News Study: Climate change can be reversed by planting a forest nearly double the size of the U.S.David Knowles Editor•A new study suggests that human beings could save themselves from the worst ravages of climate change by planting a forest nearly double the size of the United States.Compiled by the Crowther Lab at ETH University in Zurich, and published Thursday in the journal Science, the study is the first undertaken to map the areas where trees can flourish despite rising temperatures, and calculate how much carbon they could store through photosynthesis. It concludes that a global reforestation effort on up to 6.9 million square miles of land not currently utilized could produce forests capable of storing about 205 tonnes of carbon, which is roughly two-thirds of the excess carbon human beings have added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.A new study finds that planting upward of 1.3 trillion trees could turn back global warming. (Photo: Getty Images) “We’ve modeled, with very high accuracy, where trees can exist on the planet,” Thomas Crowther, the study’s senior author, told Yahoo News. “Essentially, by making that map, we can then get an understanding of where, under today’s climate, trees can exist.”Aerial view of summer trees in a forest in Finland. (Photo: Getty Images) Because global temperatures have risen by nearly 1.8°F since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, dense equatorial forests have become less optimal for growing trees, Crowther said, while areas once too cold for tree growth have become viable. The problem is that new forests don’t naturally spring up fast enough to compensate for the habitat lost to climate change. With an eye toward speeding the process along, Crowther’s study identifies the available land where trees can now flourish. In the United States, for instance, new forest could be planted over approximately 400,000 square miles. The catch, however, is that even if a massive effort were undertaken immediately, it would take between 40 and 100 years to realize peak carbon intake.“It’s certainly not an immediate-fix situation, but it is, by far, the biggest solution that we’ve got,” Crowther said. “There’s no other technology that would be faster.”The world’s leading climate scientists have warned that at the current pace of warming due to greenhouse gases, humanity has just 12 years to roll back carbon dioxide emissions if there is any hope of keeping global temperatures from rising above 2.7°F. That marker, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in its October report, would drastically raise the risk of drought, catastrophic flooding and death by heat exposure.The Crowther Lab study also warns that on our current trajectory, the global tree canopy cover could shrink by approximately 550 million acres by 2050, with most of those losses occurring in the tropics.Icebergs are melting due to global warming. (Photo: Getty Images) Noting that carbon emissions reached an all-time high in 2018, Crowther stresses that the time it takes forests to grow makes it imperative that people not only immediately embark on a global reforestation project, but also cut back on carbon emissions. In May, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at a record 415 parts per million, far above levels measured in ice core readings dating back 800,000 years. If mankind continues to pump carbon into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels at its current rate, that number is sure to grow, causing temperatures to rise along with it.While technologists often posit that humans will come up with carbon capture inventions that will ultimately save mankind, Crowther said the solution is already here.“There’s about 800 gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere. Before humans were around, it would have been about 500,” he said. “Restoration would take it down to about 600 gigatons, so that would be sort of taking the current 400 ppm of CO2 down to almost 300 ppm, which is right about where we were at the start of the Industrial Revolution, so it’s a pretty big chunk.”Crowther is hardly the first person to propose reforestation as the solution to climate change. Numerous countries have undertaken efforts to encourage citizens to either plant new forests or replant those that mankind has degraded in order to lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Yet programs like the one that launched in China in the late 1990s backfired when local residents seeking subsidies turned croplands into monoculture tree plantations that, when they failed or were cut down, ended up increasing carbon emissions.“There are examples from all across China and the Northern Hemisphere where trees have been restored in the wrong ecosystems, and it can be devastating,” Crowther said. “The blanket argument that ‘trees are good,’’ well, it can’t be that. It has to be ‘trees are good when they’re restored in the right ecosystem.’”Smokestacks at a coal-burning power plant. (Photo: Getty Images) To help people understand what they can plant and where, Crowther Labs has set up a web page in conjunction with its study that maps the entire globe and provides information on the native trees that thrive in a given location, as well as the soil pH and so on.“We’d like the public to get involved by either planting trees themselves or donating to restoration organizations,” Crowther said.If Crowther’s proposal sounds wildly optimistic, consider the example of Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado, who, along with his wife, took it upon himself to oversee the replanting of 2.7 million trees on deforested land in his home country. After founding the Instituto Terra in 1998, Salgado was able to restore the barren, degraded landscape to its natural state.There’s also Felix Finkbeiner, who at the age of 9 set off on a campaign to plant 1 million trees in Germany to combat climate change. Three years later, with help from other students, he achieved his goal and founded Plant-for-the-Planet, a group that now aims to plant 1 trillion trees globally.For Crowther, it’s those kinds of efforts that give him hope. While his study has estimated that it may ultimately require planting upward of 1.3 trillion new trees before the carbon in the atmosphere begins to significantly dissipate, it is one of the few scientific papers on climate change in recent years that can be cast as hopeful.“I hope it will inspire a lot more engagement by the general public to go, ‘Oh, my God, there’s something we can do to affect climate change,’” he said.A mapping tool at Crowther Lab’s website lets users see where trees can flourish despite rising temperatures. (Photo: Crowther Lab at ETH University)
