Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Trees Can Limit Climate Change—Unless It Kills Them First

Here’s how forests could turn into a source of the very carbon we’re counting on them to absorb.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.
Photographer: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Forests could actually turn into a source of CO2, according to a study that paired climate forecasts with an analysis of records on more than two million trees across North America.

Scientists have considered forests a potential barrier to climate change, since plants on land take up about 25 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions. As trees in colder areas are exposed to warmer temperatures and more CO2 emissions, they will grow faster and absorb more emissions, helping to mitigate the effects of a primary greenhouse gas, the theory goes.