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GOP bill will seek to commit US to planting 3.3 billion trees annually

Republicans are putting the finishing touches on a bill that would cement President Trump’s commitment to a global initiative to plant 1 trillion trees, though experts caution that planting trees is not the most effective way to combat climate change.

Legislation being drafted by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) that will be unveiled this week would commit the U.S. to planting some 3.3 billion trees each year over the next 30 years, an increase of about 800 million trees per year.

“The pragmatic, proactive thing to do is to plant forests and manage them so that you’re actually pulling carbon out of the atmosphere,” Westerman said.

The bill is just one component of a coming package of legislation from House Republicans that offers their solution to the climate crisis following Democrat’s rollout of their own sweeping plan that would aim to have the U.S. reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

But Republican’s efforts to deal with carbon so far lie primarily in sequestering it in trees, which can take in carbon and store it, offsetting some atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.

That approach has not been a winner with climate scientists, however, who say that while trees undoubtedly improve the environment, the globe won’t be able to plant its way out of a climate crisis.

“Trees do take carbon out of the atmosphere and if you want to permanently store carbon in trees, you have to permanently commit to keeping the trees forever,” said University of Chicago geophysical sciences professor David Archer.

“The fossil fuel carbon is so much bigger than all the carbon in the trees,” he added. “You can’t do carbon neutral by planting trees…it’s sort of a Band Aid.”

Trump committed the U.S. to the 1 trillion tree initiative at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, saying the U.S. “will continue to show strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests.”