Claim: Climate Change Increases Risks of Tree Death

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Stressed forest in the Western US

Planting a tree seems like a generally good thing to do for the environment. Trees, after all, take in carbon dioxide, offsetting some of the emissions that contribute to climate change.

But all of that carbon in trees and forests worldwide could be thrown back into the atmosphere again if the trees burn up in a forest fire. Trees also stop scrubbing carbon dioxide from the air if they die due to drought or insect damage.

The likelihood of those threats impacting forests is increasing nationwide, according to new research in Ecology Letters, making relying on forests to soak up carbon emissions a much riskier prospect.

“U.S. forests could look dramatically different by the end of the century,” says William Anderegg, study lead author and associate professor in the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences. “More severe and frequent fires and disturbances have huge impacts on our landscapes. We are likely to lose forests from some areas in the Western U.S. due to these disturbances, but much of this depends on how quickly we tackle climate change.”

Wildfire, drought and insects 

The researchers modeled the risk of tree death from fire, climate stress (heat and/or drought) and insect damage for forests throughout the United States, projecting how those risks might increase over the course of the 21st century.

See their findings in an interactive map here.

By 2099, the models found, that United States forest fire risks may increase by between four and 14 times, depending on different carbon emissions scenarios. The risks of climate stress-related tree death and insect mortality may roughly double over the same time.

But in those same models, human actions to tackle climate change mattered enormously—reducing the severity of climate change dramatically reduced the fire, drought and insect-driven forest die-off.

“Climate change is going to supercharge these three big disturbances in the U.S.,” Anderegg says. “We’ve seen devastating fire seasons with increasing severity in the past several years. Generally, we expect the western U.S. to be hit hardest by all three of these. And they’re somewhat interconnected too. Really hot and dry years, driven by climate change, tend to drive lots of fires, climate-driven tree mortality and insect outbreaks. But we have an opportunity here too. Addressing climate change quickly can help keep our forests and landscapes healthy.”

The study is published in Ecology Letters and was supported by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, David and Lucille Packard Foundation and Microsoft’s AI for Earth.

After publication, find the full study here.


Ecology Letters




Computational simulation/modeling


Not applicable


Future climate risks from stress, insects and fire across US forests



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Steve Case
May 12, 2022 10:09 am

Off Topic

Study Finds Cleaner Air Leads to More Atlantic Hurricanes
Seth Borenstein AP Science Writer

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Steve Case
May 12, 2022 11:17 am

Seth Borenstein? Thanks a bunch for ruining my day.

Reply to  Frank from NoVA
May 12, 2022 8:29 pm

At least spell his name correctly – it’s Goebbelstein, which is quite ironic, isn’t it?

Rich Lambert
May 12, 2022 10:15 am

I pay to get rid of trash but these people get paid for producing it.

Reply to  Rich Lambert
May 12, 2022 4:13 pm

You got that right.

I’m familiar with the area from which Anderegg created the picture of a “stressed forest” or “dead stand” of Aspens. Talk about cherry picking. He must have had to search for quite a while to compose that photo. Not prime aspen country, but there are plenty of healthy stands around there, Fairplay, CO.

There are also a lot of placer gold mining operations that especially impact hydrology, which of course could harm trees. Nevertheless, feel free to explore the aspen in that area. An honest evaluation would give a different picture.,-105.9845939,3a,90y,280.58h,93.25t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1seLGsO1h-23d82E80hFLm_A!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

Clyde Spencer
May 12, 2022 10:19 am

They make the case that forests should only be viewed as short- to mid-term sequestration of CO2. On a geologic time scale, as mountain ranges rise and are eroded away, the local/regional climate changes and vegetation moves with the elevation changes. The pioneer alpine trees can die if the orogeny continues and lifts the summits above the tree line. If trees adapted to high elevations have their rooting removed by erosion, they will die and release CO2. Everything is transitory at geological time scales.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 12, 2022 11:15 am

And on geological time scales (at least as far back as the Cretaceous) there is no evidence that CO2 controls the earth’s temperature once you control for changes in ocean circulation patterns caused by plate tectonics.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 12, 2022 12:32 pm

The mass of carbon sequestered in the oceans, dead sea creatures (shells, corals, fish skeletons, etc) and of course in the earth’s crust and mantle (largely in the form of limestone, marble, and other carbonate rocks, magma, as well as liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons) fantastically outnumbers the mass of carbon stored in living forests.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 14, 2022 12:30 pm

 Everything is transitory at geological time scales.” Information, or Theories, presented as “geological time scales” do not have the necessary ‘Scare’ feature; hence are not used.

