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Frequently Asked Questions About Climate Change

  • What is climate change?
    CO2 atmospheric concentration
    This graph shows the correlation between levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and changes in average global temperatures over time. Source: UNESCO

    The term “climate change” describes the worldwide increase in temperature that may also cause other changes in the climate to occur. As a result, scientists predict several weather changes in the 21st century that will affect many geographic areas. These changes include higher maximum and minimum temperatures, more hot days and heat waves, more intense precipitation, and increased summer drying and risk of drought. (Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

  • What causes climate change?

    Most climate scientists agree that rising temperatures are being caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earth’s atmosphere. Most of the increase in GHG concentrations is the result of emissions associated with human activities, such as burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas), cutting down forests, and certain agricultural activities. Most climate scientists, including those working on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believe that human activities are the principal causes of these changes.

    U.S. House of Representatives Committee and Science & Technology
  • Where can I find information about climate change?

    The Foundation recommends peer-reviewed scientific sources such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

  • What can people do to slow down climate change?
    Urban Trees Downtown
    Trees planted in and around cities provide natural air pollution control, provide habitat for urban wildlife, and help reduce the heat-island effect.

    The Foundation’s mission is - and has always been - to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. We aim to be part of the solution and continue to plant and care for trees to reap all of their benefits. Reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the most important roles that trees play. Of course, there are many other things people can do. Planting trees is something positive that everyone can do.

    View more ways to reduce climate change
  • What does woody agriculture, such as growing hazelnuts, have to do with climate change?
    Hazelnut Tree
    Woody crops - like hazelnuts - can have a positive effect on reducing climate change.

    Recent research and field studies - including those being conducted by the Arbor Day Foundation - show that hazelnuts have immense promise as a specialty crop with high food value. Hazelnuts can also have a very positive effect on reducing climate change in at least four ways:

    1. Being a woody perennial crop, hazelnuts leaf out sooner in the spring and photosynthesize longer into the fall than annual crops such as soybeans or corn, making them more effective at capturing solar energy - an important implication for fighting global increases of carbon dioxide.

    2. Carbon is stored in the wood of the plants year after year.

    3. They are a perennial woody agriculture crop and require little or no tillage, thus decreasing the amount of energy required to grow them.

    4. Hazelnut Tree
      Nationwide hazelnut research is focused on developing blight-resistant, high-producing hybrids to help advance woody agriculture.

      Hazelnuts have very dense shells that make excellent fuel and, when burned, create hydrogen that could be used for fuel cells in electric cars. The wood from periodic coppicing of hazelnut crops has excellent potential as a biomass fuel. Availability of hazelnuts as a renewable fuel source could eventually help decrease reliance on fossil fuels like coal and petroleum.

    (Sources: International Journal of Hydrogen Energy and Badgersett Research Corporation)

  • What can I do to reduce climate change?

    Everyone can take simple steps to help reduce climate change, from planting a tree to recycling to switching to a different type of light bulb. Visit the Web site for the film An Inconvenient Truth or the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Personal Emissions Calculator for many more ideas.

  • What are carbon credits?

    Carbon credits are quantified, verified and certified reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, typically expressed as metric tons of CO2 equivalents (source: EPA). Calculating carbon credits for planting trees is very complex because of the diversity of tree species and growing conditions. The earth needs many trees, and whether we plant one tree or thousands, each one helps create a healthier planet.

  • What effect does climate change have on the environment?
    Urban Trees Downtown
    Wherever they are planted, trees play an important daily role in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    As the earth’s climate continues to warm, all of its living creatures will likely experience some effects. Increases in water temperature and changes in seasonal patterns of runoff will very likely disturb fish habitat and affect recreational uses of lakes, streams, and wetlands. Animal and tree species will likely shift in response to warmer climates—hardiness zones will shift northward from their present range. Continued climate change threatens to reduce biodiversity in tree and plant communities, disrupt present ecosystems, and further the spread of invasive species such as Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) or kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata). (For more information, see The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change published by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, US Global Change Research Program.)