We’re in a climate emergency and it’s threatening our planet. According to experts, we’re on track for an increase of between 3°C and 4°C by 2100. And these are only global average temperatures. At the poles and over land (where people live), the increase may be higher – possibly even double.
Once we’ve reached the tipping point we’ll be powerless to intervene.
We need to act fast
There will be devastating consequences as temperatures soar. Changes will be irreversible as ecosystems collapse. Our planet will be unrecognisable.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that global temperatures need to be kept from rising by more than 1.5°C. We’ve already passed 1°C. We need to act now. The UK has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, but how can we achieve it?
We need to seriously reduce our emissions, and find a way of reducing the damage already done. Technology is being explored to remove CO2 – the biggest culprit – from the atmosphere, but they are expensive and complex.
There is a simpler solution – and it’s our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change: trees.
Our most powerful weapon: trees
Marie Curie fund-raiser Petra McMillan training for a sponsored run in the Long Crags.
Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. Like great carbon sinks, woods and forests absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries. They do this through photosynthesis.
The entire woodland ecosystem plays a huge role in locking up carbon, including the living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and its associated vegetation.
Photosynthesis is made simple as you take a journey into the leaf of a tree and discover how trees capture and store carbon.
See how it works
In the UK, the value of trees for flood protection is estimated to be £6.5 billion, and £6.1 billion for urban cooling.
And trees do more than just capture carbon.
They also fight the cruel effects of a changing climate. They can help:
- Prevent flooding
- Reduce city temperature
- Reduce pollution
- Keep soil nutrient-rich
It’s not just new woodland. Carbon accumulation continues in woodland that’s centuries old. Old-growth forests are actually carbon sinks, contrary to the long-standing view that they are carbon neutral.
Woods are our allies in the fight against a changing climate, yet just 13% of the UK’s land area is covered by trees (compared with an EU average of 37%).
The bottom line is, we need more trees and we need to protect the ones we already have.
The devastation continues
We recognise the importance of ancient woods in the fight against climate change, yet they are still being destroyed. The number of ancient woods threatened from built development has topped the 1000 mark for the first time.
We need more trees
Climate change is a huge and complex issue and, as individuals, we can feel helpless. But there is something we can do – and that’s increasing tree and woodland cover.
Trees are only part of the solution. Other changes have to be made to reduce global CO2 emissions and an effective response lies in the hands of world politicians. But we do need to plant more trees, quickly.
To help reach the UK government’s 2050 target to become carbon net zero – that’s removing as much carbon as we’re producing – we need more trees. The reality is we need to increase the UK’s woodland cover from its pitiful 13% to at least 19%.
We need to start planting
That sounds like a lot of trees, 1.5 million hectares is around the same land area as Yorkshire. But, there’s plenty of space for trees. In fact, scientists have already mapped areas that could be planted across Europe, all of which wouldn’t impact agriculture or urban areas.
We can also get trees in the ground while retaining unique non-woodland habitats. Keeping the landscape diverse is essential for resilience. There are also habitats that store even more carbon than woods, such as peat bogs, that are also in need of restoration.
Planting the right tree in the right place is vital. We plant native trees where they will thrive. By planting native, we make woods that are more genetically diverse and therefore more resilient against pests, diseases and the effects of climate change.
Climate change is only half the battle. We are also facing a biodiversity crisis. The UK is ecologically damaged; we’ve lost 13% of our native species abundance since 1970 and this will only get worse if things go on unchanged.
By restoring precious habitats and planting new native woodland with UK-grown trees, we extend and create havens for wildlife, boosting biodiversity. This goes hand in hand with our planting to mitigate climate change.
Looking after what we’ve got
Protecting old, established woods and trees is essential.
We lobby government and influence policy to protect what we already have.
Over the decades that we’ve been campaigning, we’ve saved thousands of threatened woods that are already working hard locking up carbon.
PROTECTING TREES AND WOODS
The Big Climate Fightback
Be part of the Big Climate Fightback and together we can get 50 million more trees in the ground across the UK.
Planning for the future
Tackling this crisis now means leaving the world in a liveable state for future generations.
We want everyone to connect with and recognise the importance of trees and woods in our lives, from distant rain forests to the landscape on our doorstep. By working with schools and communities, we’re empowering people to take the fight against climate change into their own hands.
Ways you can help
Woods and trees need planting and protecting, and there are lots of ways you can get involved and support us. Woodland Trust Scotland are doing a magnificent job in the Long Crags above Dumbarton and around Dumbuck and the Overtoun estate. They are planting out conservation forests and creating and maintaining paths for people to go walking there and in the Old Kilpatrick and Auchencarroch hills. Meanwhile West Dunbartonshire Council have not been covering themselves in glory by cutting down trees and a magnificent, mature hawthorn hedge on the periphery of the new Dumbarton Cemetery on Garshake Road. They have also had angry complaints about tree-felling without consultation at the former County Buildings site, which is being turned into a new housing development. Message then from The Democrat to SNP council leader Jonathan Lumberjack McColl: Woodman spare those trees.
The site of the new housing development at Clerkhill in Dumbarton, where lots of trees could be in danger of the chop.