May 12, 2022 10:22 am

Maybe…..maybe CO2 is choking the forests and landscape? Maybe a study is needed? We have to save earth from the climate change monster.

May 12, 2022 10:24 am

> “Climate change is going to supercharge these three big disturbances in the U.S.,” Anderegg says.

“Supercharged” is not a common scientific term.

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Rob_Dawg
May 12, 2022 11:09 am

It is clearly worse than we thought.

Climate change is going to act like “an air compressor that increases the pressure or density of air supplied to an internal combustion engine.”

That sounds very scary.***

*** No wonder the alarmists want to get rid of the internal combustion engine!

Reply to  Pillage Idiot
May 12, 2022 11:58 am

And just what is the problem with adding twin turbos to a car? I’m not seeing it.


Reply to  H.R.
May 12, 2022 12:02 pm

Aren’t those like teenie tiny windmills? 😉

May 12, 2022 10:32 am

…or at DRAX

Andy Pattullo
May 12, 2022 10:39 am

If your hair is on fire your research grant is in the mail and you will get a free entry into the lottery for passes to the next Met Galla with all the other idiotic celebrities and politicos. No wonder Biden wants a department for misinformation – he and the democratic communists can’t get enough of it.

Bryan A
May 12, 2022 10:46 am

Trees also stop scrubbing carbon dioxide from the air if they die due to drought or insect damage.

There, fixed it
Trees scrub CO2 until they reach the end of their life. Big news, Most Trees like all other lifeforms on Earth have an Expiration Date. Otherwise there would be 50,000 year old trees still living.
If you want them to not relinquish their Carbon Stores back into the environment after they die (by whatever cause) then Harvest the Dead Wood and Sink the trees under water in an anoxic environment, like a flooded pit mine. Man Made Coal in time

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Bryan A
May 12, 2022 11:11 am

Or sequester their ‘carbon’ in the form of dimensional lumber of the type commonly used to construct homes. I understand many of these structures are expected to last many decades, and indeed there is physical evidence that some of them have lasted over 100 years!

Bryan A
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
May 12, 2022 12:15 pm

Which also works so long as the exterior and roof are fire proof/resistant

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Bryan A
May 12, 2022 11:13 am

I also recommend sequestering the dead wood into houses with well-built roofs.

The dead wood in my house has been sequestered from the carbon-cycle for 104 years – so far!

(However, I don’t recommend sequestering too much carbon, I think the global level of CO2 is still sub-optimal for humans and for the total biosphere.)

Gordon A. Dressler
May 12, 2022 11:17 am

Title of above article:

“Claim: Climate Change Increases Risks of Tree Death”

It sure does . . . almost everyone with an IQ above room temperature knows that most species of trees can’t survive at altitudes above the “snow line” (aka timberline).

So, as relatively recently (geologic time) demonstrated during the Little Ice Age and as is being predicted by some scientists to occur over the next 100-400 years, a cooling climate with associated lowering of the snow line will definitely increase the actual loss of trees around the planet, not just the risks of such.

Last edited 4 months ago by Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
May 12, 2022 1:10 pm

“most species of trees can’t survive at altitudes above the “snow line””

Hey, but what about all those special trees that grew under the ice .. 😉

You know, the ones now being exposed by retreating glaciers.

May 12, 2022 11:49 am

Good grief, more modelled horror fantasies

They never tire of it

Tom Halla
May 12, 2022 11:52 am

Particularly meatheaded, as forest fires are related more to bad management, as in suppressing low fires and banning logging.
But as those policies follow what the Green Blob has done by litigation in the West, mentioning those issues would.not be polite in the faculty lounge.

