What is climate change and how can tree planting help?

By Anna Laughey

What is climate change?

To understand climate change, we first need to remind ourselves of the basics – the greenhouse effect. A proportion of thermal energy from the Earth’s surface escapes into space, but some gases in the atmosphere, called greenhouse gases, trap this escaping thermal energy. This causes some of the thermal energy to pass back to the surface. This is called the greenhouse effect, and it is essential to keep our planet warm.

More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, however, increases the greenhouse effect to undesirable levels. Human activity has increased levels of carbon dioxide which has caused the planet to become warmer than it would be naturally, and this is what we call climate change or global warming.

The world now sits at one degree Celsius warmer than it should be1. Although this may not seem like a big difference, just one degree has catastrophic effects on the environment.

Evidence of a warming climate can be seen all around us. From the melting ice caps to the rising extinction of species. Sometimes we don’t always consider the larger picture and how this also affects human societies. For example, increased sea temperatures are causing more frequent and violent hurricanes, and altered weather patterns are causing longer periods of drought. 

What future impact will climate change have?

Looking at the information scientists have given us we don’t have much time to try and reverse these effects. According to the IPCC, when the world’s temperature rise reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius, 20-30% of species will be at risk of extinction2. Even on our current trajectory, by the year 2100 predictions show that the sea levels could rise by one metre which will displace 10% of the world’s population. This will submerge low lying islands such as the Maldives fully under water3. 

What can we do?

Here at JACKPINE we quite like the quote ‘no snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche’. Each of us can all make a difference by reducing our carbon footprint. There’s many simple ways we can do this as individuals, check out the Count Us In website for steps you can start taking today. 

The power of tree planting

A proven method of reducing the harmful carbon in the atmosphere is through tree planting. Trees absorb harmful greenhouses gasses such as the previously mentioned carbon dioxide and then release oxygen back into the air.

Scientists agree that trees are the most effective and cheapest way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. In one year an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles 4. Even more promising are estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions from human activities that remain in the atmosphere today.5

Trees are natural, beautiful and a home to so many forms of wildlife. Green space lifts our spirits when we see it around us in our ever-growing urban spaces. Tree planting initiatives can not only heal our environment but studies suggest they also heal our minds too 6.

In the UK, trees currently cover about 10% of English land, far behind the EU average of 38%. In 2018, the government committed to planting 5,000 hectares of trees a year. After one year, only 1,420 hectares were planted 7.

Our mission is to plant as many trees as possible to beat these targets and help turn around the battle against climate change.


[1] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/global-temperatures
[2] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
[3] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2010/04/06/climate-change-in-the-maldives
[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/55088146
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions
[6] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/13/woodland-walks-good-for-mind-and-body-studies-show
[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/54988317