Could Humanity Survive Without Trees?

Could Humanity Survive Without Trees?


This episode is brought to you by Skillshare. The first 1,000 people to sign up using the
link in the description will get their first 2 months free. There are many natural and human sources of
carbon dioxide or CO2 as it’s better known. These include burning fossil fuels such as
coal, natural gas, and oil. Other sources are decomposition, ocean release,
and, of course, all the breathing that people and animals do to stay alive. Fortunately, we have plant life that absorbs
a lot of that CO2 and releases it back into the atmosphere as oxygen. Trees are the main workers in this process,
and we can think of them like the lungs of the planet. But what if you woke up one day and opened
the blinds, and there was not a tree in sight? What would happen to the planet? That’s what we intend to find out in this
episode of The Infographics Show, Could Humanity Survive Without Trees? Before we answer this crazy question, let’s
first look at some of the cool stuff that trees do: 5. A mature tree can absorb roughly 48 pounds
(21.8 kg) of CO2 a year, which is about the same weight as 10 standard bags of sugar that
you might buy at your local market. Or another way to look at this is that an
acre (4047 square meters) of trees absorbs enough carbon dioxide in a year to equal the
amount produced when you drive a car 26,000 miles (41,843 km)! 4 Then there’s ozone. Ozone is a natural layer of gas in the upper
atmosphere, which protects humans and other living things from harmful ultraviolet light. Trees help to reduce ozone levels in urban
areas. As an example, in New York City, a 10% increase
in urban canopy translated to a reduction of peak ozone levels by around 4 parts per
billion. 3. Trees also absorb sound and reduce noise pollution. So if you live near a freeway or railroad
track, a group of trees is very useful to quiet down the noise and allow you to sleep
more easily. 2. Trees can help reduce air temperature by blocking
sunlight. We’ve all experienced this when on holiday,
and the sun is scorching. No better place to hide from the sun than
in the shadow created by the canopy of a few palm trees. 1. When there’s a big storm, trees help reduce
runoff water, which in turn decreases soil erosion and the accumulation of sediments
and potentially harmful chemicals transported to our streams. Okay, so there are a few major factors that
make trees pretty darn important. And there are a whole lot more. But then we’re not here just to discuss
what trees do. We want to know what would happen if they
all disappeared. There are approximately 3 trillion trees on
planet Earth according to Research Gate’s Crowther et al. 2015 Nature Report. And these trees cover 31% of the world’s
land surface. For a start, the planet would look very different
if all the trees were gone. Humans are cutting a lot of trees down, but
it would still take decades or even hundreds of years to remove every last one. But in our imaginary scenario, let’s assume
by some act of God, the whole lot disappeared overnight. What would happen? The main issue would be the huge reduction
in oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Oxygen makes up roughly 21% of the Earth’s
atmosphere, and our bodies need it to survive because it makes up as much as 65% of the
human body. And it’s also responsible for 90% of the
body’s energy. People can live for about a month without
food and a week without water but only a few minutes without oxygen. Trees produce about half the oxygen in the
atmosphere. They do this through photosynthesis, which
allows plants to convert energy from the sun into chemical energy and later release it
as oxygen. The remainder is produced in the oceans and
by microscopic marine organisms called phytoplankton. So the environment would still have oxygen
mixed in with the air we breathe even if all trees were gone. But would it be enough for humans to survive? It’s not an easy question to answer as it
takes a fair bit of guesswork, and many online experts have differing opinions. Scitable, a site that brings together information
from a worldwide community of scientists, researchers, teachers and students, has made
the following calculations. If the ocean-dwelling phytoplankton provide
us with half our required oxygen, then at current population levels we should be able
to survive for at least 4000 more years. So not so bad hey? However, there are many other factors to take
in to account, the main one being the increasing population size. Currently, there are 7.6 billion humans on
the planet. The human population is projected to reach
9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, so it’s really not easy to predict what
would happen with all those additional humans breathing in the available oxygen. But then 4000 years is a long way off. You would hope by then we will have colonized
Mars and worked out numerous ways to create our own atmosphere without the need for trees. Who knows, we may even be living in a world
more like Star Trek. But even if we were able to survive surely
there would be other issues, right? Well yes…apart from the fact the world’s
landscape would look pretty bare, the smog would also be unbearable, and many more people
would probably be diagnosed with lung diseases. Trees act like giant filters and help to reduce
pollution. Their leaves intercept airborne particles
and carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, which are absorbed by the
leaves’ stomata. According to research in 2016 referenced by
the BBC, more than 5.5 million people worldwide are dying prematurely every year as a result
of air pollution. Most of these deaths are occurring in the
rapidly developing economies of China and India. So imagine what would happen if we went from
the air-filtering 3 trillion trees we have today to zero. Air pollution masks would become a necessity,
and there would be a lucrative market in selling clean bottled air. As crazy as that might sound, selling bottled
air is already a business. Vitality, a company based in Edmonton, Alberta,
collects air from the Canadian Rockies and compresses it into containers. A single eight-litre (2.1 gallon) bottle of
compressed Canadian air, which comes with a specially designed spray cap and mask, holds
around 160 breaths and costs US$24 per bottle! Thankfully, we’re not going to wake up tomorrow
and find all the trees have disappeared. But how many are we actually culling each
year? It’s not easy to get an exact number as
most of the deforestation values are measured in land area, not the number of trees. But as a guide, IntactForests.org concludes
that intact forest landscapes from 2000-2013 were reduced globally by 70,000 square kilometers
(27,027.2 sq. mi.) per year, which is about the size of Costa Rica. Over 13 years, that comes to a total of 919,000
square kilometers (354,828 sq. mi.). In terms of the number of trees, density in
primary forests varies from 50,000 to 100,000 trees per square km, so that gives a number
of around 3.5 billion to 7 billion trees cut down each year. It’s not so many that we will suffocate
just yet, but we can see some forests are on their way out. Just what would a world without trees look
like? Instead of just watching videos telling you
what it might look like, why not make your own and show us instead? With over 24,000 online classes, Skillshare
is your go-to for learning everything you need to know about making your own digital
videos, and with classes ranging from the basics of video animation to advanced After
Effects and Photoshop tools, Skillshare has a class for all skill levels. Premium Membership will give you unlimited
access to topics that will improve your skills, and in the process, your life! The first 1,000 people to sign up by visiting
Skillshare.com/ infographics35 or by clicking the link in the description will receive 2
months of skillshare absolutely free. Join skillshare and start learning today! Should we slow down destroying the forests,
or are we just worrying about nothing as the forests will all grow back? Let us know by commenting in the notes. Also be sure to check out our other video,
This Is The Year The World Will End According to Isaac Newton. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of The
Infographics Show! Please remember to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!

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