What a difference a leaf makes! Well, not one leaf. We have 3.1 trillion trees on our planet—that’s 422 trees per person. If we count all the leaves on all those trees and take a look at what they do collectively to the air around us, the effect—and I do not exaggerate—is stunning. I’ve got a video from NASA. When you see it, I think your jaw is going to drop—just a little.
It tracks the flow of carbon dioxide across the planet over 12 months, starting in January. Most of the action takes place in the Northern Hemisphere because that’s where most of the land is, and so that’s where most of the trees are. The biggest temperate forests are in Canada, Siberia, and Scandinavia.
Here’s the thing about trees …
We know they absorb air. Their leaves gobble carbon dioxide, and then, with help from the sun, the carbon stays in the tree (as branches, trunks). Oxygen gets released.
Come winter, the leaves fall off, trees go bare. Without leaves, trees go quiet. Any extra CO2 is more likely to hang in the atmosphere—until June.
The Difference June Makes
That’s the month when trillions upon trillions of leaves are opening, growing, and starting to breathe, and what you will see in the video is their collective breath literally cleaning the sky. This video begins in January, but keep watching till we hit June (then July, then August). It’s like the world’s northern forests become a giant vacuum cleaner, scouring the air, sucking down the CO2 till around November.
When leaves fall, the situation reverses … and it feels a little scary.
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