A Tale of Two Forests: China and the Great Green Wall
Date: 18 Dec 2022
Forests provide a massive bulwark against climate change; their continued existence and growth, alongside other efforts, are necessary to combat total climate catastrophe. While many countries only make the climate situation worse, China has advanced by leaps and bounds in reforestation and climate protection in recent decades. The world must look at China as a leader for clean energy and reforestation methods. One of many ways China is fighting climate change and choosing the planet over profits is their Great Green Wall—a project that fights climate change through forest expansion with the specific intent of stopping expansion of the Gobi desert.
Expansion of the Gobi desert poses many problems for China—the primary issues being dust storms hitting Beijing and the desertification of grasslands used for farming and grazing. Growth of the Gobi is partially man-made, but also propelled by the climate, as highlighted by National Geographic:
Primarily, growth of the desert seems to be an unintended and unexpected consequence of China’s rise and industrialization over the past decades, a consequence that they are aware of and trying to fix. On December 12th, 2022, Beijing experienced a dust storm that led to dangerous levels of air pollution. These dust storms happen a few times a year, one of the worst ones in recent history being March 15, 2021. Skies turned orange, visibility was terrible, air quality was low, and millions of citizens struggled through the dusty and dangerous conditions. The frequency of sandstorms like these has decreased from 26 annually in the 1950s to about 3 since 2010, and will continue to stay low as the Great Green Wall continues to be built.
The Great Green Wall is not just a good idea: there are large and measurable results seen in its success. No country has contributed more to the growth of forests than China in the past 20 years. Since 2000, China has contributed to 25% of global green leaf area growth. The TNSP and National-Tree Planting Day are both important factors that contribute to the achievement. As illustrated in the map above, China has contributed more to leaf area growth than any other country on earth, with India coming in second. The TNSP was not perfect when it was initially launched, and it is still not perfect. When the project was in its infancy, only 37% of planted saplings survived; however, in China’s previously mentioned UN report, they note that they were aware of the situation and made many changes to raise the rate by 23%, to 60%. The funding, learning, and technological advances continued and by the 1990s, the preservation rate was over 85%. President Xi Jinping has specifically spoken about the issue of quality: