So, you’re interested in pursuing a Climate Solution related to Trees. Great choice! Read through this Deep Dive to learn more about this topic so that you’re armed with all the facts as you develop your project!
Deep Dive Table of Contents
On this page, you’ll find the following:
- The Trees section of our Climate Solutions Shark Tank video
- A deeper investigation of all things Trees
- An explanation of how deforestation is an environmental justice issue
- A helpful list of suggested project ideas to get you inspired
- Delve Deeper – A list of resources and further research for your team to use as you develop your project
Climate Solutions Shark Tank – TREES
How Trees and Deforestation Impact Climate Change
One of the most short-sighted things humans do that warms the climate is clear-cut forests. Forests actually help keep the earth’s temperature in balance by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing the carbon in their branches, leaves, trunks, and roots, and releasing oxygen. When forests are cut down, that stored carbon gets released back into the atmosphere, and nothing is left behind to reabsorb it. Today only about 30% of the world’s forests are still standing and what is left is going fast (National Geographic). Since 2016 we’ve cut down about a football field of forest EVERY SINGLE SECOND, and at this rate it’s estimated the world’s rainforests will be gone in 100 years (The World Counts). The loss of these tropical forests is particularly dangerous because when they are destroyed, they not only release carbon dioxide, they also release huge amounts of methane from tropical swamps and pools. Methane is a greenhouse gas that can trap 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide (Motherjones). Deforestation already accounts for about 20% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and unless we protect and restore forests, deforestation is projected to increase up to 80% by the year 2100 (GlobalChange.gov).
Trees, Deforestation, and Environmental Justice
Deforestation is driven by demand for land for cattle ranching, palm oil farming, mining, logging, growing crops for biofuels, and building towns and cities. Most deforestation (and the soil erosion, water pollution, and biodiversity loss that goes along with it) is happening in the developing world, but the beef, metals, biodiesel, and palm oil products are being consumed in the developed world. It’s a story of exploitation and environmental injustice (Environmental Justice Foundation).
When forests are lost to make way for cities, another climate change element comes into play – the urban heat island effect. Urban areas have fewer trees than rural areas, so there is less plant transpiration – which is a natural cooling process that occurs when plants release water vapor into the air. Urban areas also have more asphalt, stone, and brick which are typically dark surfaces that absorb heat. The result is that cities are usually warmer than rural areas (NASA Climate Kids). In fact, the daytime temperature of city can be as much as 5°F warmer than the nearby rural areas, and in the evening the difference can be as much as 22°F. Because cities are hotter, there is greater demand for electricity to run air conditioning. Electricity is usually made by burning fossil fuels, which create greenhouse gases, driving the earth’s temperature even higher (Urban Forests and Climate Change).
There’s a lot we can do to save and restore both tropical and urban forests. We can participate in tree planting and care events and support efforts to preserve forests. We can learn about products that are certified sustainable by nonprofit groups like the Forest Stewardship Council, the Rainforest Alliance, and the World Wildlife Palm Oil Scorecard. And the good news is that forest preservation and restoration have the potential to meet a third of the greenhouse gas improvements we need to make by 2030 to keep the earth’s temperature rise to 1.5°C (IPCC Climate Change and Land).
Trees Project Ideas and Inspiration
Campaign Types Key – 🔊 🏢 📅 👍
In a future Phase, you’ll learn about the different types of campaigns you can use to implement your solution. Each project below aligns with one or more of these Campaign Types so we’ve marked them out using these symbols:
- 🔊 – Public Education & Action Campaign
- 🏢 – Institutional Change Campaign
- 📅 – Event Promotion Campaign
- 👍 – Program Adoption & Participation
Solution: Increase Urban Tree Cover
- 📅 – Plant Trees! Host a community tree planting at your school, in your neighborhood, in a local park or wilderness area.
- 📅 – Restore Habitats! Work with a local conservation group to organize a habitat restoration project.
Solution: Protect Tropical and Old Growth Forests
- 🔊 – Fundraise for Forests! Educate and inspire the public to raise funds for an established reforestation or forest protection program.
- 🏢 – Advocate for Forest-Friendly Purchasing! Call on your school, your district, or your city to commit to purchasing only Forest Stewardship Council certified products.
Solution: Combat the Urban Heat Island Effect
- 📅 – Plant Trees! Host a community tree planting at your school, in your neighborhood, in a local park!
- 🏢 👍 🔊 – Green A Roof! Get your school, your city, or a local business to plant a demonstration green roof.
- 🏢 👍 – Cool The Parking Lot! Get your school, your city, or a local business to upgrade a parking lot with a cool paving coating.
Check out the below videos and links to help you learn even more about this topic!
Climate 101: Deforestation
The Story of Dirty Palm Oil
Greta Thunberg Interview
Don’t Flush Tiger Forests
Greta Thunberg Interview
Articles for More Info
Organizations that Can Help You Build Your Project
Environmental Justice and Trees
Next Step: Pick Your Climate Solution Topic
Are you sold on Trees for your project? Fantastic! Head back to Phase 1 to fill out the form titled “Phase 1.1 – Pick a Climate Solutions Topic to Focus On”
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