Bruce Cobb
May 12, 2022 11:52 am

Addressing climate change quickly can help keep our forests and landscapes healthy.

What a bunch of malarkey.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
May 12, 2022 1:11 pm

Anderegg’s name crops up in all the looniest “climate change” places. !

He’s one the “originals”.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
May 14, 2022 12:38 pm

 synonyms for addressing, including: discussing, dealing, calling, handling, applying, turning, asking, consigning, plowing, treating, covering and more..” damn, why can’t anything be easy.

David Middleton
May 12, 2022 12:09 pm

And why does the earth look greener from outer space?

Bryan A
Reply to  David Middleton
May 12, 2022 12:16 pm

You’re not supposed to notice things like that (the Pastafarians will give you 5 lashes with cooked spaghetti)

Last edited 4 months ago by Bryan A
Andy Pattulloexcept of course for the environmenta
Reply to  David Middleton
May 12, 2022 3:17 pm

The more trees there are there more will die. Just like people. The solution of the radical environmentalists is to kill all the people so human mortality can cease (except for the environmentalists who of course will die off from their own stupidity).

Last edited 4 months ago by Andy Pattulloexcept of course for the environmenta

who of course will die off from their own stupidity”… there you go, raising the hopes of sensible folks.

Old Man Winter
May 12, 2022 12:14 pm

Most US forest fires are caused by man, including arson. Forest fires are << they used to be.
This story is 100% pure unadulterated BeeEss!!!

Vlad the Impaler
May 12, 2022 12:14 pm

“The researchers modeled the risk …”

Stopped reading right there.

Peta of Newark
May 12, 2022 12:20 pm

Plant the tree.
if it dies, it dies.
But when it does, build it into Hugenkultures along the contour lines of wherever it died.

You know, Do Something Useful ffs instead of sitting at a keyboard dictating to everybody else.

I came upon something really lovely very recently.
To do with things called Air Wells = piles of bricks or rocks that collect condensation.
It got deep when it turned into the Talus Garland Effect and positively subterranean when combined with some craic round here recently on the subject of moss.
<See picture attached>

What they’ve done is build a pile of rocks on the uphill side of a tree, with the rocks behaving as an Air Well and hopefully providing water for the tree.

Think about it a bit more and it is just soooo lovely because, the rocks inside the mound (where some light still gets in) will grow moss.

And that moss will eat the rock and thus, feed the tree as well as water it.
Ain’t that just gorgeous, and soooooo simple.

edit to PS..
Its even better when combined with the well established but otherwise Junk science of Global Greening. GG
GG is not caused by extra CO2 but by (reasonably) fertile dust and smoke coming from farmland, also road traffic generates some magical stuff.
And the pile of rocks will act as an air filter, catching some of that goodness and feeding the trees even more.

simply epic but will never happen will it.
No need for More Research and completely No Money to be made from it.
The Human Locusts Swarm ever onwards.

Talus Garland Effect.jpg
Last edited 4 months ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 12, 2022 2:17 pm

Net downward turbulent flux when the sun is down is the key to much of the whole thing.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 12, 2022 3:30 pm

apologies, I forgot to provide context. Hydrology is at the core of relevant flux properties to climate(s):

Last edited 4 months ago by JCM
Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 14, 2022 12:44 pm

Interesting stuff… thanks.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 14, 2022 12:50 pm

I notice that, in your pic, North is on the downhill side of the shown tree… it may seem a dumb question, but, is this “action” only viable if N. is on the downhill side?

May 12, 2022 12:27 pm

Bullshit piled upon bullshit piled upon bullshit still equals bullshit.

So we’ve been warming, as the warmunists love to say, for the last 172 years since their magical baseline date of 1850 (conveniently being the end date of the Little Ice Age), warming us a grand total of 1.1 deg C.

Anybody who is at all familiar with the history of development here in the Americas, and also the history of the conservation movement starting in the early 20th century, knows that forest cover has fantastically expanded in those last 110 years. And of course, biologically, also understands that CO2 is plant food, including for trees, and also understands that forests grow faster and denser when the growing season is longer, which is of course what happens if the climate gets warmer. Pine and other evergreen trees, for instance, grow way the hell faster in Florida and the Gulf Coast area than they do in the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, and northeast, where the growing season is far shorter.

