In cold and dark January, it is tempting — and encouraging — to think of planting, spring gardens, summer flowers and best of all, budding trees and leafy canopies overhead.

To those making plans now, consider the benefits of trees. They are important not just for adding beauty to our world but to alleviating the impact of climate change. Planting during dormant season is best, which means now until mid-March is a prime time to put spade to dirt. It can make a difference in the common battle for climate change.

A study published in the journal Science last July — “The global tree restoration potential” — found the Earth could support another 2.2 billion acres of forests. Planting another half-trillion trees, according to the authors, could reduce atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent. This is not an overnight fix, but it could buy time as the nations of the world reduce carbon emissions and take other steps to bring the globe back into balance.

Now, take that global perspective and bring it home to New Mexico.

The state is again in the middle of severe drought. It seems counterintuitive to think planting when water is scarce is even possible. After all, won’t the trees simply die for lack of moisture? It partially depends on whether individuals and governments plant the right kinds of trees.

In Albuquerque, for example, a group of partners are working toward a goal of planting 100,000 trees by 2030. They want to replace the city’s aging canopy and better position people for warmer temperatures. Trees are nature’s air conditioners, after all.

The Nature Conservancy — a leader in the effort with the city of Albuquerque — has put together a list of climate-ready trees for that city. The state Forestry Division also is preparing a list that will be adaptable to Northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe. It’s expected to be ready by fall.

Eventually, all climate zones in New Mexico will have a handy list of trees adaptable to their areas.

For property owners who want the shade of a tree to cool their home or business, that list will make choosing the best type of tree — and caring for it properly — much easier. The right tree in the right place, with enough room to grow, will improve the quality of life for years to come. It’s an action that benefits us here at home while improving the planet, the ultimate in thinking globally and acting locally.

Trees will shade property but also can be used in medians and along sidewalks to make the urban environment more comfortable. As temperatures increase, walking in midday will become uncomfortable and even dangerous. Placed strategically, trees reduce summer temperatures in urban areas anywhere from 2 to 9 degrees. They shade buildings and surfaces, deflect the sun’s rays and release moisture. They add beauty and grace to the world. And we need more of that right about now.

(5) comments

Richard Reinders

Where's the water to grow all these trees in NM

Mike Johnson

This is a good idea, planting any vegetation is a noble effort. I'm old enough to remember when the environmentalists were urging us to stop using paper bags and substitute plastic bags to "save the trees", I guess they all changed their minds?

Khal Spencer

Nice idea to plant trees, but as JC Corcoran notes, we are working at cross purposes. Deforestation is the name of the game to produce cheap food products such as meat and cooking oils (palm, for example). We can't have it both ways.

Personally, I think the symbol for climate protection should be the lowly condom.

Emily Koyama


JC Corcoran

Stop grazing on public land and plant trees where they once grew.... Cattle are the No. 1 agricultural source of greenhouse gases worldwide. Each year, a single cow will belch about 220 pounds of methane. Methane from cattle is shorter lived than carbon dioxide but 28 times more potent in warming the atmosphere.

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