By James Taylor -September 21, 2021
At the top of Google News search results this morning for “climate change,” National Public Radio (NPR) claims global warming is causing a mass die-off of trees in California and throughout the country, with the trees falling on power lines and causing power outages. In reality, objective facts show forests are becoming healthier during recent years and decades, falsifying any assertion that global warming is causing dying trees and power outages.
The NPR article, “Climate Change Is Killing Trees And Causing Power Outages,” attempts to shift blame for California power outages away from utilities’ negligence and poor government forest management to blaming global warming, instead. Quoting utility company personnel, NPR asserts, “According to more than a dozen of the country’s largest utilities, branches and trees falling on power lines are a leading source of power outages. Some utilities say that because of factors related to climate change, trees are dying faster than they can reach them on their normal trimming cycles.”
“We have never seen the sort of mass mortality that we’re seeing now,” said Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) advisor Igor Lacan in the NPR article.
Claimed NPR, “Extreme storms, droughts, disease and insects are stressing and killing trees, and these trees pose a growing threat of wildfires and to grid reliability, many large utilities say.”
If NPR’s claims are true, we should be able to see the declining tree numbers and “mass mortality” of forests in forestry data. Objective scientific data, however, show exactly the opposite is occurring.
Globally and throughout the United States, tree canopy gains far outweigh tree canopy losses. Since 1982, tree canopy cover in the United States has increased by more than 100,000 square miles. That is an area larger than Colorado. Globally, tree canopy has increased by more than 650,000 square miles.
Notably, the increase in tree canopy is occurring not just because forests are expanding their range. Tree growth within each forest acre is also outpacing tree mortality.
NPR focuses much of its tree mortality claims on California, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports there are presently three times as many trees per forest acre in California as there were 150 years ago. The tree growth is so significantly outpacing tree mortality that U.S. Forest Service ecologists are urging forest managers to thin the forests by chopping down trees. This is not consistent with NPR’s claim that forests are in a “mass mortality” die-off caused by global warming.
Power outages have the potential to create tremendous disruption and danger to our daily lives. Recognizing this, climate activists like NPR attempt to further their alarmist climate agenda by blaming power outages on global warming. In reality, objective science shows forests are becoming healthier in a warmer world with more atmospheric carbon dioxide, which reduces the factors that NPR claims are responsible for recent power outages.James TaylorJames Taylor is the President of the Heartland Institute. Taylor is also director of Heartland’s Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy. Taylor is the former managing editor (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism.