How Planting Trees Can Help Fight Climate Change

It’s a fact: climate change is real and caused by human activity.  We’re living more comfortably than any generation before us at the expense of our children and grandchildren. We drive cars that burn fossil fuels and pump carbon dioxide(CO2) into the air. A lot of the electricity we generate and products we consume add more greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere.

Stopping our emission of harmful gasses has proven to be a challenge.  We’ve grown to depend on fossil fuels, and many governments and corporations are not responding due to habit or costs.  It won’t be enough for environmentalists to carry their own weight, because many other groups don’t see the urgency of climate change.  Planting trees is one option for environmentalists to do more.  For the problem of CO2 emissions, trees and plants can help through the process of photosynthesis.  That is, producing clean, breathable oxygen by consuming water, CO2 and sunlight.  Although it’s not as good as preventing emissions, offsetting emissions is a way for environmentalists to do more than cutting down on their own footprint.

 

trees-co2

Trees and plants produce oxygen by consuming water, CO2 and sunlight

 

A typical tree will absorb (sequester) up to one ton of CO2 in the first 40 years of it’s life.  Trees absorb more CO2 while they are growing, so absorption after the first 40 years is less significant.  Not all trees reach full size, so let’s say each tree planted will sequester an average of half a ton of CO2.

A typical, medium sized car driven 20000km (the average distance a Canadian drives each year) produces 4.6 metric tons of CO2.  This means, to offset a typical car’s emissions, you need to plant about 9 or 10 trees a year.  These numbers will vary a lot depending on the type of vehicle and what kind of trees are being planted.  This is just meant to illustrate the idea that emissions can be offset by planting new trees.  Not emitting CO2 is better than offsetting, but it’s best to do both.