A lot of people seem to believe that the entire cause of global warming is that humans are emitting lots of carbon dioxide. However, according to a source I found online (I accept it may not be entirely trustworthy) roughly 46% of trees on the planet have been destroyed since the dawn of the human race, we cut down 15 billion trees every year! Another source I found says that 16 trees absorb the amount of CO2 the average active person emits every day (an active person emits roughly 1kg of CO2 every day). This means we have destroyed enough trees that we no longer can support 937.5 million people! It also means that those trees are no longer taking in 937.5 million kg of CO2 . Here's a line chart showing deforestation from 1800 to 2010. The deforestation rate has gone up.

enter image description here

Credits to the appropriate authors.

Clearly, the global temperature of the Earth has gone up because of carbon dioxide, however the carbon dioxide has gone up because we are destroying plantlife. So, my question is: "When talking about global warming, why does nobody talk about plantlife? Wouldn't plantlife have a more immediate effect on getting rid of carbon dioxide than limiting how much carbon dioxide we emit?".

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    $\begingroup$ Trees are a carbon sink (until you burn them or do something to give it back). It is true that less trees mean that the carbon sink is reduced, but that says nothing about carbon emissions, which have steadily increased over time. Even if you could assign blame to the trees, they didn't cut themselves down, we are still on the hook for that anthropogenic change as well. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ As @casey said, you are completely correct that deforestation is helping to drive climate change - it is just one of a number of human activities that is having this effect. It doesn't mean that $\ce{CO2}$ emissions aren't a problem as well. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ I understand that we were the ones who cut the trees down and I'm not saying CO2 emissions aren't a problem. I'm saying that CO2 emissions are half the problem and that it isn't just the fact that we are directly burning fossil fuels. $\endgroup$
    – Hyden
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Hyden by the chart below in Farrenthorpe's post cutting down trees is closer to 10% of the problem, not half the problem. Running the numbers gets a little complicated since you have to factor in what the wood is used for, new plant growth where the trees were chopped, changes in albedo and changes in atmospheric water vapor, but from what I understand and I can run some numbers if you like, it's way way way less than 1/2 the problem. 10% is probably about right and people do talk about planting trees as a partial solution to climate change all the time. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 2:35

1 Answer 1


The short answer is that people do talk about it. It is commonly referred to as "land use change". In general, the carbon dioxide equivalent of the effects of land-use change is on the order of 10% of the total anthropogenic contribution to CO2 emissions. This may seem small, but it is important to realize that land-based plants are only a portion of the carbon dioxide sinks. You can see below an image from globalcarbonproject.org that shows the relationship. See here for full presentation.

enter image description here


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