Study Claims Global Warming Is Killing All The Christmas Trees

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A study out of the University of Delaware shows that Christmas trees will be an endangered species in the Southwest section of the U.S. within the next hundred years, but one noted climatologist says the study is unnecessarily hyperbolic.

The study, published in the journal of Nature Climate Change, issues a dire warning to public policy makers and environmentalists: If global warming is not scaled back soon, then we should expect to see the death of 72 percent of needleleaf evergreens in the Southwest by 2050, with that number increasing to 100 percent by 2100.

“This isn’t entirely a surprise to some of us who study this, the writing’s on the wall, so to speak,” the study’s lead author, Nate McDowell, told the Washington Post. “On the other hand, no one had ever evaluated these state of the art models for predicting tree death.”

McDowell, a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and his co-authors used a mix of global warming simulation models, regional predictions and field results to come to their conclusion — that evergreen trees, or Christmas trees, will die-off sooner rather than later.

While it may not have been a surprise to McDowell and the other researchers on the project, it did come as a stunner to at least one climatologist.

“These studies are painting too dire a scenario for the trees,” Chip Knappenberger, a long-time climatologist and current assistant director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“I am not saying that it’s going to be an ideal climate for the trees in droughts, but I won’t say it’s going to lead to the kind of catastrophic event the paper presents,” he said.

What is happening here is not new, Knappenberger added. These trees have adapted over millennia to the exact conditions with which they are meeting today — long bouts of dry, warm weather. Most of the evergreen species in the area have outlived human beings and are resilient, he noted.

In fact, he said, the vegetation in the area “is perfectly suited for life in devastatingly dry conditions. They have adapted to use only the resources available to them.”

Knappenberger went on to criticize the authors use of global warming simulation models to predict tree mortality rates.

“The real world shows that not only do these global warming simulation models have a hard time determining weather patterns in certain areas, but they are also not very good at forecasting the adaptive abilities of trees,” Knappenberger said about the group’s research instruments, adding that ultimately “we have to remember that these trees have existed for years in theses kinds of drought conditions. And I have no reason to think they will not continue to adapt.”

McDowell and his crew did make at least a fleeting allowance for Knappenberger’s criticism. They were careful to note that the models they created didn’t take into account the trees’ historical ability to adapt to sustained warm weather and drought conditions.

Still, they stand by the bulk of their findings. One of the authors, Sara Rauscher, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Delaware, said in a statement Tuesday that the methods the study used give researchers the cover necessary to make their claim stick.

“No matter how we investigated the problem, we got the same result. This consensus gives us confidence in this projection of forest mortality,” Rauscher said.

The loss of trees and vegetation, such as shrubs and bushes, the statement reads, creates more global warming because plants and foliage vacuum carbon from the atmosphere. So in effect, less vegetation means less carbon capture, Rauscher said in the statement.

It’s not just the global warming specter that haunts Rauscher, she says, it’s also the possibility of losing an ancient and historical tree population.

“This region of the U.S. has beautiful, old forests with historic trees like Ponderosa pine that you don’t find in many other places. A treeless Southwest would be a major change not only to the landscape, but to the overall ecosystem,” she said. “There is always hope that if we reduce carbon emissions,” that we might be able to ensure that these “dire projections won’t come to pass,” she added.

The American Southwest is a vast and wide area, covering 11 national forests spread out over 20 million acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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