Abstract The role of plants in global climate change discussions is usually considered only in terms of the albedo and sinks/sources of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The main aim of this review article is to summarize the entire impact of vegetation on the climate change. It describes quantitatively the energy balance of vegetated surfaces and the effect of vegetation on the hydrological cycle. The distribution of solar energy in the landscape is dealt with in thermodynamic terms. The role of water and plants in the reduction of temperature gradients is emphasized. Papers dealing with the relationship between changes in the landscape cover and regional climates are reviewed, and the fundamental role of wetlands and forests in water cycling is outlined. Positive examples of restoration of dry landscapes, based on rainwater retention and the recovery of permanent vegetation, are described. It is recommended that the direct role of water and vegetation in cooling, reducing temperature and air pressure gradients should be included into all future recommendations for policymakers made by scientists.