Tall tree

As a complex problem, the climate crisis will require many solutions. While there is no silver bullet, it is widely accepted that stopping burning fossil fuels is the number one priority. However, planting lots more trees is essential.

Carbon storage

Trees have many benefits. They produce fuel, fibre and food. They also provide rich habitats and increasingly shade our towns and cities.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas driving global overheating and trees are the best way of capturing it from the atmosphere. As they grow, they absorb CO2 and release oxygen, which we need to breathe.

The world’s forests are an enormous carbon store. Scientists estimate they hold 861 gigatons of it – equivalent to a century’s worth of global fossil fuel emissions at the current rate.

New trees

In this context, planting trees is obviously fantastic. If you have room in your garden, please plant one, although not close to any buildings. Make sure to choose the right species for your locality. Ask an arborist or look online in Forest Research’s Urban Tree Manual – which also highlights threats from pests, disease and climate change. As temperatures rise, many traditional British species may no longer be suitable.

For those without outside space, you can contribute to tree planting via charities like The National Trust, The National Forest or Just One Tree. As large tropical forests are vital in the battle against climate change, you could give to the Rainforest Alliance. You can also use the search engine Ecosia, which plants trees with its profits.

Ancient Forests

While new trees are wonderful, it’s even more important to protect existing forests. New trees will take years to grow and capture carbon. The older trees are, the more environmentally precious they are. Indeed, The Woodland Trust describes ancient forests as ‘carbon eating machines’.

In the UK, for example, ancient woodlands make up just 25% of our remaining forests but hold 37% of all the carbon stored in trees. Centuries of undisturbed soils and accumulated decaying wood have not only made them powerful carbon sinks, but also unique habitats for creatures not found anywhere else. They need to be protected. It would take centuries to recreate them and we don’t have time for that.

Deforestation

When trees are cut down and burned, their stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. This is why deforestation is the second largest driver of climate change after fossil fuels. Unfortunately, it’s doubled in the last two decades – primarily because of industrial agriculture, like beef farming.

 

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