Climate change refers to the warming up of our planet Earth. This is because of the alarming increase in the amount of green house gases. Human activities, especially burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, have been the main cause for this. Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth. This traps the sun’s heat, thus raising temperatures.
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Even though climate change started in late 1800s, we have been more aware about this in the last century. The last decade, i.e. 2011 to 2020, was the warmest on record.
Causes of Climate Change
Climate changes happen due to both natural causes and human activities.
Volcanic eruption, solar radiation, tectonic plate movement, orbital variations etc.
- Greenhouse gas emission from driving a car or coal for heating a building.
- Clearing land and forests can also release carbon dioxide.
- Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main emitters.
Consequences of Climate Change
- Climate change mainly means warmer temperatures, but since everything in earth is interconnected, the ruse in temperature influence changes in all others. It brings about intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity.
- It can affect our health, ability to grow food, housing and safety.
- It causes a rise in sea level and saltwater intrusion which has made whole communities to relocate. On the other hand, droughts are putting people at risk of famine. As a result, the number of “climate refugees” is expected to rise.
- These changes have various impacts on the ecosystem and ecology as well. A number of species of plants and animals have gone extinct due to warming up of the planet.
- It also causes ozone depletion, affects water supply and transportation.
Importance of Forests in Combating Climate Change
Forests are storehouses of carbon but they are being depleted for urbanization. They make space for developing streets and buildings, parks, residential areas, and schools etc. This leads to the emission of large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which in turn has contributed to global warming.
Trees are of utmost importance as they remove carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. They protect coastal communities from extreme events and sea level rise and provides habitats for migrating plant and animal species. Four billion tons of carbon dioxide can be absorbed by forests, but 2.9 billion is lost due to deforestation.
Better management of forest is essential to help fight climate change. Planting more trees in cities can help diminish the effects of climate change but that alone is not enough. The emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be reduced.
Scientists suggest that we should develop a workable system for removing excess carbon from the atmosphere and the most realistic approach is to plant more trees. How many trees can help combat climate change? It’s not easy to fix a number for this. In United States alone, trees in the urban areas store over 708 million tons of carbon (approximately 12.6% of annual carbon dioxide emissions in the United States) and capture an additional 28.2 million tons of carbon (approximately 0.05% of annual emissions) per year.
Several governments and organizations have advocated plans to plant vast numbers of trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an attempt to slow climate change. Even though forests help in combating climate change, there are certain negative impacts of having too many tree. They emit a complex potpourri of chemicals, some of which warm the planet. The dark leaves of trees absorb the sunlight and raise the temperatures. Over the years, this could impact their cooling ability. So essentially there is a debate on how many forests are actually needed to combat climate change. According to Gordon Bonan, a geoscientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, “there are a lot of misstatements or overplaying of what can be done.” There are several researches going on but the scientists have not been able to reach a concrete conclusion.
Even though all forests having cooling effects, tropical forests are better at trapping larger amounts of carbon dioxide. “Tropical forests are like Earth’s air conditioner,” said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. So while planting trees to ward off climate change, it is vital to know the effects and adverse effects of these. It’s not the number of trees but the kind that makes the difference.
Although human activities have caused great damage to the climate and ecosystem, it is not late to start the recovery process. We may not be able to undo the damage that has been done to the environment, but we can start contributing to the protection of the environment by doing our bit. This way we can ensure of a healthy and safe haven for the generations to come.
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