Trump's Trillion Trees Promise at the World Economic Forum

Meeting that goal would essentially restore U.S. forest area back to where it stood in 1630.


President Donald Trump in his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, announced, "Today, I'm pleased to announce the United States will join the one trillion trees initiative being launched here at the World Economic Forum." Why join this initiative? "We're committed to conserving the majesty of God's creation and the natural beauty of our world," added Trump.

Entirely unmentioned by the president is that the primary motivation for the initiative that aims to plant 1 trillion trees is to slow down man-made climate change by removing gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. "Restoring, conserving and planting a Trillion Trees by 2030 can deliver massive and urgently needed progress against climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals," states the WEF press release on the initiative.

The inspiration for the WEF's Trillion Tree Initiative was a presentation at the organization's meeting last year by Swiss ecologist Thomas Crowther who asserted that there is enough land to accommodate 1.2 trillion more trees. Currently, our planet is home to about 3 trillion trees. In July of last year, Crowther and his team calculated in Science that planting a little more than 1 trillion additional trees would significantly cool the earth by sequestering in growing trees about 25 percent of the carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere. Implausibly assuming that human carbon dioxide emissions stopped now, that goal would notionally lower atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations back to about where they stood a century or so ago.

Crowther and his colleagues calculated that there are about 900 million hectares (3.5 million square miles—an area about the size of the entire U.S.) of land that is appropriate and could be available for planting a trillion trees around the world. Most of the land is in big countries like the United States, China, Russia, Canada, and Brazil. For example, in the U.S., the researchers estimate that 103 million hectares (about 400,000 square miles—an area about 1.5 times the size of Texas) could be planted without impinging significantly on farming, urban areas, and so forth.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that, in 1630, forests occupied just over 400 million hectares (1.6 million square miles) of land area that eventually became the United States. That's about 46 percent of the land area. In the second half of the 19th century, forest clearing in the U.S. averaged about 13 square miles per day every day for 50 years. By comparison, the recent rate of forest clearing in Brazil is about 10 square miles per day. By 1910, U.S. forest area had fallen to about 305 million hectares (1.17 million square miles). As of 2012, it had expanded to 310 million hectares (1.20 million square miles) while U.S. population has more than tripled.

The upshot is that meeting the Trillion Tree goal would essentially restore U.S. forest area back to about where it stood in 1630.

Is planting a trillion trees by 2050 a plausible goal? The world may have reached global peak agricultural land in 2000, suggesting the more land is being freed up that could be restored to nature. In fact, a 2018 study in Nature reported the happy news that global tree canopy cover increased by 2.24 million square kilometers (865,000 square miles) between 1982 and 2016. That's a rate of about 25,000 square miles per year. To plant a trillion trees occupying 3.5 million square miles by 2030—as outlined in the WEF proposal—would require a 14 times boost (350,000 square miles per year) in the rate of global forest expansion. Meeting that goal by 2050 would mean quadrupling the rate of forest cover expansion.

The Trump administration has not yet provided any proposals aimed at fulfilling the president's WEF commitment to participate in the initiative.

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  1. Manhattan hit hardest.

    1. Why do you think DJT moved to Florida?

  2. restoring trees is harmless and benificial with or without climate change reasons so go ahead and plant a tree. Meanwhile In California instead of proper forest management by utilizing our trees for lumber we are allowing them to be burned down putting more CO2 into the atmosphere which only matters if you believe CO2 is the cause of climate change. However it matters since it cost more to let forest burn than it does to let it be harvested.

    1. Fire is a required part of many ecosystems. The whole southeast used to be covered by one vast longleaf pine forest. Longleaf pine is fire adapted and needs fire to flourish.

      1. My understanding is that forests were cleared when they were subjected to agriculture by early colonists. As the fields were later abandoned they then became overpopulated with pine.

