As the world’s number one cause for man-made global warming, China faces a wealth of criticism and questions for environmental problems like airpocalypses, but when facing a crisis, Chinese leaders know that they can always go to China’s bread-and-butter, building Great Walls. This one is made out of trees and is helping to save the whole world from environmental disaster (The Mongols of the 21st century).
Beginning in 1978, the Three-North Shelter Forest Program, or the “Green Great Wall”, is directed at staving off the spread of the Gobi Desert that threatens northern China. The plan is to plant a belt of trees that will stretch from Xinjiang to Heilongjiang by 2050. They are already well on their way, just since 2008, China has planted 13 million hectares in its arid north.
While the primary objective of this effort may be self-preservation, the massive tree-planting program has the additional benefit of sucking a lot of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. According to a new study in the academic journal Nature Climate Change, via Scientific American, China’s reforestation efforts, aided by regrowth in abandoned Russian farmland, have helped to replenish 81 percent of the total biomass carbon lost to tropical deforestation since 2003. The total amount of carbon stored in all living biomass has actually increased globally by nearly 4 billion tons since 2003, thanks in large part to the new forests of Inner Mongolia.
The study also found that the carbon storage in Chinese forests has increased by about 0.8 billion tons between 2003 and 2012.
While this all sounds really amazing, critics have pointed out a number of problems that plague China’s reforestation efforts. According to Quartz, many worry about the large volume of water needed to sustain the new trees, which are often rubber and fruit trees that soak up more water than native trees. If you weren’t aware, northern China isn’t exactly Waterworld.
Furthermore, even with the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping and friends, China is actually cutting down trees faster than they are planting them, with tree cover in China shrinking each year, adding up to a net loss of 523,248 hectares since 2011.
So it sounds like China just needs to go bigger and plant even more trees! And we know just the guys who are up to the task! First their village, then the world!
by Alex Linder
[Images via People’s Daily]