Climate Change Project
Carbon Footprint Trail at the Bennachie Visitor Centre
· What is the carbon footprint trail?
The aim of the trail is to show how nature is helping us
address climate change – what it can do and what it can’t do. The trail is set
in woodland because trees are hugely important for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2)
from the air.
· How does nature help us with climate change?
Carbon dioxide is food for plants. Plants capture CO2 from the air, zap it with sunlight and convert it into energy which they use to grow (photosynthesis). Big, fast-growing plants need more energy to grow, so they capture more CO2 food than smaller, slower-growing plants. Trees are a bit like us - when they are tiny seedings and saplings like small children, they don’t need much CO2 food, but fast-growing trees need loads of energy and loads of food like youths and young adults, but as they move into old age trees need less food.
Trees are very good at storing carbon. As woody plants, about 50% of a tree’s biomass is carbon mostly stored in the tree trunk and branches. Trees also pass carbon below ground to its roots and associated fungi and in the soil.
Non-woody plants don’t capture as much carbon dioxide as trees, but they too send carbon below ground into the soil where it is stored. Peat is especially good at storing carbon.
So are plants the solution to climate change? Sadly not,
nature can’t capture and store all the greenhouse gases we’ve produced in
recent years. Some researchers estimate that nature-based
solutions can cope with about one
third of emissions, but we’ll need to find other ways to remove greenhouse
gases from the air. We would be wise to conserve all natural habitats, not only
because we enjoy them, but also because plants are very good at capturing CO2
from the air far more efficiently than man-made technology.
· Who made the trail?
The trail was made by a group of local people concerned about climate change and the biodiversity crisis who wanted to do something for COP26. They made the trail working with the Bailies of Bennachie, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), Outdoor Woodland Learning Scotland North East Group (OWLS), Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service and North-East Scotland Biodiversity Partnership
Their contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did they make the trail?
The group made the trail (which is temporary) for COP26, the global conference on climate change which will be held in Glasgow in November 2021. At the conference world leaders will discuss how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. They will also discuss who should pay for what. In general, wealthy countries have emitted more greenhouse gases than poorer countries. Some low-income countries have emitted very few greenhouse gases, but they are suffering serious consequences from climate change which is proving very expensive for them to manage.
The group used information on carbon footprints from the book ‘How Bad are Bananas – the Carbon Footprint of Everything’ by Mike Berners-Lee. To work out how much nature does for us, they used recent scientific reports to calculate the ability of natural habitats to capture (sequester) and store carbon (carbon sinks).
They wanted to find out what local habitats do for us,
rather than far-away
places like the Amazon rain forest or Arctic ice sheets. They were shocked
to discover that Bennachie (on the land managed by Forest and Land Scotland)
could capture the greenhouse gas emissions from fewer than 20% of the
population of Inverurie. This brought the scale of the climate change challenge
facing us all right home to our own doorstep.
· What can we do about climate change?
As individuals we can find out how to reduce our own carbon footprint by using a carbon footprint calculator such as Pawprint which also uses Mike Berners-Lee’s data.
But there is a limit to how much individuals can do. Far more significantly, as a society we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases by making changes to the way we live – changes to the food we eat, the power we use, how we travel, how we heat our homes, the goods we buy, the waste we throw away and how we use land. This scale of change needs action from everyone - from the giant global oil companies right down to small local businesses. The changes have to be driven by governments, which is why COP26 is so important. The Scottish government has set a target to reach net zero by 2045 and we are all going to have to make changes to our lifestyles to achieve this.