China's Tree Planting Policy Has 'Significant' Effect On Climate Change

Maria Goncalves

China has played a heavier role in offsetting its own carbon emissions than previously thought, a study showed.

A research analysis carried out by a group of international scientists and published in Nature claimed the Asian country's tree planting policy helped mitigate the effects of its own impact on the climate. According to the BBC, China is the world's largest source of carbon dioxide, accounting for nearly one-third of all global CO2 emissions.

However, the latest research -- which was based on both ground and satellite observations -- pointed out two forest areas where the carbon dioxide absorption taking place was "underestimated." These areas represent just over 35 percent of China's land carbon "sink," which is a natural area that absorbs more carbon than it releases. This process helps lower the overall concentration of human-produced CO2 in the planet's atmosphere.

"China is one of the major global emitters of CO2 but how much is absorbed by its forests is very uncertain," said scientist Jing Wang, from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) in Beijing, who is also the study's lead author.

"Working with CO2 data collected by the Chinese Meteorological Administration we have been able to locate and quantify how much CO2 is absorbed by Chinese forests," he added.

While China, a heavily industry-dependent country, has been the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, it has also been making an effort to offset its impact on the global climate. As the BBC reported, billions of trees have been planted in the past few decades in order to stop mass desertification and soil loss, as well as to grow the timber and paper industries. As all these plants grow, the scale of their CO2 absorption is finally being calculated by researchers.

Furthermore, the country recently claimed it would reach the peak of greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 and eventually move to a carbon-neutral approach by 2060. It is not clear yet how it will achieve these goals, announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Achieving China's net-zero target by 2060...will involve a massive change in energy production and also the growth of sustainable land carbon sinks," said co-author and fellow IAP professor Yi Liu. "The afforestation activities described in [our Nature] paper will play a role in achieving that target."

The areas identified by the group of researchers are located in China's southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi, as well as in the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. The scientists gathered and analyzed a variety of data sources, from observations of CO2 from space as well as ground-level sample collection and forestry records, among others.

The emission of greenhouse gases on a worldwide scale is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Just this summer, methane emissions reached a new all-time high, as The Inquisitr reported.