Overzealous environmentalists, mockingly referred to as “treehuggers,” might want to step away from those trees and lay their protest signs on the ground. Turns out researchers in Europe have discovered that trees grown there since 1750 have actually increased global warming, or climate change, according to a story published today in BBC News.
The environmental scientists believe that Europeans have been planting the wrong trees for hundreds of years. They believe that replacing broadleaved trees with conifer species has dealt a blow to the environment. Conifer trees like pines and spruce are generally darker and absorb more heat than species such as oak and birch and may be heating up the planet.
Authors of the research believe their discoveries have implications that might affect cutting-edge environmentalists’ efforts to cool the Earth’s temperature via mass tree plantings. While run-of-the-mill environmentalists may take the new study to task for questioning the environmental impact of planting trees, the new science is on the market and selling in Europe and in the U.S.
The researches say the problem started when Europe’s green canopy was dramatically thinned by logging between 1750 and 1850. The forested area diminished by 190,000 sq km. However, while radical environmentalists were busy condemning the use of fossil fuels, scientists say burning fossil fuels and in particular coal slowed demand for lumber from about 1850 to present day. As disheartening as it might be for some so called environmentalists to fathom fossil fuels reversing the negative environmental impact of planting trees, European environmental scientists believe it is true. As coal and fossil fuels boomed, Europe’s forests grew by some 386,000 sq km and now cover 10% more land than before the industrial revolution. However, the new research suggests that Europeans have been planting the wrong trees all along, thereby harming the environment and creating more global warming.
In recent history, about 85% of Europe’s planted trees, as opposed to native trees, have been faster growing, more commercially valuable trees, like Scots pine and Norway spruce. The aforementioned scientists analyzed the species of trees planted by well-meaning humans over the past 250 years and it turns out the conifers like pine and spruce are absorbing more heat than native trees and holding it close to the Earth’s surface – in other words, fostering “climate change”. Making green matters worse, such trees hold less carbon therefore make inferior filters for the air we breathe.
“Even well managed forests today store less carbon than their natural counterparts in 1750,” said Dr Kim Naudts who carried out the study while at the Laboratory of Climate Science and Environment in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
Any distraught environmental extremists suddenly overwhelmed by the thought of logging companies hiring millions of loggers with chainsaws to cut down 250 years worth of wrong trees can relax because scientists don’t believe that will be necessary. They do suggest that the world should look carefully at the species of trees called out in their research. In recent history, planting trees may have caused more global warming than fossil fuels.
“We shouldn’t put our hopes on forests to mitigate what is an emission problem,” said Dr Naudts.
“Our results indicate that in large parts of Europe, a tree planting program would offset the emissions but it would not cool the planet, especially not if the reforestation is done with conifers.”