How is climate change destroying forests around the world?

By Hammond Green Team Members 

What is climate change?

Oftentimes, you might hear the words “climate” and “weather” used interchangeably, or you might have trouble differentiating between the phrases “global warming” and “climate change.” However, it is crucial to understand that these terms each have their own unique meanings as well as their own impact on our planet. To start off, the word “weather” refers to atmospheric conditions that occur over short periods of time, including rain, snow, and thunderstorms.

 “Climate,” on the other hand, is the long-term average of weather that focuses on things such as temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns over many seasons, years, or decades. Similarly, the term “global warming” is the long-term heating of our Earth that originated during the pre-industrial period (between 1850-1900) due to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels. 

On the other hand, “climate change” is used to describe the long-term change in the weather patterns on our planet, largely driven by, yet again, harmful human activities. Climate change has had a profound range of effects on our planet, impacting land and oceans, melting glaciers, contributing to rising sea levels, and augmenting the risk of extreme weather. However, climate change is also detrimental to the health of trees, forests, and much of the vegetation that encompasses our planet.

How does climate change impact our forests?

Climate change has many direct and indirect consequences on the Earth’s forests and trees. The increased temperatures that occur as a result of climate change can alter snowfall and melting patterns which affects the seasonal availability of water in these vegetated areas. Damaging droughts can occur which in turn cause damaging forest fires. 

Warmer temperatures also increase the length of the growing season, which causes plants to absorb more carbon dioxide. Some insect species can develop faster due to the hotter climates, causing more insect outbreaks that weaken, defoliate, and kill trees. 

Climate change further allows invasive plants to take the place of native vegetation because these new plants may be more tolerant to the new environmental conditions climate change produces than the existing plants. Loss of habitat due to a decline in forests and overall environmental change can cause certain animal populations to diminish. 

This is especially dangerous to species that are already vulnerable or those with restricted habitats, limited to one specific area. Not only are the homes of the animals ruined, but key food sources will also be destroyed. If the problem of climate change isn’t fixed fast, forests and their inhabitants are at major risk. Consequently, it is up to us to make a change and ensure our forests are protected. 

What’s the solution?

Of course, the concept of making change raises the question of: “How?” How can we, as students, mitigate the impacts of climate change on our Earth’s trees and work towards preserving our planet’s precious forests? Well, one simple solution is to plant trees. Our Earth’s ecosystem could support another 900 million hectares (2.2 billion acres) of forests, 25 percent more forested area than we have now. 

By planting more than a half trillion trees, we could capture about 205 gigatons of carbon, reducing atmospheric carbon by 25 percent! While planting around 2.2 billion acres of forest is a hefty goal, we can collectively work towards it by planting more trees on our own or rallying others to join in. Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that Earth is the only home we have, and it is not only our responsibility, but our privilege to take care of such a beautiful and bountiful planet. 


Community section:

Combating Climate Change in Howard County: What is the Student Climate Change Institute?

Hi, my name is Shifa Shaikh and I am one of the three sophomores from Hammond High School who is currently serving as a student ambassador in Howard County’s first Student Climate Change Institute! The Student Climate Change Institute is a program run by the Howard County Conservancy for sophomores who are passionate about delving into the root of climate change and making an impact to minimize its effects on a community level. Our group is composed of several students from schools around the county, including our very own Hammond! 

At the start of this program, back in October of 2020, we were tasked with attending six sessions to hear lectures from climate experts on topics such as the detrimental effects of climate change, its solutions, how to formulate environmental policies, and much more. After participating in these informative lectures, we broke off into separate action groups that currently meet every two weeks and focus on improving different facets of climate change. Specifically, our action teams are: the climate change legislation team, energy team, messaging team, and tree planting team. 

I’m currently working with the tree planting team to facilitate a greater appreciation and awareness of trees in Howard County. To do so, our group has created several infographics and Instagram posts regarding native trees in our community and their benefits. We hope to further get involved in planting trees around our county through volunteer work and other events. To stay informed on the activities of the tree-planting team’s action project as well as the initiatives of other subcommittees on the Climate Change Institute, check out our Instagram page: 

The Conservancy During Covid – An Interview with Ann Strozyk from the Howard County Conservancy conducted by MJ Jolayemi

  1. What has the Howard County Conservancy been doing during the pandemic?  

“Before the pandemic, we ran all of our field trips, programs, and camps in person at full capacity. Now, we run small scale field trips (10 students or less) and virtual programming for students and the community. For example, we have guest speakers talk about nature topics via ZOOM, hold student conferences on Google Meet, etc.’’

  1.  What opportunities/events have you been conducting?

“We also started Wild Walks- a series of hikes for the public in small numbers to explore the land. Topics that we talked about included history, trees, gardens, and pollinators. We also started a virtual Climate Change Institute for an amazing group of 30 sophomores across the county. They went through a series of workshops to learn about the science of climate change as well as the impacts and solutions. Now, they are working on action projects across the county.’’

  1. What general activities has the Conservancy been doing?

“We also run “School’s Day Out” every Wednesday where elementary age students can come to do their homework and also, to spend time outdoors. While our nature center is still closed, our trails are open dawn to dusk and we have 5 miles of trails to explore. Nature is OPEN!”

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Share your thoughts with the Green Team!

April is Earth month, so let’s celebrate by thinking of ways to make our planet a better place! Help out the Green Team by taking a few minutes to submit ideas to our Google Form on ways to improve our environment as a community, in and out of Hammond. Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome, and we’ll be referring to your ideas when coming up with future Green Team initiatives!