Chicken Little once said, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” While that may not have been true then, it is not far off today. If climate change is not the most serious issue of your lifetime, then its consequences will be the most serious issues of your children’s lifetime. Not quite doomsday material, but do we really need to prove that we’re media obsessed before we act?
Urban forestry is simply about trees in places where people live.
Ultimately, conservation is about empowering citizens to improve the communities where they live and work. The Alliance for Community Trees is the only national organization working to improve the urban forests where 80% of Americans live- our cities, towns, and villages. ACT’s national office assembles coalitions that drive broad environmental success for our more than 180 organizations in 41 states in the pursuit of Clean Air, Green Streets, and Healthy Neighborhoods.
Heath Consequences and Costs
We are coming to understand the evidence on the economic impacts of climate change itself, as well as the economics of stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in pursuit of a a low-carbon economy and in ensuring that societies can adapt to the consequences of climate change. Human health effects from air pollution usually involve respiratory functions and can be quite severe. Just being exposed to ozone can reduce breathing capacity, cause coughing and throat pain, injure and irritate lung lining, and aggravate and increase asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, and increase premature risk of death for people with heart and lung disease. Exposure to particulate matter has similar effects along with the addition of making heartbeats irregular and producing non-fatal heart attacks. Illnesses related to air pollution cost the U.S. $150 billion annually, while 50,000 Americans prematurely die each year due to poor air quality.
Trees and Air Quality
According to National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), tree leaves reduce air pollution through the intake of gaseous pollutants and through decomposing particulate matter that drifts onto them. The same natural process responsible for carbon sequestration also absorbs accompanying gases like NOx and ozone, trapping them within the recesses of leaves. And although pollutants harm trees to a certain extent, without trees, those pollutants would land on individuals instead.
Fight Climate Change- Plant a Tree
Global warming is to blame for an increase in tropical storms, but you don’t have to live in or own a forest to fight climate change. Some cities are engaging in initiatives to build parks to climate proof their communities. In fact, cities are leading the way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And contrary to popular and misleading media stories, trees do reduce CO2 and greenhouse gases. By capturing airborne pollutants, trees not only create healthier places where kids play but also are indirectly responsible for less pollution being emitted. Well-shaded homes require less heating and air-conditioning, and better energy efficiency means less air pollution from utilities (in addition to financial savings for consumers). Also, because ozone requires heat, the cooling effect of trees limits the amount of ozone that can form. How about that for triple bottom line effects!
Carbon dioxide is readily and necessarily sequestered by trees, providing one part of the solution to the climate problem. Large trees are able to store significant amounts of carbon due to their massive size as their woody tissue expands as they grow. Under the right conditions, they can survive for hundreds of years all while photosynthesizing, and thus store carbon throughout their life span. While trees are not an end all solution to global warming, in combination with other methods like energy conservation and alternative energy, they fill an important role in a viable approach to addressing climate change.
So we’re all agreed (most of us) that climate change is happening, that humans are responsible for accelerating it, that there are direct correlations between energy, environmental, and global warming policies, that we can do something about it, and that trees are part of the answer. So the next logical question is, how do I participate?
At this moment, the nation wants action to secure real energy and climate security, action that goes beyond buzzwords such as green and sustainable. Healthy urban forests are key to helping our growing cities and towns to address climate concerns.
Find Out More:
Trees and Energy Savings
Trees and Cool Cities
California Climate Registry Urban Forest Project Protocol
Quantifying the Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Parks
The Alliance for Community Trees is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization (EIN # 68-0319301), and also participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC # 12402). To discuss planned giving opportunities, call us at 301-277-0040.