Asked about climate change in the context of the massive US heat wave, Speaker McCarthy had one thing to say: plant a trillion trees!

NBC News July 18th

As Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited a natural gas drilling site in northeast Ohio to promote House Republicans’ plan to sharply increase domestic production of energy from fossil fuels last month, the signs of rising global temperatures could not be ignored. Smoke from Canadian wildfires hung in the air.

When the speaker was asked about climate change and forest fires, he was ready with a response: Plant a trillion trees.

OK, certainly makes for a good soundbite, but has anyone on the Republican side of things given any details? Where are these trees planted? Who pays for planting and maintenance? (China's Gobi desert reforestation efforts seem to have had mixed results, partially due to a plant-first, neglect-later mentality). How do you keep them safe from wildfires? And how do you not displace food crops?

Just to quote one extra illuminating detail from the NBC article:

Planting one trillion trees would also require a massive amount of space — roughly the size of the continental United States.

So, aside from whether it is a good idea or not, it's not something easily done. Now that it seems to be their answer to climate change, have Republicans detailed anything about this trillion trees, besides talking up lumber industry benefits?

Note: I am not asking for criticism of this proposal, merely the details of how Republicans propose to implement it.

p.s. The NBC article linked to Reuters coverage of McCarthy which in turn linked to an article in Nature from a Swiss team of researchers about those Trillion Trees. That link is dead, but here's another citation on that research (again I am not asking about debunking of said proposal by other researchers, only about Republican statements of how they propose to act upon it).

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    As an interesting note it seems there are just over 3 trillion trees in the world which is up from an estimated 750 million in 1920 which if true suggests the plan won't do much. gotreequotes.com/are-there-more-trees-now-than-100-years-ago/….
    – Joe W
    Jul 25, 2023 at 0:37
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    @JoeW Reading through your quote I suspect that the global estimate for 1920 is just a lazy (and wrong) extrapolation from the US to the rest of the world. It is true that the US has way more forest now that it had 100 years ago. Europe may be similar. Essentially everywhere else in the world there are less trees today than in 1920.
    – quarague
    Jul 25, 2023 at 6:59
  • There have been various very ambitious tree planting plans with targets of a billion or more in different countries, e.g. Pakistan aiming for 10 billion (although I can't get an exact number they must be close). See also Wikipedia on the trillion tree campaign which mentions the US schemes.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 25, 2023 at 10:23
  • @gerrit You can ignore the lumber industry regarding planting trees. The industry plants its own forests to use and is a major contributor as to why the US has more trees now than 100 years ago. That's aside the point that planting trees is just a dumb idea regarding climate change. At best it provides a very short-term respite, but no solution. Napkin math: Trees weigh about a ton, half is carbon, half is water. Humans produce roughly 40 gigaton's CO2 a year. CO2 roughly 25% carbon by weight. A trillion trees is ~50 years of carbon emissions.
    – David S
    Jul 25, 2023 at 15:14
  • @gerrit I am not going to link to it because that would partisan-up my question more than I want to, but "Beau of the Fifth Column" YouTube guy has a recent vid saying just that: admitting there's a problem - and debating it in the Republican sphere - is secondary, at this point, to the specifics of the "solution". Chatty guy, posts multiple times per day, but often has unusual insights. Logging may be good tho: lumber also stores carbon and you can plant a new tree to absorb more. Jul 25, 2023 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


H.R.2639 - Trillion Trees Act introduced on April 19, 2021, (but not enacted) with 105 cosponsors, including (now-Speaker) Mr. McCarthy, set forth a plan to, among other things:

  • Establish the Trillion Trees Task Force,

  • Establish the Philanthropic Reforestation Advisory Council,

  • Establish the Trillion Trees Challenge Fund, and

  • Set aside ten million dollars to endow the Challenge Fund.

The Challenge Fund would also accept private donations to be distributed on advice by the Advisory Council. Those wishing to plant trees would submit a proposal to the Secretary of Agriculture who would consult with the Advisory Council which would maintain a list of projects recommended for funding.

  • So would it be fair to say that this is not a currently active project, at least until the Republicans spend the political capital to reactivate it? I will probably accept this later, but just want to see if someone else finds a link to recent Republican moves on this. Jul 25, 2023 at 20:18
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    It is not active as a US government program. It is active in the US as an NGO with some state and local government support, see the FAQ at us.1t.org/about. The Governor of Wisconsin and the Mayor of Tucson are on the Stakeholder Council.
    – Rick Smith
    Jul 25, 2023 at 20:34
  • Thanks. Another point of clarification: this is a trillion trees at the world level, correct? I.e. it's meant to support the US component to assist in adding a a trillion trees globally. Not to plant them all domestically. Jul 25, 2023 at 20:37
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    One trillion globally. At Davos, Trump committed to 51 billion for the US. For however much it may count, 55,162,314,547 is the goal for the US NGO.
    – Rick Smith
    Jul 25, 2023 at 20:41
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    @RickSmith ...55,162,314,547 is the goal for the US NGO That so makes me want to go in after they planted the trees and plant a few extra. "Hey, how'd we get 55,162,314,552 trees? Better count again!" :-D
    – Just Me
    Jul 25, 2023 at 21:52

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