Forests always burn, always have, and always will. It’s called “nature”. So they temporarily release some carbon dioxide as a result of a wildfire in a tiny slice of the total forested area of the land surface … which then produces more plant food, so that the rest of the forested area grows faster and removes more carbon from the atmosphere. I know, all this natural cycle stuff is really, really, really hard to comprehend when you have your head stuck up your butt like the warmunists do.

But still …

Bob Close
Reply to  Duane
May 15, 2022 12:48 pm

A lot of good common sense there Duane, its all in the minds of the alarmists!
Climate changes such as El Nino and La Nina short term events cause by solar induced warming and overturning of Pacific ocean currents are helping cause periodic climate effects such as droughts and floods in Pacific rim countries. In California the current drought and bushfires are matched by the flooding in Eastern Australia, but 2 years ago it was intense bushfires in Australia that caused climate concern.
Inquiries have found that the intensity of those fires was directly related to the lack of or poor effectiveness of forest and bush management by public servants under instruction from woke environmentalists in State governments who did not want backburning to cause more CO2 pollution. We expect annual bushfires in Australia due to our Eucalypt dominant flora, created by thousands of years of fire management by Aborigines so that they could hunt more easily.
We have failed to match their legacy, and are now suffering the consequences due to climate alarmist stupidity, when will they learn that more CO2 in the environment is good for plants and humanity. Grow and utilise more trees responsibly, should be their motto, but one cannot teach anything to idealists, who wallow in their ignorance and moral superiority.

Ireneusz Palmowski
May 12, 2022 12:31 pm

Southern Siberia is on fire and no one will put it out.

May 12, 2022 12:39 pm

Forests sure are getting a lot of hate lately as the ongoing assault on Earth system science continues. Having now completely reduced the system to CO2 and carbon cycles in the literature, forest systems serve as mere sticks of carbon that passively respond to atmosphere. Totally useless. Buy green tech, ecosystems and water cycles be damned. message received.


I have also noticed that the observational TCR screened models according to GISTEMP are tracking well below the SSP2 4.5 in their consensus research framework, which puts USA on track to be well below the green line in their future forest plots. No bother. (maybe we’re just supposed to “feel like” the middle yellow line is most likely).comment image

Last edited 4 months ago by JCM
May 12, 2022 2:07 pm

More CO2 & warmth, more trees & tree growth.
More & bigger trees, more deaths from fires, bugs & old age.
More tree deaths, more CO2 in the air.
Since CO2 is bad, this proves CO2 is bad.

The models show this is a vicious cycle which can only be stopped by killing all the trees.
It’s the final Green solution.

David Kamakaris
May 12, 2022 2:47 pm

Climate change killed this tree.

Gilbert K. Arnold
May 12, 2022 3:29 pm

Is this the same Anderegg of the infamous 97%?

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Gilbert K. Arnold
May 12, 2022 3:59 pm

I had wondered also. One of the first author’s recent papers. Open Access
William R. L. Anderegg. 2021. Gambling With the Climate: How Risky of a Bet Are Natural Climate Solutions? AGU Advances. 2(3):e2021AV000490
“Key Points—Forests may help climate mitigation if they can store carbon for centuries
   Climate-driven disturbances may greatly undermine these aims in California
   Multi-disciplinary and open research is urgently needed to inform policy……
   Finally, NCS efforts broadly represent a clarion call to Earth Scientists and Ecologists where more research is urgently needed.”

Simple question, when did ecology journals first have (allowed) policy statements and begging for money ? Not sure AGU belongs in the ecology journal category; however, last two sentences of this article on the “Future Climate Risks…” in the also relatively new Ecology Letters (1990) which may not belong there either. —“Our results provide a critical starting point in quantifying risks over space and time and can inform management, conservation and policy actions. Taken in sum, our results increase the urgency and magnitude of response needed for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change given the increasing risks of climate change to nature-based climate solutions.”

