By David Flemming
A new study has been changing the conversation from “should we use the Green New Deal or a carbon tax to combat climate change?” to “could we just plant more trees?”
Two years ago, the ESSEX carbon tax was introduced as one the key bills for fighting against climate change in Vermont. ESSEX lost much of its luster when put under the microscope by small-government advocates on the right and low-income advocates on the left, concerned over how such a tax would impact poor households — often in the neighborhood of a couple hundred dollars a year. Advocates had to settle for piecemail legislation, such as increasing the heating fuel tax last legislative session. Nationally, the Green New Deal would be even more extreme in the burden on American taxpayers — as much as $70,000 per household.
A new study published in a prestigious academic journal suggests a radically different solution to climate change, summarized as follows: “the July analytical review in Science … found that there are 1.7 billion hectares (4.2 billion acres) of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. Using the most efficient methods, 1 trillion trees could be restored for as little as $300 billion — less than 2 percent of the lower range of estimates for the Green New Deal introduced by progressive Democrats in February 2019.” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., estimates that her Green New Deal would cost $10 trillion, though many estimate it would cost much more.
So the ball is in the court of Vermont’s Legislature. In addition to having one of the lowest CO2 emissions per capita in the U.S., only New Hampshire can best Vermont’s 76% of land covered by forest, meaning our state’s trees suck up much of the CO2 emitted by our neighboring states less covered by forest. We are already doing more than our part in the fight against climate change.
If we really want to go overboard, perhaps we should think of getting rid of some of the solar panels that mar our mountain views? Then we can replant the trees that we cut down to make space for those solar panels? In a few decades those trees will be absorbing CO2 while the solar panels will by lying in a landfill. Anything goes in the fight against climate change.
Vermont is already in the process of investing in its forests. Burlington spent $19,600 to plant 266 new trees in 2018, and is on track to spend $39,200 for 360 new trees in 2019. Unfortunately, much of that planting is being done to combat the insidious tree diseases that have been attacking Vermont trees for the past decade. Still, any newly planted trees may grow faster than they may have a few decades ago, ironically due to increased levels of CO2 climate change.
Perhaps environmentalists should stop investing so much money in lobbying for draconian and burdensome carbon taxes on Vermonters. Then they can really push back against climate change by investing those lobbying dollars into planting new trees (in Vermont or elsewhere) and in researching new ways to protect the trees that we have.
David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.