By Muhammad Abdullahi Ibrahim
Outbreaks of new tropical diseases are rising, increasing the risk of more future epidemics and pandemics. Millions species are on the verge of extinction, and global inequality threatens basic human right. These problems root from global climate change and biodiversity loss, which require urgent attention, solutions and action. Our planet is in a state of emergency. Wildfires ravage drought-ridden landscapes often spilling over to towns and burning them to dust. Tropical storms and floods submerge our neighbourhoods, destroying the lives of millions.
A lot of us gives much concentration on high technological solutions to address the global challenges. As recently publicized by the American billionaire and founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, that he is willing to award 100 million USD to whoever produced the best carbon capture technology.
It is not a bad idea to invest in new innovative technologies to curtail climate change, but yet we need to acknowledge that those technologies are still in process and under developed. Producing and implementing the high-tech solutions is a process that takes time, and time waits for nobody as Nigerians say, and with the climate situation that needs urgent attention we can’t wait for high-tech. Urgent attention is needed and the best we can offer now is still in low technological, nature-based solutions that are available for implementation at our disposal.
Plantation provide such a natural solution to one of our biggest problems. They are best at capturing the carbon from the atmosphere and release oxygen. They create perfect habitats for endangered species which are on the verge of becoming extinct and provide a livelihood for those living in poorer regions.
Moreover, tree covers in cities also protect urban residents from the effects of global heating as seen during the COVID-19 lockdown. Forests and trees offer living creatures a countless ecological, economic, health and social benefits, yet destruction and degradation of forests through deforestation is a global problem, especially in the tropics.
Recognizing the importance of forests, some governments, and companies worldwide have pledged (many times) to reduce and stop deforestation. We can recall the treaty made known as New York Declaration on Forestry in 2014, which target to reduce deforestation by half by 2020 and end it by 2030 as part of the UN SDG. unfortunately, this treaty failed its 2020 targeted mandate target! Its own 2019 Progress Assessment concluded:
“Tropical deforestation has continued at an unsustainable pace since 2014.”
The alarming global deforestation rate means we’ve already lost a significant portion of our forest that needs restoration immediately. Currently, over sixty countries are restoring 210 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands.
Unfortunately forest restoration turns out not to be simple as the populace think. Over simplistic approach to reforestation can lead to catastrophic failure on achieving key objectives. Some of the unintended consequences of a poorly planned reforestation attempt include displacement of native biodiversity by invasive species, reduced croplands and food production, disruption of the water cycle, and decreased carbon storage in biomass and soil. Tree plantations usually go wrong due to mono-culture plantations rather than restoration through a mix of native tree species.
That’s why a group of scientists have now come up with ten “golden rules” for reforestation designed to increase carbon fixation, increase biodiversity and provide sustainable livelihoods. Researchers hope that their golden rules act as a useful guide for policymakers, advisors and practitioners of reforestation in avoiding many pitfalls of large-scale tree-planting.
There’s been a lot of coverage on whether tree planting is the most effective way response against climate change. Of course, it’s important to take the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and return them to where they belong: in the ground and trees can help achieving that.
However, research suggests that the most effective way of reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases is to stop using fossil fuels. Planting trees is vital, but it won’t stop climate change. We must reduce fossil fuel use.
Still, I believe these aren’t binary options; we must aggressively pursue all strategies to overcome the global crisis that we face. For an effective response against the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, we must immediately restore forests and degraded land through reforestation and tree planting; prevent any further deforestation; also reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, eventually stop using them.
Muhammad Abdullahi Ibrahim
Founder Raise Hope Foundation Nigeria.