  3. Don’t be silly; we mean to plant trees THERE, not HERE.
    Of course, there is a very good case to raze LA and San Francisco and Seattle and Manhattan and plant trees there. Lots of trees there. Send the current inhabitants to Venezuela.

    1. Has middle school let out early today?

    2. Figures. Yes Virginia, your parents and grandparents are stupid as fuck and can’t even stop obsessing about their particularly moronic politics when planting a tree.

    3. Longtobefree, what a dumbass remark.

  4. Planting the trees is the first step. They eventually have to be harvested to make room for the next round of trees. The trees must be burned as an energy source while using that robust carbon capture thingy to prevent returning the carbon to the atmosphere. Count up how many furnaces are needed to burn a forest the size of the U.S and you’ll see that this whole thing is a joke. Maybe the idea works on a spreadsheet, but not so much in reality

    1. This might be a valid point if burning for energy were the only use for a harvested tree, but plenty of things can be built with the lumber as well

      Or maybe we plant a bunch of trees and just leave them be, and don’t harvest them for anything

      1. Trees are most effective sucking carbon out of the air when they are growing rapidly. Once they reach maturity it is best, from a fighting climate change perspective, to harvest them as a renewable fuel and then plant the next set of CO2 suckers.

        1. Actually reproductively mature trees remove more carbon than young ones

          1. Although I suppose a valid question is how much carbon is returned to the atmosphere every year when the leaves fall off and rot

            1. I would imagine at least some of it is ultimately semi-permanently sequestered in the soil.

            2. It’s a complex question. The leaves are eaten and reduced to organic matter. Some is breathed back into the atmosphere by heterotrophs and microbes, some stays on the soil in the form of humid acids and other non-digestible carbon, some gets leached into groundwater and ultimately ends up in the ocean, where it may be returned to the atmosphere or buried into the ocean floor, etc.

        2. If you use them as fuel, all the co2 is released. Better to use them to fill in old coal mines and let them start turning into petroleum.

          1. “If you use them as fuel, all the co2 is released”
            true, which is why the theory is to use carbon capture when they are burned to shove the exhaust into the ground. Nevermind the consequences of that. This is all feelz gud fantasy stuff to make the models work on how the planet can be kept from getting too toasty.

            1. I’m still unsure why we need to burn them at all, even if we do harvest them (which, as noted above, we don’t need to do)

              1. “why we need to burn them at all”
                to produce energy to replace the evil fossil fuels

              2. Don’t worry, Socialists going to war with everyone will make sure there are plenty of burned up trees and lumber.

                Then they can claim economic revitalization when everyone has to rebuild everything.

      2. re: “Or maybe we plant a bunch of trees and … don’t harvest them for anything”

        At which point, they will eventually die, fall down and rot. That process will release most* of the sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere. No, if you really want to keep plant-based carbon sequestered for the long-term, you have to go back to your original plan and harvest it for the lumber or other uses that will keep it in a controlled environment.

        * Yes, a fraction of the carbon will remain sequestered in the soil. That’s a tiny fraction, though an important one as it leads to topsoil build-up. I ignore it for this discussion because it’s not relevant until you’re willing to talk on timescales that contain many generations of trees – tens of millennia at minimum. That’s beyond the scale of most ‘climate change remediation’ discussions.

        1. It still sequesters it for a long time though, 100 years or more for a hardwood tree. And even as an old one rots new trees grow around it, mitigating the return of CO2 to the atmosphere

          But yes, building stuff with the lumber would probably be best, particularly building houses in CA or NY. We could solve a housing crisis and an environmental one

          1. Thus destroying two perfectly good crises at one time.

            What are you, some sort of individualist? Without crises, people won’t need as much government control.

        2. But, as Ken said, Imagine you can sequester a lot of CO2 on the order of 100 years. By that point, since we haven’t destroyed the economy to stop climate change, it’s likely that low-carbon intensity fuels already dominate, and other solutions will exist to manage whatever CO2 is a problem.

