Paper No. 35-2
Presentation Time: 1:55 PM
MODELING THE IMPACT OF AFFORESTATION ON GLOBAL CLIMATE
Afforestation programs have become increasingly prevalent around the world as trees are considered crucial in mitigating climate change due to their carbon sequestration potential. In recent years, international agreements such as the Clean Development Mechanism established under the UNFCC have notably fueled afforestation activities. However, several complicating factors are often neglected when evaluating the effects of afforestation on global climate. For instance, while carbon uptake by forests reduces the greenhouse effect, the increase in evapotranspiration due to afforestation tends to increase it. An increase in forest cover also lowers the albedo of afforested regions due to the fact that afforestation efforts tend to be carried out on barren lands having relatively high albedo. Further, atmospheric transport exacerbates the cumulative effect of afforestation on global temperatures due to the interaction of poleward transport of sensible and latent heat with ice-albedo feedback.
We assess the impact of afforestation on global and regional temperatures utilizing a mathematical climate model incorporating carbon dioxide forcing, land/ice albedo feedback, evapotranspiration, and atmospheric heat transport. We investigate the extent to which changes in surface reflectivity and moisture content of the atmosphere caused by afforestation offset the cooling potential of carbon sequestration. In addition, we examine the degree to which these climatic responses depend on the latitude of the afforested region. Considerations such as these have the potential to increase the positive impact of afforestation efforts by identifying land types and latitude regions that, when planted, result in greater mitigation of global warming.