The latest episode of the BBC World Service radio programme "Crowd Science," released on 12th January 2024, presents an engaging exploration of the potential role of reforestation in tackling the climate crisis. Hosted by Caroline Steel, the episode is a response to a query from a father and his twin sons, Harvey and James, from Derbyshire, England. Their question: "Is it possible to plant enough trees to absorb all the extra carbon we are emitting into the atmosphere?"

The Journey to Answers

The programme begins with a vivid description of Caroline, her producer Margaret, and a conservation scientist navigating through rugged terrains of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. This remote reforestation project serves as a model for understanding the wider implications of tree planting in mitigating climate change.

The Heart of the Matter

Harvey and James, enthusiastic about gardening and tree planting, wonder if mass tree-planting could be the solution to carbon emissions. Their simplistic yet profound inquiry leads the "Crowd Science" team to explore the feasibility and effectiveness of reforestation in addressing the global carbon crisis.

Insights from Experts

The episode includes insights from Charles Harvey, a professor of environmental engineering at MIT. He elucidates the role of trees in carbon sequestration and the limitations of relying solely on reforestation to offset carbon emissions. This is complemented by a discussion with Josina Varela from the World Wildlife Fund, who emphasises the importance of forest conservation alongside reforestation.

On-Site Observations in Romania

The journey to the Carpathian Mountains unveils the challenging yet rewarding task of reforestation. The Conservation Carpathia Foundation demonstrates the use of drones for monitoring reforestation efforts, highlighting the technological advancements aiding conservation.

The Reality of Reforestation

The programme concludes that while planting trees is beneficial for the environment and local ecosystems, it is not a standalone solution for the current level of carbon emissions. The importance of conserving existing forests, managing them sustainably, and strategic reforestation is emphasised.

A Blend of Hope and Realism

Despite the complex challenge presented by the climate crisis, the experts express a cautious optimism. There is a recognition of the critical need for a multi-faceted approach to mitigate climate change, involving forest conservation, sustainable management, and an accelerated shift to renewable energy.


The "Crowd Science" episode masterfully blends personal narratives, expert opinions, and on-ground realities, providing a comprehensive view of the role of reforestation in combating climate change. While planting trees is undoubtedly beneficial, it is just one piece of the larger puzzle in addressing the climate crisis. The programme encourages listeners to appreciate the broader context of environmental conservation and the collective efforts required to make a significant impact.

Listen to this programme here: