We all know that we should plant more trees to minimise the damage caused by pollution, but did you know that trees reduce one-third of global emissions every year? Planting more trees can reduce the effects of air pollution because they absorb carbon dioxide, provide clean air, and mitigate climate change.

An excess of carbon dioxide pollutes the air. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It traps heat from the sun in Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, the planet is warming up quickly. This is the greenhouse effect.

Pollution in the air causes many human diseases, especially respiratory illnesses. In addition to this, it harms animals and interferes with plant growth and survival.

Carbon dioxide is used in photosynthesis to make food for plants. The leftover carbon is stored in the wood and in the soil the tree is planted on. The process by which trees absorb this gas is a form of carbon sequestration. It should be noted that these woody plants are carbon sinks. A carbon sink is something that takes in more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it releases.

A study in 2019 from the Swiss Institute of Integrative Biology revealed that planting one trillion trees would greatly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Secondly, trees release oxygen. The clean air released by these plants is naturally sustained because of the oxygen cycle. This cycle is the circulation of oxygen through various forms in nature. Animals breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, in contrast to plants and trees, which take in carbon dioxide and discharge oxygen. They capture light energy with their leaves. They use this energy to convert water, carbon dioxide and minerals into energy-rich compounds such as glucose for themselves.

During this process, oxygen is released by the trees through their stomata. In addition to this, trees also clean the air by removing particulate matter. Particulate matter are tiny particles of organic chemicals, acid, metal and dust. This matter is emitted from fossil fuel burning factories and cars, as well as construction sites. Fine particulate matter can damage the human respiratory system, causing lung and cardiovascular diseases.

Clean air is important for the health of people and, likewise, plants and animals. Polluted air damages the organs of animals and prevents plants from functioning properly. Particulate matter can cause heart disease, lung disease, strokes and other serious damage to people. A fully-grown tree produces as much oxygen in three to four months as much is inhaled by ten humans in a year. The Amazon rainforest produces 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen. Planting more trees will purify the air.

Last, but not least, trees minimise the impact of global climate change, which is caused by the greenhouse effect. The effects of climate change include severe droughts, storms and heat waves. Furthermore, this environmental problem causes rising sea levels, melting glaciers, biodiversity loss, and warming oceans. This phenomenon destroys the habitats of organisms.

Equally, global warming harms people’s livelihoods and communities. It causes problems such as food and water insecurity, climate migration, and poverty.

As well as reducing carbon dioxide levels, trees decrease ground-level ozone, which has adverse health and environmental effects and trap heat. They can also be habitats for many species that have lost their natural environments. Planting them can slow down climate change to give humanity enough time to transition to renewable, clean energy.

Research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions from human activities. The analysis in the study found there are around 1.7 billion hectares of land that are treeless on which 1.2 trillion saplings could grow. This is figure is mine-blowing to scientists.

An example of a real-world initiative that plans to tackle climate change is the Great Green Wall project in Africa. The movement has a goal to plant 8,000 kilometres of trees across the width of Africa. The Great Green Wall promises solutions to many emerging threats faced by Africans, including drought, famine, conflict, migration, and unemployment.

In conclusion, the efficient way to decrease the impact of air pollution is planting trees because of their ability to take in carbon dioxide, clean the air and slow down climate change. If you want to save the world, plant a tree with the help of your friends and family. In fact, make it a habit to encourage people to plant trees and care for those already planted. Help your planet!

Facts about trees

• An average size tree produces enough oxygen in one year to keep a family of four breathing.

• Trees cool the city by up to 10°F by shading our homes and streets and releasing water vapour into the air through their leaves.

• During one year, a mature tree can absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange.

• In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced by a car driven 26,000 miles.

• Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and can save 20–50% in energy used for heating.

• Nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced from burning one gallon of non-ethanol gasoline.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 20th, 2021

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