Can Cutting Down Trees Actually Help Save The Planet?

It may sound antithetical to what we usually hear about climate change, but cutting down some trees could actually be a good thing for our environment, according to new research.

Trees provide natural carbon storage, and cutting them down leads to a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions. But a pair of scientists at Dartmouth College plan to present new research this week that suggests that, in some snow-covered places in the world, cutting down trees might have a net benefit for the climate because of the cooling effect the snow provides.

Let’s back up for a minute and first explain what they mean. That requires understanding the basics of albedo — which to put it simply is the amount of solar energy reflected off a surface. Surfaces that are covered in snow are white, and they reflect more sunlight, which has a cooling effect. Surfaces that are darker in color, like forests, absorb more light and are warmer. Think of snow like a mirror, bouncing heat back off into space.

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