        3. At a long enough time scale, all carbon ends up back in the atmosphere. We are not talking about geological time scales, but human time scales. Using wood for lumber ties up the carbon for a very long time and that carbon can be considered sequestered unless destroyed in a fire.

  5. Regardless of motivation, I think it is great that we plant trees. There is a wonderful custom I have observed where people have a tree planted to honor the memory of a loved one, or to commemorate a meaningful event. Why not do that here?

    Long after we are gone, the tree will (hopefully) remain. An enduring testament to part of our human story.

    1. Reminds me of that stupid oak tree I have to take down in my front yard.

      1. I hope the wood goes to a furniture maker.

        1. Surprisingly difficult to get the wood used for anything other than burning, even when your tree guy’s father is a cabinet maker. Those guys are choosy about what wood they are going to invest their labor in.

          But tree sections can make a pretty decent wall, for a decade or so. And after that, they are just so much humus improving the soil.

  6. Stop subsidizing US agriculture and this isn’t an unreasonable goal. Hell, you might end up with more trees. There are more trees on the eastern seaboard today than there were at the time of first settlements. Why? Because land in that area isn’t farmed with anything close to the same intensity it once was. Stop subsidizing agriculture and that happens in a lot of places in this country causing the forests to come back.

    1. Start with the ethanol fuel requirment.

      1. Totally agree!

      2. What could make more sense than burning food for fuel?
        You must really hate children.

        1. I should have said, “Start with eliminating the ethanol fuel requirement.”

    2. “Stop subsidizing US agriculture and this isn’t an unreasonable goal. Hell, you might end up with more trees. There are more trees on the eastern seaboard today than there were at the time of first settlements. Why?”

      In addition to the shrinking agriculture land use effect you mention, I wonder if moving ship construction from wood to steel had a large effect?

      Though why not get rid of ag subsidies too. It was a shame Cruz didn’t get very far, as I’d never heard a candidate tell Iowa farmers that they weren’t going to get ethanol price supports or mandates, or many other ag subsidies under his administration, and yet he still did quite well in the state.

      1. If I remember correctly, about 40% of the corn grown in the US goes to ethanol production. The land used for that could revert to other crops, pastureland, grassland or forests.

    3. That fact was impressed on me in the early 1990s as I hiked in Pyramid Mountain Park in New Jersey and came upon the foundation of what had been a farmer’s house. There was no visible easy way to get there, as the old roads had been obliterated as well. All gone back to wilderness.

  7. I’ll bet there’s some room for trees in Australia.

    1. Too soon.

  8. Thanks to the willingness of new deal agriculture inspectors to accept bribes from farmers in the 30s, there is a lot of aerial photography over much of the midwest and great plains.
    One of the State schools has digitized those old aerial surveys and put them up with a way to compare to current satellite photos.

    Looking around the state with these maps, where its flattest, the tree quantity looks the same as the 30s. Where its more hilly the land has been left to naturally tree up. Just not worth farming on hills as much.

  9. it matters why a trillion trees get planted?

  10. Around my house, trees are weeds. I don’t know how many I have cut down over the years.

    1. HOW DARE YOU?

      1. It is self defense. I’ve seen what trees have done to abandoned homes.

    2. That’s what lawns are for.

      1. Mowing keeps them under control in the lawn. They keep popping up in flower beds and the back slope.

  11. The upshot is that meeting the Trillion Tree goal would essentially restore U.S. forest area back to about where it stood in 1630.

    Thank goodness the nomadic tribes the roamed North America 400 years ago kept such meticulous records.

    1. the fuck else did they have to do but count trees and buffaloes?

      1. Live in peaceful agrarian harmony with one another, and never ever engage in warfare or slavery?

        1. +1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

        2. Dont forget the earth worshipping religion they all shared and that they were all also naturally communist.

          1. Fn redskins!

          2. Not so much to the communism. While they lived in group houses, families has individual apartments *and storehouses*. At least in southern New England, according to some of my recent reading.

        3. lol scalps? what scalps?

