News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

THE ANSWER IS #3: Florida is ditching palm trees to fight the climate crisis

Date Posted: 2021-10-25
Source: CNN

Editor's Note: You may be wondering why this story's headline "THE ANSWER IS #3." It is the answer to our 2021 news quiz series titled "Deeper Dive News Trivia Quiz." This quiz is drawn from the newsletter each week. If you'd like to participate then click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

When you think of Florida, beaches and palm trees come to mind. But what if those palm trees were slowly replaced with other trees? That could happen over time because of climate change, and communities in South Florida are trying to save the world from the climate crisis, one tree at a time.

"Palm trees do not sequester carbon at the same rate as our native canopy trees and do not provide shade, cool down streets and sidewalks to help counter the urban heat island effect that canopy trees do." said Penni Redford, the Resilience and Climate Change Manager for West Palm Beach.  With atmospheric carbon dioxide levels today higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Earth needs to remove it or humans have to stop adding it. In fact, the last time carbon dioxide concentration was this high was more than 3 million years ago. Scientists are working on solutions to capture and safely contain atmospheric carbon. One approach is called "terrestrial sequestration" -- which is essentially planting trees. A tree absorbs carbon during photosynthesis and stores it for the life of the tree.   But Florida's beloved palms are the least effective at carbon sequestration. The average palm in southern Florida only absorbs 5 pounds of CO2 per year.  Compared to other trees -- oaks, mahogany, pines, and cedars -- that can sequester more than 3,000 pounds of CO2 over their lifetime, it may be best to exclude palms in favor of more broadleaf trees or conifers.   Kristine Crous, a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University, explains that palms don't produce wood, so they're poorer at storing carbon. That is why some don't think palms are actually trees at all. Botanists, ecologists, and forestry specialists all have a variety of definitions of what a tree actually is.     Regardless, the concern is that a standard passenger vehicle emits about 10,000 pounds (4.6 metric tons) of CO2 per year, which means we need a lot of trees to combat the amount of vehicles on the roads.   Read More.

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  • Comment submitted by Marc King - Wed, Oct 27th

    Leave the palm trees alone. Get developers to stop clearing the trees from lots they are developing and work around the trees. Stop the removal of trees in the Amazon River basin. Leave the palm trees alone! 

  • Comment submitted by brian richard mcmahon - Thu, Oct 28th

    Only Florida could come up with such a proposal.  Cutting back a little on fuel use would do far more to reduce carbon emissions.  I agree with the previous comment...Leave the Palm Trees alone.

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