What is carbon?

When discussing climate change, the basic element carbon is often mistaken for carbon dioxide.

Carbon is the sixth most abundant element on Earth and is essential to life as it is found in all living beings.

At room temperature, it is a solid and can be also found in various other forms such as graphite and diamond.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the chemical compound. At room temperature it is gaseous and is vital for life since it plays a

major role in photosynthesis.
 

 

How does carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere?
Carbon moves from living things to the atmosphere. Each time you exhale, you are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. When living things

rot away CO2 is also released into the atmosphere.

Carbon moves from fossil fuels into the atmosphere when fuels are burned releasing CO2.

 

Why is an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so bad?
Its main impact is on a global scale.  It is one of the main "greenhouse gases" contributing to climate change.

The heat trapped by CO2 warms our oceans and atmosphere and this is what enables life on Earth.

But excess CO2 can result in our Planet becoming too warm thus causing climate change. It can also cause the Greenland ice sheets to melt

raising sea levels and impacting life on Earth as we know it.

 

Climate Change

Climate change is primarily a problem of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This carbon overload is caused mainly

when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas or cut down and burn forests.
 

Carbon Sink

Carbon sinks are natural systems like forests, soil and oceans that store carbon removed from carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere.

 

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. This helps to either
mitigate or defer 
dangerous climate change.

Plant Trees in 2020 to reduce your Carbon Footprint!

Trees take carbon dioxide from the air when their leaves carry out photosynthesis and store it as carbon in the timber, so big trees are carbon sinks.

Ireland annually emits around 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - on average 12 tonnes per person. This is the third highest per capita rate in Europe after Estonia and Luxembourg.
We can mitigate some of this by planting trees.

Burning petrol or diesel in our cars emits a shockingly high amount of carbon dioxide. One litre of petrol emits 2.3kg of carbon dioxide into the air while diesel emits 2.64 kg.
This is because the carbon atoms in the fuel unite with oxygen in the atmosphere during the process of combustion and the weight of carbon dioxide emitted is greater than that of the original carbon
in the fuel.

11 tonnes of carbon dioxide is equivalent to 3 tonnes of carbon.  

The average Irish car drives 18,000 km per year. This requires 810 litres of diesel or 1080 litres of petrol. This means 2.14 tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted for diesel and 2.5 tonnes for petrol.

A ten-year-old evergreen tree absorbs 14 kg carbon dioxide per year, so it takes 178 evergreen trees absorb 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Broadleaf trees like our native oak, ash, birch etc grow slower than this so it would take more broadleaved trees to achieve the same result.

 

Air travel emits roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide per person per kilometre as driving a car
but of course the distances travelled are much greater. A flight from Dublin to New York return is 10,200 km which is 1.275 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per person per flight.


This is equivalent to what it takes 91 evergreen trees such as Sitka spruce that are 10 years old to
absorb in a year.

Annual removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by Ireland’s forests exceeds 6 million tonnes per annum. This works out as a gain of 3.6 million tonnes net of harvesting and planting, Fast-growing trees such as Sitka spruce sequester a lot of carbon quickly over a 30-year cycle.

A broadleaf woodland sequesters carbon more slowly although it may store more carbon long term. 
It also has more biodiversity.


Therefore, both types of tree planting very much have their place in Ireland depending on which is appropriate to the area being planted.

Indeed, if we are really serious about slowing up climate change, planting trees is only part of the answer. We should be both planting trees and changing our way of living so that we produce less carbon
per capita each year.

 

The Tree Council of Ireland can help you to contribute to the worldwide aim of reducing Ireland’s carbon footprint by planting trees on your behalf if you are not in a position to plant them yourself. It can
be done through their Tree Sponsorship Scheme, further details of which are on the website.

Equally if you are a company wishing to offset your carbon footprint, or wish to help preserve biodiversity, the Tree Council would be happy to discuss various tree planting options.

Registered in Ireland No: 111380
Charity No: CHY 6799
CRA No: 20013417

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A Non-Governmental Voluntary Organisation