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The verdant hills and plains of earth

“Did you know that the Earth is getting greener, quite literally? Satellites are now confirming that the amount of green vegetation on the planet has been increasing for three decades. This will be news to those accustomed to alarming tales about deforestation, over-development and ecosystem destruction.”

Matt Ridley

The point about faster, and greater, plant growth is often ignored by those who bleat about the dangers of greater carbon emissions. Indeed, the upside of global warming – assuming that is happening – such as greater plant growth is often downplayed against the supposed downsides (rising sea levels).

24 comments to The verdant hills and plains of earth

  • Paul Marks

    Interesting.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    A point about rising sea levels: assuming the rise is real, over the next century we’ll have to replace some things as they’re inundated. So what? Take a look at any city or town near you: how much of what’s there today was there fifty years ago? Urban areas are in a constant state of flux.

    Much ado about very little, methinks.

  • Steven Groeneveld

    Holland has been dealing with rising sea levels (or sinking landmass from the post glacial rebound)very successfully for 1000 years. No big deal. The late great John Daly (http://www.john-daly.com/) used to post many picture comparisons of places a century ago compared with today and the amount of increased greenery today is remarkable. Even the great Sahara desert is retreating from the attack of carbon enrichment.

    As with all scares, (like too much salt in your diet is harmful but too little is fatal) is that the flipside is never mentioned. If the CO2 in the atmosphere were to be halved, all life on the planet would cease as the concentration would be too low for photosynthesis to occur.

  • Surellin

    I saw an article several years ago about the Sahel moving north in areas that had been desert in the recent past, adding thousands of square miles of vegetation to the world. And, let’s be frank, if there’s anything to AGW at all, we might be moving the tree line north into lichen-land over vast swathes of Canada, Alaska and Siberia. One would also assume that croplands would move north behind it. Hurrah for vegetation! I’ll start planning my orange grove in Manitoba directly.

  • Chip

    Is it due to carbon? Most developed countries are reforesting as they transition from agriculture to modern economies.

  • RickC

    God, I’ve been thinking this for years. My wife and I have been quite the gypsies over the course of our life together. We’ve lived in 14 of the 50 states from Alaska to Florida and I just couldn’t understand the push for planting trees here in the U.S. Everywhere we’ve gone, but particularly in the south were we grew up, the reclaiming of land formerly used for agriculture by forests is quite evident and on a massive scale. A friend of mine lives in Georgia near where his great grandfather once lived and farmed. My friend has a picture of the old guy standing in front of a country store (still there) circa 1880s(?). There are a couple of trees next to the store but in the background as far as the eye can see not a single tree. That whole area in now one big forest with the occasional clearing for a house.

    Frankly, I’ve long thought that the most passionate advocates of tree planting were obviously city dwellers whose views were based on what they saw in their immediate surroundings.

  • Paul Marks

    Those forests in Georgia must be worth seeing – and lots of shade.

  • RickC

    It’s like that all over the southern U.S., Mr. Marks (Georgia is mostly pine trees). Interestingly too, there is very little in the way of state or federal lands down here, at least compared to other sections of the country. Private ownership seems to do okay in relation to healthy forests.

  • Paul Marks

    I had heard that the forests are private – although that is also true of Maine at the other end of the country.

  • Laird

    PaulC is quite correct. In Georgia much of that forest land is owned by the large paper companies. Trees are simply a crop, albeit one with a longer time to maturity than most.

    I’ve read that there is more forest land in the US today than there was 100 years ago, and while I can’t find the cite (or verify the statement) I can well believe it.

  • Butternut

    The greening of america has been going on for about 50 years. Subsistence farming doesnt exist in this country anymore. Much of that ground was not amenable to modern farming techniques and has reverted. Dont have crap to do with “global warming.” It has caused, that is caused, more precipitation, as well. More green means more rain. It is very evident in the southern half of ohio. I dont buy for one minute that an increase in CO2 has anything to do with it. Al Gore was just on the tube…looks like a pinch faced old drunk…

  • askeptic

    Most land east of the Mississippi River is either owned privately, or by the respective States.
    It is only west of the river that the Federal Government owns/controls vast tracts of land – over 90% in some states.
    Privately managed forests such as those in Georgia, or Maine, rarely have “wild fires” as the management sees to it that conditions “on the ground” aren’t conducive to such economic destruction. The Feds, on the other hand, don’t have any skin in the game, and let forest lands in the West “go to pot” (sometimes literally) allowing wild fires that destroy everything in their paths. Just another “tragedy of the commons”.

  • Orson

    There is a book in this thesis. But who will be so boldly contrarian to pull it off? And withstand all the PC apocalypse caterwauling?

  • But with all of this vegetation, we will all be sorry when the dinosaurs come back and eat us.

  • cthulhu

    It should be noted that the earth becoming greener is not necessarily good news when the topic is ecosystem destruction — not only are there desert ecosystems, but expansion of agricultural lands tends to crowd out complex existing environments with single crops.

    That said, I have little love for environmental fascists who want everything run to their dictates in the name of “Mother Gaia”.

  • Cornfed

    True, that, about crop monocultures replacing complex ecosystems. However, in developed countries, there’s a great deal of land being taken out of cultivation and returned to a more natural state. In developing countries, that’s where most of the ecosystem degradation is occurring.

  • John Gardner

    Hmmm. President Reagan was laughed at when he said he’d thought for some time that much of the increase in smog was due to the abundance of trees vs. pre-Gold Rush California.

  • Laura Blanchard

    The re-greening of America is covered (with maps) in 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann. Here’s a link to the Kindle edition on Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/1493-Uncovering-Columbus-Created-ebook/dp/B004G606EY

  • BSKB

    I guess people didn’t think about what happens in a greenhouse when they coined the phrase greenhouse effect.

  • [...] The verdant hills and plains of earth « Samizdata. [...]

  • sherlock

    When I revisited my boyhood neighborhood in southern Ohio a few years ago, after being away 40 years, I could not easily find my house, because the whole area for miles around was “overrun” with trees, compared to when I lived there and it was farmland with only scattered houses.

  • Paul Marks

    Your eyes were wrong sherlock – there are no trees in Ohio, it is a land of burning hot sands.

    Albert Gore Jr told me so – we chatted as he sat in his big mansion by the sea (sea level rise?) counting the millions of Dollars he has been paid by terrorist (Benghazi) supporting Islamic oil interests.

  • Steve Quist

    Is this good news or bad news? I dunno. On one hand the greenery would seem to act as a carbon sink, removing CO2 from the atmosphere and, according to some models, reducing global warming. On the other hand, vegetation may well reduce the albedo of the planet thereby absorbing relatively more solar radiation instead of reflecting it back into space. That would increase global warming. On the third hand, maybe the net effect depends on third, fourth or fifth order effects the modelers haven’t even accounted for yet.

  • [...] Heh Increase in plant food grows more plants. Film at Eleven. [...]