Ethiopia Plants Record-Breaking 350 Million Trees
About 353 million trees were planted in a single day in Ethiopia on Monday, setting a new world record for seedling plantings, as CNN reported.
The record-setting day is part of a wider "green legacy" initiative started by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office. The campaign wants every Ethiopian to plant 40 seedlings during the rainy season, which runs from May to October. In the end, the country will have 4 billion indigenous trees to help mitigate the effects of the global climate crisis.
Ethiopia is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather and has suffered from recurrent droughts and deforestation. According the UN figures, Ethiopia's forest coverage dropped from 35 percent a century ago to just 4 percent in the 2000s, as the Guardian reported.
While 80 percent of Ethiopia's population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, extensive farming has increased Ethiopia's vulnerability to land degradation, soil erosion and flooding, according to CNN.
Bekele Benti, a bus driver in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa who has witnessed the effects of deforestation, participated in the tree plantings.
"As a bus driver, with frequent trips across the country, I have witnessed the extent of deforestation in different parts of Ethiopia," Benti told Xinhua. "It's really frustrating to see forest-covered areas turned to be bare lands within a few years."
The Green Legacy project "is an ambitious undertaking to become a green society by planting various types of eco-friendly seedling to combat environmental degradation and, a national platform that will be used for various societal green activities," according to the prime minister's official website.
The initial plan for Monday was to plant 200 million trees, which would shatter the record for a single day planting, set in India in 2017 when 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees. To facilitate the planting, many government offices were closed and civil servants were given the day off to take part in the planting, as CNN reported.
After the 12-hour period ended, the Prime Minister posted to Twitter that Ethiopia had far exceeded its goal. A total of 353,633,660 tree seedlings had been planted, the country's minster for innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted, as CNN reported.
Abiy took part in the planting, making appearances that included stops in Addis Ababa, Arba Minch and Wolaita Sodo. More than 400 staff from the United Nations planted trees, along with staff from the African Union, and various foreign embassies in Ethiopia, according to the BBC.
Ethiopian Airlines was one of several corporate entities to join the effort. "Environmental sustainability is one of our corporate philosophies," said the airline, which shared pictures of its executives planting trees near airplanes, according to the Africa Times.
The move to plant so many trees comes in the wake of a recent study that planting 500 billion trees could remove one-fourth of the carbon in the atmosphere, as EcoWatch reported.
Planting Billions of Trees Is the 'Best Climate Change Solution Available Today,' Study Finds https://t.co/Qv5u6ZRnEL— Ibrahim Thiaw (@ibrahimthiaw) July 28, 2019
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Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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