Because trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen (the opposite of animals and us), it has long been thought that planting trees will help control greenhouse gases. In fact, Italy has been able to participate in the Kyoto Treaty by offering only to plant trees. But now it turns out that trees aren’t a solution, they are actually part of the problem.

Alok Jha writes in The Guardian that according to a new study, living plants may be responsible for up to a third of the methane in our atmosphere. Methane, which is also produced by gas expelled by ruminants, like cows?as well as being stored in the ocean floor?is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. Ice cores tell us that a powerful case of global warming thousands of years ago was set off by methane in the atmosphere?but we don?t know where it came from.

The methane in our atmosphere has tripled in the last 150 years. One of the causes of this is rice cultivation, and rice is a food staple in Asian societies like China, which is experiencing a population boom. It’s bad enough that China needs oil as much as we do. It will be an additional problem in the future if they to plant more rice to feed their growing population, leading to even more global warming. And if the newly-affluent Chinese start eating more meat and raising more cattle, even more methane will be thrust into the atmosphere.

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