U.S.California earthquake: more major quakes and months of aftershocks likely, seismologists say Alessio Perrone•Up to 30,000 aftershocks could hit California in the next six months after the US state was hit by two major earthquakes in 48 hours last week, seismologists have warned.They were part of a continuing sequence of tremors that would affect the area for months, said Lucy Jones, of the California Institute of Technology and said the earthquakes.The region could see more than 30,000 minor earthquakes over six months, with one or two magnitude 6 quakes expected, her colleague and fellow seismologist Egill Hauksson, added.Up to 190 magnitude 3 earthquakes could take place over the next week alone, with a 12 per cent probability of a magnitude 6 earthquake, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).Magnitude 3 earthquakes are big enough to be felt and any earthquake over magnitude 4 is big enough to cause damage to buildings.“It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said, voicing concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the months to come.He said that residents should make sure they know how to respond if more natural disasters strike.Friday’s evening’s earthquake was the largest one Southern California in nearly 20 years. Centred 11 miles from Ridgecrest, a small town with around 28,000 residents it struck the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit on ThursdayThe earthquake was felt by millions across an area ranging from Sacramento, the state capital in the north, to Mexico and including the Las Vegas and Los Angeles counties.It came off the back of hundreds of “foreshocks” that rattled the region late last month.Those left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines and prompted the evacuation of the US Navy’s largest single landholding, the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mohave Desert.Only a few injuries were reported, but two houses were reported to have caught fire from broken gas pipes; water gushed from zigzagged cracks in the busted pavement; and deep fissures were seen snaking across the Mojave Desert.In Ridgecrest, local fire and police officials said they were initially swamped by calls for medical and ambulance service.But police Chief Jed McLaughlin said there was “nothing but minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, by the grace of God.”In Trona, a town of about 2,000 people considered the gateway to Death Valley, fire officials said up to 50 structures were damaged. San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood said the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) delivered a tractor-trailer full of bottled water because of damage to water lines. Newsom declared a state of emergency for the county.The USGS has issued a red alert for economic losses, meaning that extensive damage is probable and that the disaster is likely widespread. Estimated economic losses are at least $1 billion dollars.“Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response,” the USGS said in its assessment.Mr Newsom estimated more than $100m (£79m) in economic damages and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.“He’s committed in the long haul, the long run, to help support the rebuilding efforts,” Mr Newsom, a Democrat, said of his leader.“There’s no question we don’t agree on everything, but one area where there’s no politics, where we work extremely well together, is our response to emergencies,” he added.The USGS said the aftershock activity is decreasing faster than average. Aftershocks are minor earthquakes that take place as the displaced crust adjusts to the effects of the main earthquake. It is normal for aftershocks to take place for weeks after a major shock, although their number decreases over time. A large aftershock can temporarily increase the numbers again.With aftershocks expected and temperatures forecast to reach 38 Celsius over the next several days, officials were taking precautions.The California National Guard sent 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft. Major General David Baldwin said the Pentagon had been notified and the entire California Military Department was put on alert.The California Office of Emergency Services also brought in cots, water and meals and set up cooling centres in the region.Additional reporting by Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — A quake with a magnitude of 7.1 jolted much of California, cracking buildings, setting fires, breaking roads and causing several injuries while seismologists warned that large aftershocks were expected to continue for days, if not weeks.
The Friday night quake — preceded by Thursday’s 6.4-magnitude temblor in the Mojave Desert — was the largest Southern California quake in at least 20 years and was followed by a series of large and small aftershocks, including a few above magnitude 5.0.
There is about a 1-in-10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake „is approaching certainty,” she added.
Aftershocks from the new main quake could occur for years, Jones said.
However, the quake was unlikely to affect fault lines outside of the area, she said, noting that the gigantic San Andreas Fault was far away.
The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest in the same areas where the previous quake hit.
„These earthquakes are related,” Jones said, adding that the new quake probably ruptured along about 25 miles of fault line and was part of a continuing sequence.
Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the state Office of Emergency Services operations center „to its highest level” and announced he had requested that President Donald Trump issue an emergency declaration so the state could receive federal aid.
The quake was felt as far north as Sacramento, as far east as Las Vegas and as far south as Mexico.
The area in and around Ridgecrest, already trying to recover from the previous temblor, took the brunt of damage. Several thousand people were without power, and there were reports of cracked buildings.
„There are significant reports of structure fires, mostly as a result of gas leaks or gas line breaks throughout the city” and daybreak Saturday could show even more serious damage, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Office of Emergency Services.
Local fire and police officials said they were initially swamped by calls for medical and ambulance service. But there was „nothing but minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, by the grace of God,” Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said.
Two building fires — one involving a mobile home — were quickly doused, and there were several reports of natural gas leaks, but the lines were shut off, McLaughlin said.
For the second time in as many days, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital wheeled patients out of the building, some still hooked to IVs, CNN reported.
Nearby, the tiny town of Trona, with about 2,000 residents, was reported to have at least one collapsed building. Roads were buckled or blocked, and police put out a call for bottled water for residents.
State Route 178 in Kern County was closed by a rockslide and had severe cracking.
Several homes were knocked off their foundations. Buildings were cracked, but there were only minor injuries, authorities said.
In downtown Los Angeles, 150 miles away, offices in skyscrapers rolled and rocked for at least 30 seconds.
Andrew Lippman, who lives in suburban South Pasadena, was sitting outside and reading the paper when Friday’s quake hit and calculated it lasted 45 seconds.
„I could see power lines swaying,” he said.
Disneyland in Orange County and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita closed their rides.
An NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas was stopped after the quake. Speakers over the court at the Thomas & Mack Center continued swaying more than 10 minutes after the quake.
In Los Angeles, the quake rattled Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning of the team’s game against the San Diego Padres. But the game went on, and the Padres won, 3-2.
„Not many people can say they threw a strike during an earthquake,” Eric Lauer, who was on the mound at the time, said later. „My ball, my pitch, started an earthquake.”
„Everyone was jumping over us to leave,” said Daniel Earle, 52, of Playa del Rey, who was sitting with his wife in the stadium’s reserve level. „My wife was holding us, like squeezing. I’m surprised my arm is still here.”