The Value of Trees in Offsetting Carbon Emissions

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Saturday, July 19th, 2014
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Trees play a monumental role in reviving landscapes and decreasing carbon emissions.

In response to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement regarding the end of the carbon tax, opposition leader Tony Abbott has proposed stringent emission reduction targets which he says will be met by various government programs such as tree planting.

As politicians around the globe struggle to agree upon the most efficient way to address climate change, trees continue to be removed from landscapes.

Deforestation of the planet occurs at a rate of about 13 million hectares each year. Currently, only four billion hectares – or 30 per cent of the world – is covered by forest.

Not only do trees reduce carbon dioxide levels, they also provide a home and food for native animals. Forests house up to 90 per cent of land-dwelling animals.

Trees also prevent soil erosion, reduce soil salinity, conserve water, and provide shade from extreme heat.

Trees play a vital role in the daily lives of those in rural and urban communities either directly or indirectly. Rural communities rely heavily on trees for fuel, food, medicine and shade.

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Trees help combat climate change

Tree Planting – Does it Make a Difference?

In Lagos, Nigeria, the state government said it has planted 4.6 million trees across the state in an attempt to minimise the effects of climate change.

“So far, Governor Babatunde Fashola’s government in six years has successfully planted not less than 4.6 million trees,” said Commissioner for the Environment Tunji Bello. “More are still, as a matter of routine, being planted daily.”

The tree planting initiative began in 2008 with the aim of planting one million trees in 10 years.

Bello says planting trees across the state’s landscape has furthered the government’s green revolution campaign and helped to counter global warming and climate change.

The Australia Institute (TAI) has a more skeptical approach, saying tree planting, which is Australia’s most popular type of carbon offsetting, is less effective than other methods when it comes to combating climate change.

The reason for this is that forestry projects cannot guarantee the permanent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as forests eventually get burned, felled or destroyed.

TAI says evidence shows that offsets from forestry projects rank last, with renewable energy and energy efficiency offsets ranking most effective.

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement disagrees with those who say small-scale efforts such as tree planting are ineffective.

“I think that if people argue that local, small-scale action is a distraction from pushing for the big picture and systemic changes that are needed, I think that’s a really flimsy argument,” he said. “I would also say that pushing for those systemic changes doesn’t seem to be getting us very far,” he added. “We need government responses, we need campaigning, we need that whole gamut of approaches that produce change.”

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Trees provide shade and enhance architectural design

The preservation of trees within local communities is of utmost importance for architectural and engineering purposes.

Trees assist designs aimed at maximising views, providing privacy or screening unsightly areas. They also act as a sound barrier against noisy urban activities and roadways. Trees are often used by landscape architects to direct the flow of pedestrian traffic and enhance architectural design.

The property value of homes with trees and well-maintained landscapes are up to 20 per cent higher than those without.

“Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 per cent and save 20 to 50 per cent in energy used for heating,” says the USDA Forest Service.

Homes shaded by trees have a reduced need for cooling while homes with a tree windbreak experience lower heating costs.

There is a plethora of evidence showing mankind’s need to protect established trees and replant barren areas to restore a healthy balance.

“Although the challenges we face are huge, by breaking it into small manageable pieces we discover a new sense of what’s possible,” Hopkins said.

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