Solutions are simple (on paper!)

June 8, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

The prime minister has pledged that Canada will plant 2 billion trees by 2031 as Canada’s commitment to help solve the biggest problem facing mankind, changing climate due to global warming. Increasing forest cover is one major initiative promised by many world leaders in the global goal of restricting the increase of the world’s mean temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than that experienced in pre-industrial days. As with most solutions, the answer to the question is easy, but as usual, ‘the devil is in the details.’ What is said has little reference to actual implementation at the grassroots level. Easier said than done.

The Agenda, May seventh, had an interesting program interviewing four individuals involved with reforestation, questioning whether or not Canada will buck its 2 billion tree promise, which brought out several points missing from the question. 

Probably the most significant was the fact that the problem oversimplified the relevance of the reference to the “number of trees” as applied to the planet’s future ecology. Of greater importance would be hectares of forested ecosystems. Forests have so much more to offer than trees in the context of established surface productivity.

Seedlings contribute nothing to the short-term sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere in the ecosystem’s environment since 30 to 40 years of growth is required to develop crowns. Cutover, exposed ecosystems without cover absorb heat in the surface rather than reflecting it back into space. 

Additional ground-level heat adds to the greenhouse effect affecting subsequent climate change. Protection of understory vegetation with existing cover would be of far greater benefit to the plenty’s temperature balance. 

Overhead cover protects plants and shrubs which also store pollutants taken from the atmosphere and stored in soil.

Protecting surface foliage not only enhances the planet’s ability to absorb precipitation through providing rooting systems which direct rainfall and snow melt to underground aquifers to be released year-round to soil moisture and surface water, i.e. wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes. Communities around the world are dependent on the availability of potable water for drinking, cooking and hyenic purposes. Shortage of fresh water has been the basis of international conflict between many countries.

Availability of adequate ground water is basic to production of food and many communities are having to deal with severe starvation problems. The Great Green Wall of Africa is proving to address two major problems, expansion of the Sahara Desert and renewed agricultural productivity. 

The increase in the food supply has been an unforeseen bonus contributing to community prosperity. Adequate production of food contributes both to nutrition and commerce.

The shortage of fresh water for human consumption is only one primary water problem facing mankind. Rising sea levels are having a physical impact on living conditions, particularly for those living in coastal communities. One publication recodes an overall increase of 9 inches of ocean levels in the last 48 years, with over six additional inches occurring since 1950 and estimating another 6 inches before 2040. (Water always wins, Erica Gies, 2022). 

Many communities subject to repeated flooding have realized that moving to higher ground is less costly than repeatedly having to rebuild damaged homes on floodplains. Insurance companies are considering refusal to offer such protection to those buying new homes built in areas subject to high environmental risk.

The expansion of desserts is creating restrictions both on the development of communities and agricultural productivity. Changes in Chinese land-use policy illustrate the need for improved stewardship of the world’s land-based ecology. There is a need for conversion of economic priorities from harvesting forest land to increasing emphasis on building up the effectiveness of tree cover, providing a barrier to severe erosion of the country’s agricultural capability and restricting the impact of dust storms on manufacturing and other urban business aspects of societal development.  

The severity of climate change impact at least provides material news for media. It seems that every day new weather-based disasters are revealed. Changing weather patterns are basic to severe drought and subsequent wildfires wiping out communities from one part of the earth to another. Flooding of huge regions follows occurrence of unusual precipitation patterns. 

Alternatives to such massive disasters require both presentations of wise words and implementation of policies at every element of government as well as an individual activity.

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