    2. I’m pretty sure by 1630 Europeans had a pretty good map of North America, including where the big forests were

      1. Eurocentric history is bullshit or so I have been screamed at.

      2. They didn’t. It’s one of the reasons why Lewis and Clark roamed around the United States…in the early 1800’s. Making maps, specifically.

        The notion that they ‘know’ how many tree’s were in the U.S. in the 1600’s is, quite simply, absurd. It also ignores that huge amount of tree’s that almost certainly resulted from westward expansion.

        None of that is intended to say we shouldn’t plant trees, but it seems people have a lot of faith in Indian tree counts that never happened.

        1. I would think that where they found mature forests in 1800, it would be reasonable to assume that there were forests there in 1630.

          1. Not as reasonable as one might think, given that fire exists and you have almost 200 years of wiggle room. I’m not saying we can’t guess today based on several metrics, but it’s little more than a guess.

      3. What?

        Um, no. As BYODB points out above.

        It is very illuminating to look at old maps—the Perry-Castaneda Library at the University of Texas at Austin has a great collection—just to see how much our predecessors didn’t know about our planet. And how it wasn’t until relatively recently as history goes that we knew things like the forest composition of the interior of the NA continent, or the center of Africa.

    3. Yeah, that comment struck me as pretty ignorant of history. According to most modern historians, the population (and land use) of pre-Columbian North America was quite extensive. We only thought that it was an “empty land” because diseases like small pox swept through the native population far enough ahead of white settlers that many cultivated areas had returned to what looked like a “virgin” state.

      1. Learn to recognize sarcasm.

        1. From 2020 or 1630?

          1. Surely thou jesteth.

  12. I say go ahead and impinge somewhat on urban areas. I’ve lived on streets where there’s not a tree in sight and I now live on a street with lots of street trees. The difference in how
    good it feels every time I go outside is dramatic.

    I realize some trees can be messy in terms of dropping fruit or acorns or whatever, but that’s why you choose species that are well adapted to use in urban areas.

    1. I grew up in an area with mature trees. Nothing more beautiful and comforting to feel and enjoy on a lazy summer day with a gentle breeze or warm spring afternoon.

      It’s dramatic as you say.

  13. Also, for carbon capture, wouldn’t algae be relatively efficient? (assuming you dump it somewhere like in an old mine).

    1. Nah, just build housing with the wood. Wood houses make for excellent carbon sequestration.

  14. I would love to see more trees in California. But the water shortage due to the yuuuge population growth makes it impossible. The water can go to Democrat politicians, or trees, but not both.

  15. A wall of trees on the southern border! With huge friggin’ thorns and a web of poison oak!

  16. Sheesh. There’s no pleasing anyone.

    I thought the speech, overall, was refreshing. He basically told the alarmists to chill.

    The message was ‘we share your concerns but not your fears’.

    1. The message was ‘we share your concerns but not your fears’.

      Well phrased! That is exactly the nuance that I’ve been looking for in this whole thing.

      We’re gonna fix this, but we don’t have to destroy modern civilization, or condemn every individual to slavery to do so. We’re going to use our brains (which work individually), rather than rely on brute enforcement of authoritarian central planning.

  17. The Trillion Trees initiative doesn’t aim for all trillion of them to be planted in the U.S..

  18. Thus, it wouldn’t “restore the forest area back to 1630”.

  19. What’s better “restore the forest area back to 1630″….


    “Set the economy back to 1630” as the climate fundamentalists would through initiatives like the GND?

    1. But think of the growth possibilities!

  20. I figure, conservatively, in my lifetime, that I have planted about 10,000 trees, 95% of them in wilderness areas and national forests. I figure I have done my part?

    1. There are 327 million people in the US so your fair share was only 3, but thanks for doing mine for me

      1. No problem, and you are welcome.

    2. like you’re some kind of human pine cone or Johnny Appleseed?