Quick scan of figure one comparing models with observations didn’t look very good, tables would be helpful, none in Supplementary Materials either. Ecology Letters is “Published in association with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique”

Reply to  H. D. Hoese
May 14, 2022 1:02 pm

I’m nitpicking… This Anderegg should have absorbed his English lessons first… I believe it should read; “How Risky a Bet..”

David Baird
May 12, 2022 4:10 pm

The researchers modeled the risk of tree death from fire, climate stress (heat and/or drought) and insect damage for forests throughout the United States, projecting how those risks might increase over the course of the 21st century.

Model this, model that. With out the models these scientists would have to do some real work.

Reply to  David Baird
May 14, 2022 1:03 pm

…some real Field work…

Mike Maguire
May 12, 2022 5:01 pm

Exaggerating bad things and even predicting the opposite(in this case) of what has been actually happening on our planet for the last 100 years that indisputably shows a world that keeps greening up year, after year, after year is exactly why most of these predictions have been wrong for decades.

All they keep doing is reinforcing that the message is anti science DISinformation and mostly politics.

Global Green Up Slows Warming

Suggestion for people like this:
Try using more objective authentic science rooted in empirical data/realities and discard the starting assumption that we have a climate crisis which compels you to use interpretations which always “find” or “manufacture” a climate crisis.

Mike Maguire
May 12, 2022 5:10 pm

The current drought out West is likely being caused by COLD water anomalies in the tropical Pacific…….the La Nina.
Global warming could not have caused this.
The -PDO is also a factor with more La Nina’s caused by the “cooler” temperature configuration in the ENSO region which stays more prevalent for several decades.
Again, no global warming cause.
In fact, global warming and El Nino kicking in strongly would be the best opportunity for us to overcome the huge precip deficits in the drought areas.

Won’t be happening this year though but you can bet with 100% certainty, that for the rest of the year, the current drought and wildfires will be blamed on the fake climate crisis(global warming) and for exactly the opposite reason that it’s really happening for!

May 12, 2022 5:51 pm

Where can I get a grant full of $$$ so I can write intuitively obvious … Stuff… ??? I can crank out … Stuff… Like this every week for the next few months… And I can tour the bars and hot spots… Ummm I mean study venues all around the world…

May 12, 2022 8:46 pm

The researchers modeled the risk of tree death from fire, climate stress (heat and/or drought) and insect damage for forests throughout the United States, projecting how those risks might increase over the course of the 21st century.”

More modeled fantasy.

Perhaps, that tree damaged hillock is one of their study subjects?
Looks like water tolerant trees were planted on an arid hill.
Unsurprisingly, they fail to survive one of the frequent dry spells.

Happens frequently, especially plants originally spread by people.

Matthew Sykes
May 12, 2022 11:16 pm

Forest fires are natural, many plants need fire to reproduce, they are called pyrophytes, and in hot, dry places, it is normal for the forest to burn to the ground every 30-40 years or so.

Only man limits these fires, if it was up to nature, the entire state would burn.

May 12, 2022 11:20 pm

William Anderegg of the 97% come on down.

Eric Vieira
May 12, 2022 11:58 pm

A lot of the carbon get stored in the roots. They don’t get burned away. So some of the sink capacity remains … but since CO2 isn’t a real problem anyway, forget the whole paper.

Joao Martins
May 13, 2022 3:22 am

Climate Change Increases Risks of Tree Death “, but also increase the performance of other trees.

Time to defund these pseudo-scientists.

May 13, 2022 6:03 am

Stupid beyond belief!

”Climate change” in their minds is dangerous warming caused by man-made CO2

Bull feathers

All that extra CO2 is greening the Earth significantly. And warmer means longer growing season especially at higher altitudes

Annual burn acreage was >10X greater in the early 1900s

“The planet is doing fine – – it’s the people that are fu**ed up!” – George Carlin

May 15, 2022 11:55 am

Logic tells me a warming climate would encourage trees to grow in higher altitudes and in longer in latitudes. So more forests, not less. Hence this article is illogical.

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