Climate change is often presented as a threat to future generations; yet most people alive today will experience its effects. Unless we start implementing climate solutions now, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will continue to escalate. 55% of the global population will be subject to lethal heat conditions during the summer months by 2050, at the current rate of global warming 1. 143 million climate refugees will also have to flee their homes, due to flooding and extreme temperatures 2.
Already, climate change threatens people’s livelihoods, biodiversity, infrastructure and food systems, often through extreme and unpredictable weather events. If we allow global warming to continue, the impacts on vulnerable communities will only worsen. If we choose to act complacently, it won’t just be our grandchildren suffering the consequences; it will be us. Fortunately, there are many innovative and practical climate change solutions.
Currently, 23% of Greenhouse Gas emissions are caused by land usage activities such as agriculture and forestry 3. With well-designed climate change mitigation projects, we can slow down and even reverse global warming. Many of the solutions to climate change promote the health of our society, as well as the health of our planet 3. Good land management practices can improve people’s quality of life, community resilience, food security, and biodiversity, whilst protecting us from climate change 3.
Tree planting has been suggested as an effective land management practice. If done effectively, it could provide a major solution to climate change. Globally, the number of trees has halved since the beginning of human civilization, from 6 trillion to 3 trillion. Unfortunately, we are currently losing 15 billion trees each year due to poor land management and forestry practices 4.
By planting 1 trillion trees across the world, and protecting existing forests, we could store an estimated 42-205 gigatonnes of carbon 5, which is approximately ¼ of human CO2 emissions 6.
In the UK, trees are being planted across the country, in a major effort to tackle our carbon emissions. The government has set a target to plant 1 billion trees by 2050. Right now, we only have 13% tree coverage in the UK. The Climate Change Committee report recommends that we must increase our tree coverage to 17%, if we want to significantly reduce our net carbon emissions. That’s at least 30,000 hectares of tree plantations each year, until 2050.
For this plan to work, trees must be planted across the country in gardens, parks, streets and agricultural areas, as well as forests. Creating new forest plantations is equally important as community projects, which empower people to take action and reduce their own carbon footprint. Despite being one of the main stakeholders, local communities often feel that they can’t make a difference. Yet their voice and contributions are important in the fight against climate change. By planting trees, residents can make a real change, whilst improving the quality of local green spaces. Trees also provide additional health, economic, wildlife, community and environmental benefits.
Although the climate crisis may seem overwhelming, we have the power to slow down or reverse climate change, depending on our willingness to make change. If every citizen in the UK planted a tree, we could store 6,400,000 tonnes of carbon each year 7.
If you want to get involved in tree planting and fight climate change, join us at one of our Forest For Peterborough volunteer days. This year, we will plant 25,000 trees across Peterborough with the help of our committed volunteer team. To find out more and get involved, contact [email protected]
1) Spratt, D. and Dunlop, I., 2019. Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach. [pdf] Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration. Available at: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_b2c0c79dc4344b279bcf2365336ff23b.pdf
2) Rigaud, Kanta Kumari, de Sherbinin, Alex, Jones, B., Bergmann, J., Clement, V., Ober, K., Schewe, J., Adamo, S., McCusker, B., Heuser, S. and Midgley, A. (2018). Groundswell. Worldbank.org. [online] Available at: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/29461.
3) Climate Change and Land. (2019). [online] IPCC. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2019/11/Headline-statements_Final.pdf.
4) Crowther, T.W., Glick, H.B., Covey, K.R., Bettigole, C., Maynard, D.S., Thomas, S.M., Smith, J.R., Hintler, G., Duguid, M.C., Amatulli, G., Tuanmu, M.-N. ., Jetz, W., Salas, C., Stam, C., Piotto, D., Tavani, R., Green, S., Bruce, G., Williams, S.J. and Wiser, S.K. (2015). Mapping tree density at a global scale. Nature, [online] 525(7568), pp.201–205. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14967.
5) Skeptical Science. (2020). How much would planting 1 trillion trees slow global warming? [online] Available at: https://skepticalscience.com/1-trillion-trees-impact.html
6) Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. (2020). Greenhouse gas emissions. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/greenhouse-gas-emissions.
7) Viessmann (n.d.). How much CO2 does a tree absorb? [online] Available at: https://www.viessmann.co.uk/heating-advice/how-much-co2-does-tree-absorb.