Our Future on a Reforested Planet: How the World Will Look if We Plant a Trillion Trees

There are about three trillion trees on Earth today. That’s more trees than there are stars in the Milky Way, but it’s only about half as many as there were at the dawn of human civilization.

Scientists have estimated we can bring back one trillion trees on degraded lands we aren’t using for agriculture.

If those trillion trees were to be planted all together, they’d cover the entire continental US-but every continent except Antarctica has reforestable lands.

If we restore one trillion trees, they’d be able to sequester around 30 percent of the carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

Planting a trillion trees is obviously no small task.

In outlining what the world will look like if we make it happen, the panelists highlighted current challenges that would be resolved as well as opportunities we’d encounter along the way.

We think of nature and trees as having blanket benefits across society: they’re beautiful, they clean the air, they provide shade and habitats for wildlife.

“Tree equity isn’t about trees, it’s about people,” Daley said.

“In neighborhoods with a lot of trees, people are healthier-including mental health benefits-and there’s less crime. People relate to each other differently.” This isn’t because trees cause prosperity, but because prosperous communities are more likely to invest in landscaping and tree cover, and to have the funds to do so.

“Today in America, extreme heat kills more than 12,000 people per year,” Daley said.

Research projects that number could rise to 110,000 people per year by the end of this century, with the hardest-hit being those who don’t have air conditioning, don’t have good healthcare-and don’t have trees in their neighborhoods.

“Trees have incredible cooling power and every neighborhood needs that, but especially places where people are already most at risk,” Daley said.

There are already steps in this direction: the US Congress invested $1.5 billion in tree cover for cities as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

New technologies for automation will enable this:

Many new startups and companies are looking into using automation, AI and drones to help reforrest the earth.

Drones can me fitted with “guns” that shoot seeds into the soft ground very quickly, and this process can be fully automated with the help of AI. By using automation, the reforesting effort can be scaled up to levels that have never been seen before in history.