      1. LOL. Nope. I spent a couple of years in forestry. It was fun. I would have kept with it, but there isn’t a whole lot of money in it.

  21. More trees!
    More co2!
    More warm!

    F yall ice age lusting bastards

  22. Climate Change, if caused by C02, will never be fixed with a single solution. This is a great way to start, certainly better than taxing us.

    1. And better than trying to restructure the entire world’s economy, too.

      1. If it doesn’t include an increase in the minimum wage, federal government running the entire healthcare system, and a mandate that all workers be forced into unions, it’s not environmentally friendly enough.

        1. But of course not!

  23. This would be a nice project. But, taking these figures with a bowl of salt, if we assume:

    Tree density in forests is at least 50k trees per square km and there are 1,035,996 square km of allegedly plantable land without being disruptive in any way. (converted 400 sq. miles)…

    We could theoretically plant ~52 Billion trees out of the 1 trillion goal in this space at forest-level tree density.

    But, 52B is the equivalent of every single person in the US (327.2M) planting ~160 trees every year for ten years… that’s a lot of trees, and I’ve got student loans to pay for, betches…

    1. Yep. But, as a long-term goal, it still can be PART of a plan. And one which has few downsides, at least compared to some other “green” solutions.

      1. I agree. I actually would really like to see this happen, but this is no small project. But given how ambitious a goal that it is (by 2030), it would require massive philanthropic effort AND/OR government action to attempt. Either effort will be very expensive, because you’re not just paying for trees, but the administration of the program, transportation, labor to plant the trees, resources to make sure they’re cared for and don’t just die, acquiring the land rights, etc. Also, there’s more involved than just planting trees, including assessing whether the land in question should have a forest planted on it at all; if not appropriate, there are huge potential downsides to planting, not limited to fires.

        Politically, this seems impossible, as any way to pay for this is going to hit some political wall, either from people who don’t want the government spending more money, or from people who oppose coercing behavior by tax code, or from people who don’t like giving special benefits to the people who have the means to feasibly make this happen. The USDA / US Forest Service has several “Reforestation Partnerships” to help do this already, by the way, though I’m not sure of the kind of success they’re having. The Nature Conservancy has the modest stated goal of 1B trees.

        Is there a market solution to this? Maybe, but if there was, why hasn’t this already happened?

        I would be willing to plant my 1.6k trees via some demonstrably effective philanthropy if my tax burden was reduced by some multiple (>1x) of the cost donated with no limit (if I wanted to plant even more). There’s no way I could afford it otherwise, and I would like to keep more of my own money as a general rule.

  24. These proposals and speeches by politicians are always just hot air, which by the way is getting hotter lately according to science.

    Who could be against trees though? The squirrels are going to be very happy.

    1. You know who might be even happier? The people paying to hunt squirrels in a swanky forest with water features.

  25. Good grief President Trump is now pandering to the Tree-Huggers!?!?!?!!?!?!! The same mob that stole all your kids future home-lots and jammed them all into unrealistically expensive mini-apartments that will bankrupt them or enslave them the rest of their lives.

    If I want more trees in my yard I’ll plant them. If the city park or city land wants more trees we’ll vote to put them there. If our county wants or needs more trees we’ll vote to put them there.

    WTF assumed Authority does Washington D.C. have in telling us what to do with our local sandbox!!!!! Screw their overly-aggressive authoritarian dictatorship demands… SCREW THEM!!!!

  26. Who does he think he is? Wayne Huizenga?

    RIP W.H.

  27. As climate schemes go, planting a lot of trees is preferable to forcing us to trade our suburbs and Suburbans for a transit pass and a tiny apartment in a Peoples Democratic Urban Housing Compound.

    1. Agreed.

      It’s pretty simple.

  28. A trillion is a lot of trees but a good idea. Harvested trees can be used to make containers, lumber, and all sorts of construction materials. Skyscrapers even. Also, trees can produce food. Plant trees where there is now lawn or just stop mowing lawns.

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