was expected to plant 50 billion to 100 billion trees under the 1t.org project.
Colombia’s president also backed it, committing his Amazon country to add 180 million trees by mid-2022.
Indian yogi Sadhguru, who has led a campaign to promote agroforestry in southern India, said the best strategy was to persuade farmers to plant trees on their land to protect crops and to harvest for timber, raising the value of their plots and dissuading them from migrating to cities.