Carbon dioxide is a gas that is made up of carbon and oxygen. These gases are always present in our Earth’s atmosphere and they play an important role in regulating our climate through a process known as the carbon cycle.
The Earth will cool if the carbon cycle removes too much carbon from the atmosphere and it will warm if too much CO2 is produced. In recent years, the amount of CO2 has been rising in the atmosphere – thus producing what many scientists believe is the global warming effect.
It may in part be related to the cycle of real trees. Most carbon stays in the tree until the tree dies by fire or decay. Other mater such as leaves, needles, fallen dead wood, and shrubs can also decay, rot, or release carbon via fire. Trees absorb CO2 as they grow which helps reduce the CO2 being released into our atmosphere. Scientists have found that the amount of carbon held in a tree is equal to about half the tree’s weight after all the water has been removed.
There will always be the debate between real and artificial trees. Most artificial trees are manufactured using a polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), which is a petroleum-derived plastic. The raw material for artificial Christmas trees is both non-renewable and polluting. PVC production results in the unhealthy emission of a number of carcinogens, such as dioxin, ethylene dichloride, and vinyl chloride. Some artificial trees actually come with warning labels due to their lead content. Artificial trees are not biodegradable and cannot be recycled, so their disposal has a significant impact to the environment. If disposed in a landfill, artificial trees will never breakdown but rather permanently remain in landfills. If disposed of by incineration, the PVC in artificial trees will emit into the atmosphere dioxins and other carcinogens into the air.
For more information, please refer to the web site Real Trees For Kids for the complete carbon cycle description.