One Princeton University study suggested that deforesting the Amazon could potentially contribute to drought in places as far away as California, while other research indicated that recent droughts in Texas and New Mexico might be linked to cutting in the Amazon.
Despite the uncertainty embedded in these and other studies, “There’s lots of evidence that changing the water cycle in the Amazon would have global consequences,” said David Schimel, an eco-climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the author of “Climate and Ecosystems“. “It’s a fairly robust notion.”
While it is true that vast tree planting, which reroutes groundwater on a huge scale and absorbs far more energy than an unforested landscape, can have complex and potentially negative effects, “On balance,” if done properly, “it’s a positive strategy for climate change,” he added.
Some people aren’t waiting for further research and are hoping to geoengineer local climates with new forests. Bishop Fredrick Shoo, the bishop elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, has been planting trees with 100,000 of his parishioners upwind of Mount Kilimanjaro for 12 years, in hopes of cooling the hot, dry winds that are melting the mountain’s glaciers. During that time, he estimates, they have planted 3.7 million trees.
“My hope is we’ll be able to restore the forests of Kilimanjaro and save the water sources of Kilimanjaro,” said Bishop Shoo, known as the tree bishop. “We have a moral obligation to take care of creation and to be sure coming generations have a good place to live.”