Tree Science
They really are remarkable, you know…
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So why are we planting trees, anyways?
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The first step is understanding what is making the Earth warmer. The Earth’s atmosphere retains some of the heat we get from the sun. And when we add certain gases to the atmosphere, we cause it to retain more of that heat. This is called the greenhouse effect.
One of the gases that contributes to this effect is carbon dioxide, or CO2. CO2 is created by burning fossil fuels, which are used by:
  • Cars (even some electric cars)
  • Planes (private planes especially)
  • Ships (such as merchant vessels)
But if we carpool, fly only when we have to, and buy local, we can reduce CO2 emissions!
The greenhouse effect is a problem because warmer weather typically means more dangerous weather, just like the storms Sarah was worried about. Some examples are:
  • Stronger, more dangerous hurricanes, like in Florida and Puerto Rico
  • Brush and forest fires, like in California and Australia
  • Floods resulting from rising ocean levels
It also makes life more difficult for humans and animals. Just like melting ice caps make it more difficult for polar bears to find food, climate change makes it more difficult for farmers to take care of their crops.
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How do we remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?

There are a couple of creative ways to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that scientists are working on, but the simplest way is all-natural and all around us: trees! Plants need carbon dioxide the same way we need oxygen, and just like how we release carbon dioxide when we breathe out, trees release oxygen when they make food. Without even knowing it, you’ve been helping trees your whole life, and they’ve been helping you!

There’s so much carbon dioxide in the air that it’s really unlikely that we could plant enough trees to take out all of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s why it’s important that we help protect existing forests. There are also certain kinds of trees that are better than others at taking carbon dioxide out of the air. Trees that grow quickly, have dense wood, and live for a long time are best at storing CO2.

And there are some parts of the world where trees are more effective at taking CO2 out of the air. For instance, the Amazon rain forest is in a part of the world where trees are more imporant for capturing carbon than others*. It’s also one of the places where we’re cutting down the most trees! So planting a tree in your backyard is helpful, and will be helpful for a long time, but planting a tree in a rainforest is even more helpful.

* This is because of something called the Albedo Effect. Send us an email if you want to learn more about it! (or you can Google it because, well, Google is faster than we are. But we are a lot more friendly.)
If planting trees won't be enough, what else can we do?
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That is an excellent question. Planting trees is just the beginning, and a great way to begin being more aware of how we impact the Earth and how we can take better care of it. Anything that is an example of being careful of using resources is a good place to start. Try to share rides when you travel places (the carpool lane is usually faster!), make sure you’re careful to turn out the lights when you leave your house, don’t watch too much TV or spend too much time on the computer, take short showers, recycle your plastics... There are lots of good strategies out there, and they don’t have to all be centered around carbon dioxide! And maybe you have an idea that no one has thought of yet... Just remember how many people are on this planet, and think about sharing with them.
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