Why our trees are like climate change-fighting superheroes

The clouds through trees
Trees framed clouds in East River Flats Park along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis on July 24, 2016.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2016

Here's an impressive figure: $5 billion a year. That's how much those trees outside your window reduce energy bills in U.S. cities each year.

Since trees pull CO2 directly from the atmosphere, they absorb as much as 20 percent of our annual greenhouse gas emissions.

But wait, there's more. University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology director Lee Frelich says our trees are like climate change-fighting superheroes.

"About 48 percent of the tree is actually carbon that was taken out of the atmosphere," Frelich said during a recent interview with MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner. "So we can store a lot of carbon in trees for a long time."

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A report by Climate Central says trees in the Twin Cities alone remove 7.3 million tons of C02 a year.

"But it's still probably only 1 or 2 percent of all the CO2 emissions in a metro area like this," Frelich said.

In order to really harness the power of trees as climate change solutions we'll need to plant a lot more trees across much larger areas, he said.

To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.