TREE planting has ‘mind-blowing’ potential to tackle climate change, according to scientists who have made the first calculation of how much land would be suitable for global reforestation.

Around 0.9 billion ha of land would be suitable for a worldwide planting programme, which it is estimated could remove two-thirds of human-made carbon emissions – some 205 billion tonnes.

All fields used to grow crops and urban areas were excluded from the analysis. However, grazing land was included.

The research was carried out by the Crowther Lab at ETH Zürich and published in the journal Science.

“This new quantitative evaluation shows forest restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Professor Tom Crowther of ETH Zürich.

“What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other solutions proposed.”

As the UK experiences soaring temperatures this summer, Friends of the Earth has backed reforestation as a means of protecting people from extreme heat, as well as combatting climate change. Tree campaigner Emi Murphy said: “Climate breakdown risks making heatwaves the norm, which will put more and more lives at risk in the future. Alongside slashing greenhouse gas emissions, we need more trees in our towns and cities to protect us from the impacts of summer heat that is already costing lives right here in the UK.”

The analysis, while promising, has received criticism from some. Professor James Meadowcroft of Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada said the research was not a “magic bullet” to solve the problem.

“If we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases through the combustion of fossil fuels, we can’t really escape climate change,” he told CTV’s Your Morning. Prof. Meadowcroft also questioned the practicalities of setting aside so much land as the world’s population increases. “It has to be a collective effort. It’s really about governments and municipalities and the urban effort and things like that – not just individuals.”

Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science, UCL, and Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at the University of Leeds and UCL, were sceptical around how much CO2 0.9 billion ha of new forest could store, arguing reforestation should be one solution to climate change among many.