Is Hemp The Answer To Our Global Deforestation Crisis?

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The widespread cultivation of industrial hemp might hold the key to save the planet, fight pollution and efficiently tackle our worldwide climate crisis. So why isn’t it?

According to a 2019 analysis published in the journal Science, the cheapest way to solve our environmental issues and drive reforestation could be planting billions of hemp trees. 

Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide emissions – greenhouse gases – that drive global warming. The new report states that mind-blowing figure of two-thirds of all emissions caused by anthropogenic activities could potentially be removed by a worldwide planting programme. Reforestation would not only help ease rising global temperatures, but also bring other positive changes such as addressing mass species extinction and environmental pollution. 

Through an efficient planting system, 1 trillion trees could be restored for as little as US$ 300 million in funding, which amounts to only 2% of the estimates stated in the Green New Deal introduced by Democrats in the United States. 

Commenting on the revelation, Professor Tom Crowther at ETH Zurich University said that restoration is “overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.” 

Reforestation With Hemp?

Standing as one of the most cost-efficient solutions proposed, the only drawback of a global reforestation scheme would be time: it is projected to take 50 to 100 years for trees to grow and reach their full carbon emission absorption capacity. 

Hemp reforestation
Photo by Victoria Palacios on Unsplash

This is where industrial hemp comes in as an efficient alternative. Hemp is used in clothing, textile fibers, oil, food and other purposes. Hemp grows quickly, reaching as high as 13 feet tall within 100 days – making it one of the fastest carbon conversion solutions available.

Hemp is able to absorb more carbon dioxide per hectare than any other commercial crop, and can be grown on a huge scale on nutrient depleted soils with little water or fertiliser. It is also impressive because hemp can be cultivated on existing agricultural farms and included in the crop rotation, all the while regenerating depleted soil and positively affect yields. 

Hemp products can also promote biodiversity because they can replace petroleum-based plastic products that contribute to micro-plastic pollution. Our oceans and rivers are now being filled with tiny plastic particles, suffocating aquatic life and comes back into our food chain through water and seafood consumption. 

A New Value Chain

Furthermore, hemp cultivation eliminates environmental toxins in the textile industry. The current way we produce clothing creates huge amounts of toxic waste through harmful chemicals that drain into nearby rivers. Hemp fabrics can be made without the use of chemical substances, and help relieve environmental degradation caused by the textile and fast fashion industry.

Hemp as a solution is supported by previous research that emphasises the potential for a planting scheme to eliminate world environmental problems.

A 2012 study from the University of Michigan found that by absorbing pollutant gases through leaves, trees help to fight air pollution. In other words, the restoration of biodiversity through a global planting initiative – whether it be trees or hemp – would rival the negative impacts of pollution that contributes to climate change. 

We are pressed for time to save the planet, which we have destroyed at an alarming rate. Just having conversations about solutions is not enough – we desperately need to make progress on regenerating soils, oceans and forests, and hemp could do just that. It might be one of the cheapest, most implementable ecological solution to our current climate emergency. 

Lead image courtesy of Pexels.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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