Will 70 million acres of trees be cut down and buried to stop climate change? Is Bill Gates behind this plan?

By September 20, 2023 Environment, Technology

We saw a several posts and online articles claiming that Bill Gates is funding a company that plans to cut down 70 million acres of trees – purportedly to stop climate change. These posts express horror and shock and have been viewed by millions on social media.Other posts claim that the felled trees will then be buried underground as a means to reduce global warming, with some further insinuating that this is part of a large conspiracy by the global elite to destroy the earth.We looked into the claim to find out where it originated. The company claimed to be carrying out the “mass destruction” of trees is Kodama Systems, a start-up that is developing a forest management system in California. According to a press release released by Kodama Systems, Bill Gates is listed among a number of investors who have committed $6.6 million dollars to funding the company.

As described in a Forbes article published in July, Kodama is operating within a growing movement to better address the health of forests in America – particularly as wildfires have become a growing threat and the carbon produced from forest waste puts further strain on the climate.

Alongside efforts by the U.S Forest Service to actively clear forests using selective deforestation, controlled burns, and removing undergrowth, Kodama’s focus is to manage the forest waste being cleared. According to the article, forest waste is often left to decompose or deliberately burned. This causes the carbon within them to be returned to the atmosphere, further driving global warming. Kodama’s proposed plan is to transport forest waste to a prepared pit, where it will be buried under specific conditions – trapping the carbon and preventing its release.

The Forbes article is also the source of the shocking statistic “70 million acres of trees.” A careful reading of the text, however, shows that it specifically refers to plans by the U.S Forest Service (rather than Kodama Systems) to cull at-risk trees across an area of “densely packed forest.” Rather than all the trees across this 70-million-acre area being cut down, “thinning” of the forest will be carried out. This is a recognised technique used to keep forests healthy and prevent fires. In summary, while some trees will be cut down, this is part of efforts to combat and respond to climate change instead of a wild or dangerous plan. While the burying of trees and forest waste is a new innovation, it is one which could have positive impacts on carbon emissions. Further, the claim that 70 million acres of trees will be destroyed is inaccurate as only selective thinning is planned. Finally, while Bill Gates’ venture fund is involved in the funding of the company Kodama Systems, he is not directly involved with the company’s activities – much less behind them.

We therefore give this claim a rating of False.

By picking out snippets from more detailed reports and articles on Kodama System’s plans, this claim amplifies shocking one-liners that are inaccurate and misrepresent the actual plans and parties involved. As exemplified in this case, a misinformation red flag to watch out for is the lack of substantial details or links to reliable sources – particularly if multiple posts focus only on a sensational headline.

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