House Republicans propose planting a trillion trees as response to climate change


WASHINGTON (AP) — As Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited a natural gas drilling site in northeast Ohio to promote House Republicans’ plan to sharply increase domestic production of energy from fossil fuels last month, the signs of rising global temperatures could not be ignored. Smoke from Canadian wildfires hung in the air.

When the speaker was asked about climate change and forest fires, he was ready with a response: Plant a trillion trees.

The idea — simple yet massively ambitious — revealed recent Republican thinking on how to address climate change. The party is no longer denying that global warming exists, yet is searching for a response to sweltering summers, weather disasters and rising sea levels that doesn’t involve abandoning their enthusiastic support for American-produced energy from burning oil, coal and gas.

“We need to manage our forests better so our environment can be stronger,” McCarthy said, adding, “Let’s replace Russian natural gas with American natural gas and let’s not only have a cleaner world, let’s have a safer world.”

The Biden administration has also boosted exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe after Russia, one of the continent’s largest suppliers of energy, invaded Ukraine. The Democratic president has also said that coal, oil and gas will be part of America’s energy supply for years to come.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that heat-trapping gases released from the combustion of fossil fuels are pushing up global temperatures, upending weather patterns around the globe and endangering animal species. But the solution long touted by Democrats and environmental advocates — government action to force emissions reductions — remains a non-starter with most Republicans.

Enter the idea of planting a trillion trees. A 2019 study suggested that planting trees to suck up heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could be one of the most effective ways to fight climate change. Major conservation groups, and former President Donald Trump, who downplayed humanity’s role in climate change, embraced the idea.

But the tree-planting push has drawn intense pushback from environmental scientists who call it a distraction from cutting emissions from fossil fuels. The authors of the original study have also clarified that planting trees does not eliminate “the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

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