Nature's Tipping Point

By Gangloff, Deborah | American Forests, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Nature's Tipping Point


Gangloff, Deborah, American Forests


Combating global climate change must include trees.

EDITORIAL

Global climate change is once again making headlines, but this time with a difference. It used to be those who were talking about the reality of global warming who were marginalized; now that stigma belongs to those who don't. Time magazine recently cited a Time/ABC News/Stanford University poll that "85% of respondents agree that global warming probably is happening. Moreover, most respondents say they want some action taken."

There have been some improvements, but the changes to date are not enough. Climate change has brought rapidly receding glaciers, melting polar ice caps, thawing permafrost in Alaska, species migration, and increasing storm frequency and intensity. The practical reality is that the costs of climate change to businesses will continue to rise.

It's clear that environment, energy, and economics are inextricably entwined; you can't care for one while ignoring the others. Trees and managed forests can help us address these issues simultaneously.

Of the eight greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most abundant, constituting over half of the total heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The planetary counterbalance to this build-up has been the oceans, which absorb the gas, and the trees and forests, which "fix" carbon dioxide into their structure during photosynthesis. Ninety percent of the carbon that is fixed in solid form on the Earth's surface is held in the world's forests. Forest trees take in 26 pounds of atmospheric carbon dioxide a year and release about 13 pounds of oxygen, enough to keep a family of four breathing for one year.

AMERICAN FOURESTS began addressing climate change with tree planting nearly 20 years ago. It was a difficult sell at that time, and we lost some sponsors over what was then considered a radical stand on global climate change. Today corporations are planting trees to sequester carbon and offset their business's contribution to global climate change. Everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Seventeen magazine to myspace.com is "talking trees" for mitigating carbon dioxide. Calculate your carbon debt with our on-line calculator: http://www.american forests.org/resources/ccc. The average is about 30 trees per year per person to be debt-free.

Our corporate partner IKEA is going carbon-neutral by challenging its customers to offset greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees with AMERICAN FORESTS; IKEA is matching those contributions. …

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