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National Arbor Day: Trees and Climate Change Mitigation

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Today is National Arbor Day. Arbor Day was originally founded by J. Sterling Morton back in 1872 and is celebrated each year on the last Friday in April. The idea behind Arbor Day was simple; set aside a special day for tree planting. Now, each year, we celebrate National Arbor Day by planting more trees. Whether done as an individual or as part of a community event, the objective is to get trees planted. 

As the old Chinese proverb goes:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Why is the second best time to plant a tree now? Why do we need to plant more trees? Well, trees are extremely beneficial to us as individuals and to the planet as a whole. Trees also play an essential role in mitigating climate change.

What Is Climate Change?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, climate change can be defined as, “A change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.”

Although the subjects of climate change and global warming are highly disputed, there can be various causes for climate change. One thing we do know is we, as humans, have had an impact on the Earth’s changing climate. The more harmful emissions we generate, the more toxic chemicals we use, the more greenhouse gases we let out into the atmosphere, the more the climate changes.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

Without our day-to-day actions disrupting the natural balance of our planet, the Earth’s climate would not have changed so dramatically. Burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, deforestation and changes in land use are some of the key ways we are affecting climate change.

Fortunately, making changes like move towards renewable energy, switching to more eco-friendly forms of transportation, eliminating one- or single-use plastics and even planting trees can help mitigate climate change.

How Trees Affect Climate Change

Power of Trees

Trees help remove carbon dioxide from the air, store/sequester carbon and generate oxygen. The U.S. Forest Service estimates forests in the United States alone offset between 10-20% of the emissions generated in the U.S.

According to Yale Environment 360, scientists have found planting 1.2 trillion trees could cancel out a decade of CO2 emissions.

Now, if we could do that AND lower the amount of harmful emissions we generate each day, week, month, year and decade, we’d be much better off in the long run.

10 Other Benefits of Trees

In addition to helping mitigate climate change, trees have other immediate (and long-term) benefits. Here are just some of the benefits of having trees in and around where we live and work:

  1. Trees provide oxygen for us to breathe
  2. Trees help improve air quality by removing odors, gases, particulates and toxins
  3. Trees can provide food and shelter
  4. Trees provide a habitat for wildlife
  5. Trees help lower the temperature in cities and towns
  6. Trees can be used to save energy in homes and local businesses
  7. Trees have been shown to reduce mental fatigue
  8. Trees can save water and prevent water pollution
  9. Trees help prevent erosion
  10. Trees provide children with play areas and places to learn

Needless to say, planting trees is an activity we should be doing not only on National Arbor Day, but throughout the year as well. The more trees we can plant or replant now, the better off the future will be.

So, celebrate this Arbor Day by planting a tree either in your own yard, a neighbor’s yard (with their permission, of course) or as part of an existing Arbor Day event. Get your family, friends and local community involved too. The more, the merrier!

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