How A Single Type Of Tree Can Combat Climate Change

A San Francisco-based company may have found a way for a single type of tree to effectively combat climate change.

By Joseph Farago | Published

climate change

Now more than ever, politicians, organizations, and regular citizens are attempting to fight back against the rapid climb of climate change. Part of the worsening effect is due to considerably large amounts of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere. The carbon, as well as other greenhouse gases, collect in the ozone layer and traps too much heat on Earth, which has slowly raised the global temperature. One of the critical ways to dilute an overabundance of carbon is by planting trees. One tree, in particular, could be the key to fighting devastating climate change.

There have been many initiatives to plant more trees to combat climate change. The problem with this is that trees take time to grow, which doesn’t effectively counter all factories and corporations emitting massive amounts of carbon yearly. But even if the factories were soon converted into greener energy suppliers, the harmful gasses that have been pumped into the air over the past 200 years would still remain. Planting trees are one of the only solutions to removing carbon that’s built up in the atmosphere.

Living Carbon, a San Francisco-based company, has stated that it’s invented a rapidly growing tree to fight climate change. Living Carbon created a genetically modified poplar tree that grows way faster than the average plant. These plants can convert carbon dioxide quicker than regular trees since they can mature more efficiently. The startup manipulated the poplar’s genetic code to speed up its photosynthesis, allowing the plant to transform energy from carbon and water. The quicker the tree’s food conversion time, the faster the growth is for the plant.

According to Living Carbon, it’s modified poplar works. The organization saw a 53% mass growth in six months for one tree than a standard poplar would have. This type of tree can convert almost 30% more carbon in its lifetime. Though these findings are impressive, the recent poplars are only proof-of-concept trees and must be proven to last a tree’s typical lifecycle. Still, the evidence showcases a promising new way to slow down climate change.

The environmental group doesn’t plan to stop its climate change fight. Living Carbon’s goal is to plant four million genetically modified poplar trees by 2023. If the group can double the amount of planted trees every year by 2023, then it can effectively remove 604 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Though that’s a massive reduction, 600 million metric tons is less than 2% of the total carbon emitted yearly.

Though Living Carbon’s mission is to fight climate change, the modified poplar trees have another beneficial purpose. Genetically edited trees can also be a critical element in restoring damaged land. Living Carbon’s co-founder Maddie Hall says more than a third of the globe’s harvestable land has been “degraded by human activity.” Living Carbon’s poplar trees could remove carbon from the soil itself, making the land habitable again in treated areas.

Science may be the only tool we have to stop the effects of climate change. Living Carbon’s new gene-edited trees could be a productive resource for eliminating humanity’s massive outpouring of greenhouse gasses.