Brainstorming: Less trees means warmer climate, or…?

From time to time, intuitive ideas just pop into my mind, like they probably do for you, as well — this time, it was this question: does less trees also mean a warmer climate?

Trees have a double role: first, they remove CO2 greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, and, secondly, by the process of photosynthesis, they transform sunlight into chemical and mechanical energy. Basically, trees are continually trapping excess heat and converting it to something else.

It is a known fact that trees will grow faster in a warmer climate*2, basically transforming more energy at a faster rate. But, there is an issue: we lose 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily, due to deforestation*3, and also a warmer climate meant means more wildfires. Just in the U.S., more than 8 million acres have burned in 2015 — around 22,000 acres a day*5. Every wildfire means more CO2 in the atmosphere, and 8 million acres of forest is a lot of CO2.

That was only for 2015. What should we expect in 2016, as everyone is predicting that this year will be the hottest year ever?

However, maybe I am giving too much credit to trees. 2/3 of the earth’s surface is water, and oceans are very good at absorbing heat; they absorb heat at a significantly greater rate than air, and, additionally, marine organisms like plankton*6 and algae*7 absorb huge amounts of CO2 and transform large amounts of heat into chemical energy.

That is all true, but there is that issue about plastic patches the size of the continents floating in our oceans, blocking the sunlight, and, furthermore (like that was not bad enough), the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is having a huge, negative impact on the Pacific Ocean and its life. What I have read from many articles leads to one conclusion: our oceans are dying.

Who is responsible for global warming, then? Is it the oil industry, deforestation, dying oceans?

This is a same question like, “Which is the straw that broke the camel's back?” Was it the last straw or some of the straws before that?

Because of the way we communicate, we get so used to sequential thinking that we forgot that we have another side of the brain that process information in parallel, as sets of images and concepts.

There is no single issue that caused all of this; it was the combined effect of multiple terrible things we have done over time. The only way to fix this is to attack the issue in the same way we have created it: together, on multiple fronts at the same time.

Notes & References: