It is a well known fact that trees, alike other small green plants, depend upon photosynthesis to be able to transform sunlight energy, water, and carbon dioxide into food required for their survival. Consequently, photosynthesis in plants is usually associated with the green pigment called chlorophyll and the production of valuable oxygen as a byproduct. So why are is this important you might ask? Well, to answer that question we first have to understand how main gases involved in global warming are categorized. At the end we will see how it just comes down to numbers!
First lets start with understanding green house gases and how they work. Green house gases absorb heat and at the same time slow the rate at which heat escapes into outer space.
How are these gases categorized? First they are categorized by how much heat the gas can absorb. Second, by the length of time the gas stays in the atmosphere before it is able to escape into space.
How are their effects measured? The effects of gases are measured by the global warming potential or GWP. The GWP is a proportionate measure of the amount of heat a gas can absorb over a given period of time. This basically means that the GWP is a measurement of the amount of heat absorbed by the gas and the length of time it takes for the gas to escape our atmosphere. More specifically, this measure compares how much heat the emission of one ton of a specific gas is absorbed over a given period of time, relative to the emission of one ton of carbon dioxide.
Understanding Global Warming Potential or GWP!
To get a better understanding of this subject lets take a look at the GWP of the most prevalent gases.
1. Carbon Dioxide
This gas will always have a GWP value of one, since its used as a reference; however don’t be mistaken, for this gas has the capability of staying in our atmosphere for a very long time! Everyday emissions create high concentrations of this gas that are capable of sticking around the atmosphere for thousands of years.
Main human Sources of Carbon dioxide include: Electricity and heat generation, Transportation, Industrial Sector, and Residential.
This gas receives a GWP value of 28-36 over 100 years, meaning that any methane emitted today will last about ten years on average before it dissipates or exits our atmosphere. Well that doesn’t sound that bad when compared to carbon dioxide lingering around for thousands of years right? But don’t be mistaken. What makes this gas even more harmful is the fact that methane is capable of absorbing much more heat than carbon dioxide, therefore having a greater effect on global temperature. In a nut shell, methane causes the planet to have higher temperatures.
Main human sources of Methane include : Fossil Fuel production, Landfills, and Waste.
3. Nitrous Oxide
This gas receives a GWP value of 265-298 over 100 years, meaning that nitrous oxide emitted today can remain in our atmosphere for over 100 years. This gas also has greater heat absorbing capabilities, hence also causing the planet to have higher temperatures.
Main human sources of Nitrous Oxide include: Fossil fuel combustion, Biomass burning.
4. Fluorinated gases
These gases are known to have a very high GWP value reaching the thousands or tens of thousands. These gases also have a higher heat absorption when compared to carbon dioxide and are capable of staying in our atmosphere for centuries.
Main human sources of Fluorinated gases include: Refrigeration and air conditioning, Foams, and Aerosols.
So what can be done to fight off the effects of these gases and why are trees, bushes, algae, and vegetation so important?
Well lets do the Math!
In a research article written by McAliney and Mike they stated, “A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs/year and release enough oxygen into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.”
-McAliney, Mike, Arguments for Land Conservation: Documentation and Information Sources for Land Resources Protection, Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, CA, December 1993
Not to mention that bushes and flowers, such as Garden Mums, are considered to be air purifier winners by NASA! They are even capable of removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air.
But where does our oxygen come from? An estimated 70 to 80 percent of the oxygen in our planet is produced by marine algae!
Fun Fact: Common houseplants produce about 5 ml of oxygen per hour, per leaf. In general, each human consumes about 50 liters of oxygen per hour meaning it would take 10,000 leafs to fulfill a single humans oxygen needs per hour!!
Keeping it simple!! When we look at the math, its clear! Trees, bushes, algae, and vegetation are the key to combating the negative effects of gases, not to mention, they provide us with the oxygen we need to survive. By focusing on green vegetation we are able to produce better quality of air, water, and soil; therefore giving our children and ourselves a better quality life!