As fires rage in the Amazon, people have latched onto the phrase that the Amazon is the “lungs of the earth.” President Emmanuel Macron of France warned that “our house is burning.” Celebrities from Leonardo DiCaprio to Vanessa Hudgens raised funds to support the Amazon, and the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia went viral.
Our hearts collectively burst for the Amazon for two reasons: One was for the environmental and ancestral tragedy of watching an icon location burn, and the other for the fact that this 6 to 8 million square kilometers of forest plays a vital role in removing world-heating carbon dioxide out of the air. The longer the fires burn, the less natural air filtration the Earth will have.
But while the Amazon plays a vital role in global carbon absorption (and we should continue to try and save it), between 1994 and 2007, our oceans absorbed 34 gigatons of the world’s carbon through algae, vegetation, and coral. In other words, the trees might not save us—but the oceans could.
Solutions in the natural world will help right the warming wrongs of the human-made world. According to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, there is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees. These forests would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon-dioxide emissions.
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