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June 2019 Blog

Nine out of ten people worldwide breathe polluted air.
This causes millions of illnesses and deaths, and needs urgent action to be reduced. Trees act as living air purifiers, improving air quality in many ways.

Clean air is a human right. It’s also a necessary precondition if we are to competently address escalating climate change. Air pollution does not only damage human health, research shows it is harming rainforest, wildlife and hampering the economy in many ways.

It may be obvious, but trees are vital for improving air quality. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide, their leaves trap the toxic pollutants nitrogen dioxide1, ozone, and harmful microscopic particles produced by diesel vehicles2, cooking and wood burning.

From your local city to the Congo there are many ways that the air quality influences, and is influenced by, trees and rainforest around the world:

Charcoal Stoves and Breathing Diseases

Charcoal Stoves and Breathing Diseases

– Cooking on rudimentary stoves is responsible for 4.3 million premature deaths globally
– Many people develop respiratory diseases from cooking
– Fuel efficient stoves are one way to reduce health issues and protect rainforest

Air pollution is a hidden killer, affecting the vulnerable and the poorest the most. In the UK alone, 36,000 early deaths  a year are linked with air pollution, more than alcohol or obesity. But for those globally who rely on charcoal to cook their food, this figure rockets to 4.3 million people.

Cool Earth partners with FFI in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 90% of people cook on rudimentary stoves. A community-led project in Lubutu reduces firewood use through the introduction of energy efficient stoves. So far, 811 stoves have been built. With a 50% reduction in firewood collection, it’s ot only good for reducing pressure on the surrounding forest, but to also improve people’s health too.

“Our forest is very very very important for all of Africa and even the world.” – Mbake Sivha

Aerosols over the Amazon

Aerosols over the Amazon

– Ultrafine particles contribute to storm intensity in Amazon rainforest
– They come from urban pollution, influencing cloud formation
– Further research is being done on the effect on rainforest and around the world

Tiny pollutants from cities are being spread hundreds of miles to the Amazon rainforest 3. And when they react with sunlight and volatile organic compounds from vegetation, chemicals are produced that can influence the local climate4, as although tiny, these aerosols have a substantial influence on cloud formation. In turn, the rainforest has a strong influence on climate regulation worldwide, and pollution effects observed in this region could also trigger climate shifts globally.

Trees: Living Filters and Air Conditioners

Trees: Living Filters and Air Conditioners

– Trees act as air conditioners with a local cooling effect
– They also absorb dangerous pollutants and act as an essential natural filter
– Keeping rainforest protected is essential to combat air pollution levels

Forests act as carbon sinks and can remove pollutants from the atmosphere, making them a highly versatile tool to fight air pollution and mitigate climate change. Every year, the world’s forests absorb one-third of the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels worldwide.

Trees are key in reducing air pollution. Particulates that are particularly damaging to lungs are retained on tree surfaces, while leaves act as filters, absorbing polluting gases.5

“We want our forest to be healthy, to breathe the clean air we breathe. We have to continue to protect what our ancestors have left us.” – Julian Quispe, Cutivireni.

Cleaning up our air will also help in the fight against climate change, the biggest environmental problem we face. Along with the need to switch to clean energy sources, forests are effective and natural allies in the fight for cleaner air—and essential to ensure a sustainable future for the communities that depend on them.6

With your support, Cool Earth is doing just that. By supporting rainforest communities to develop year-round sustainable incomes, we’re reducing pressure on the forest. If families have a reliable income the need to sell trees for cash, or hunt bushmeat for protein, isn’t there any more, and the forest stays standing. Good for the daily lives of those who call rainforest home, and air quality right around the globe.







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