Most of us pass by them every day, not really taking much notice of them. Trees are all around us, steadfast and rooted, providing us with innumerable benefits – it is a wonder we don’t stop to thank them every day. They clean our air, reduce our stress and improve our mental health helping us live longer and healthier lives. They make our communities livable by preventing flooding and erosion, reducing crime and increasing our home’s property value. And now with climate change upon us, trees also reduce its effects naturally cooling our cities.
For decades, numerous articles have been written describing the important role trees and nature play in relation to the global climate. Trees are not only impacted by, and impact the global climate, they also directly influence the local temperature. In the warmer months, trees cool the air by evaporating water through their leaves and they moderate the ground temperature by providing shade. In contrast, they provide a slight warming effect on the ground surface in cooler months. (Something to keep in mind when planning out your garden!)
With the increased prevalence of hotter and drier weather, forest fires and pests are on the rise across the country, which in turn increases the release of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Canada’s forests are growing though, of course, and so can sequester a lot of carbon dioxide as well. In the long run, Canadian forests will continue to store vast quantities of carbon at a relatively stable level, and they will naturally over time reestablish themselves and recapture the carbon emitted. We can help in this process as well. As forestry companies replant after harvesting, governments can replant to restore forest cover to mitigate changes in our regions. The Government of British Columbia for example is spending millions of dollars to restore forest cover damaged by disease and wildfire, while the Government of Canada also recently decided to support Forests Ontario and restore funding for their 50 million trees program in Ontario. Both investments are positive measures to invest in Canada’s forests while we transition to a lower carbon economy.
We know that climate change is no small problem, and you may ask what can I do? While planting more trees is a great solution, we can’t leave it all up to them! So, our answer is simple and that is to understand how big your own carbon footprint is. Similar to managing your own money, you have to determine where you spend your money first to know how to find any savings. By looking at your own energy consumption, like tracking the amount of kilometres you drive or fly, or the amount of electricity you use, you can easily calculate your own monthly or annual footprint, or the amount of emissions you produce, using our carbon calculator. From there, as in saving money, you can determine how to shift little things in your life to try and reduce your own footprint or GHG emissions. The City of Edmonton’s Change for Climate program is a great example of actions we can all take, from simple ones like drying your clothes naturally or washing them in cold water to car sharing, to better insulating your home – and you guessed it – planting trees!
So, while planting more trees is both a practical and economical solution to fighting climate change, let’s not leave all the hard work up to the trees but rather ally with them and do our part as well. Simple actions can have big results, and while you are at it – next time you pass a tree, say thank you!