Flat White

How dare he!

12 October 2019

3:47 PM

12 October 2019

3:47 PM

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has stolen even more of Greta Thunberg’s childhood by winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, beating the 16-year old Swedish Apocalyptic who seemed to have been the sentimental favourite of the international chattering classes (and the betting site Ladbrokes) by playing the same role for climate strikes as Ronald Reagan once played for Chesterfield cigarettes and throwing a tantrum at the United Nations where she shouted at the adults for killing the planet.

Ali was awarded the prize for ending the twenty-year conflict with neighbouring Eritrea (once a part of Ethiopia) and the general moves to liberalise what has been a rather unappealing regime. In other words, Prime Minister Ali got his Peace Prize for actually bringing peace. Radical, eh?

Interestingly, Ali has not only done more for peace than Thunberg (it’s perhaps not a great claim to fame to have beaten a 16-year old girl, but hey, her cheerleaders in the media and elsewhere have turned her into a cross between a saint and a savant); he has also done far more for the environment. While Thunberg and millions of others wagged school and work and sat on their asses to save the Earth, Ali and millions of his compatriots got off theirs to do something quite spectacular recently:

Ethiopians planted more than 350,000,000 trees* in just 12 hours on Monday [29 July], the country’s minister of innovation and technology announced on Twitter. The mass-tree planting not only helps the environment, it sets a world record, the Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed created the initiative to help restore Ethiopia’s landscape, which experts say is being eroded by deforestation and climate change, the AP reported.

The country’s goal was to plant 200 million trees in one day. But Getahun Mekuria, Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology, later announced that 353,633,660 trees were planted…

Ethiopia has a larger goal of planting 4 billion trees between May and October 2019. So far, more than 2.6 billion trees have been planted in almost all parts of the country, the AP reported.

Planting trees is one of the most effective ways of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, which the trees (and all other plants) do through the process of photosynthesis as they grow. In fact, half the weight of a tree is carbon. Statistics vary between countries (and climates, soil conditions, etc), but a hectare of wood in the United States has some 118 tons of carbon, while in Europe the figure is 177 tons (density of trees can also, of course, vary widely but the plantation average is 1000-2500 per hectare). By the way, one tonne of carbon accounts for 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide, with oxygen being released back into the atmosphere.

I recently calculated that to implement Greta’s plan for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 would require covering the whole area of the United States and India with wind turbines, at a bargain cost of US$60 trillion. A recent study has meanwhile established that planting slightly less than the area equivalent of the United States with trees (0.9 billion hectares) would store 205 gigatonnes of carbon. For comparison, this is more than half of the 375 gigatonnes of carbon emitted by the humanity since the start of the Industrial Revolution (half of which has already been absorbed in various natural carbon sinks).


And it would be cheaper too. The price of planting a hectare of trees can likewise vary tremendously from country to country (including, as it does, labour costs and other inputs) and can be as low as $20 per hectare in some parts of Africa to anywhere up to $10,000 to regenerate Amazonian rainforest (I know, the variations seem to be quite crazy).

In Australia, it costs between $1.50 and $2.00 to plant a tree (in a plantation setting). Assuming the higher density of 2000 trees per hectare, that gives us a price of about $4000 per hectare. Or $3.6 trillion for 900,000,000 hectares – meaning US$2.4 trillion at today’s exchange rate. That’s 24 times less than the cost of powering the world with wind (and that’s only the very direct cost of erecting the turbines) and so much more aesthetically pleasing and healthier for the world than a forest of giant windmills. These are Australian prices, too, and planting trees throughout the developed world would no doubt be much lower, further decreasing the total cost of the initiative.

These are all back of an envelope calculations by a non-expert, and flights of fancy too perhaps. Yet for a tiny fraction of the cost of mad and unrealistic schemes being proposed by Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and many others, we could effectively suck out over the next 30 years all the excess carbon we have put into the atmosphere, while at the same time making our plant greener, healthier and more beautiful.

I suspect though that The Arthur Chrenkoff Patent Plan to Green and Save The World(TM) would not meet with the approval of all the climate alarmists and hysterics. Perhaps it’s too practical and hands-on. It certainly doesn’t address their pathological hatred of traditional fuels. And deep down, as it becomes more and more apparent with every passing day, all the sound and the fury is not really about the environment anyway.

In any case, congratulations to Prime Minister Ali. The prize is well deserved. We need more peace – and more trees.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

Illustration: Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. 

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