2011-09-22 10:44:10Trees and funding
John Cook


New email: Couple of tiny little requests (like adding up all the funding to climate science compared to denier funding - easy peasy!) plus a myth about trees I've never heard before:

1) Several people have argued that climatologists are biased in order to "scare everyone" so that they could get more funding. Could you please compare all government funding of global warming research to big carbon spending denouncing it?

2) are there really more trees now than before the industrial revolution?  ("global warming can't matter since there are so many more trees now")

2011-09-29 18:10:34
Paul D


I'll see if I can find anything about trees.

I'm guessing it only applies to industrialised/developed nations. It's probably true in the UK.
But there are new diseases and issues that are having an impact on trees across the UK, such as sudden Oak death, so the idea that there might be some sort of security is false even before you start looking at climate issues and land use.

This parliamentary post note says that forest and woodland cover in the UK has increased from 5% in 1900 to 11.5% in 2007:


But that won't reflect the global position and of course we know that if global tree population has increased we still have a CO2 problem.

2011-09-29 22:39:57
Dikran Marsupial
Gavin Cawley

If there were more trees now than before the industrial revolution then the increased biomas would have been opposing the rise in atmospheric CO2, so the fact that CO2 has been rising so fast suggests that if there are more trees now then the effect hasn't been significant.

"Land use change" emissions have been steadily increasing since the industrial revolution, which is hard to explain if forest growth has exceeded clearance (as stable forests are essentially carbon neutral, clearance is a substantial source  and new growth is a substantial carbon sink).

2011-10-04 12:53:23
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

You would need the opinion of a profesional forester to be sure, but trees extant before the Industrial Revolution and thus cut down to feed its appetite were predominantly centuries-old, old-growth timbers.  Rings were densely packed.  Much of the hardwood forests cut down were replaced by either fast-growing softwoods like pine and popler/cottonwoods.

Much of the reforestation of the industrialized world since then is in the form of forest plantations using fast-growing species specially selected for fast, straight growths that maximize board feet in the desired growth cycle time for optimal profits.

My ancestors clear-cut much of Michigan back in the 1800's.  Many a stump, some well more than 6' (2 meters) in diameter, are still visible more than a century later.  It is very rare to find a mature tree these days more than 3' in diameter.

2011-10-04 14:47:41


are there really more trees now than before the industrial revolution?


I doubt that very much.

During the last days of wooden ships the world's powers cut down entire forests to build ships.  By 'entire forests' I mean to imply regional forests such as used to cover much of Britain.

During the rise of steam power whole forests were cut down in many countries to feed wood-burning locos, ships and boats.  An enlightened Swiss government passed laws to protect the trees which protected the mountain slopes.

During the building of the railways paths were cut through forests.  Sparks from locos would start fires which, in very remote areas, were not seen as a problem.

Deforestation records are often buried in land sales, use and tax records.

If you have a very large team of researchers and one of those trillion dollar grants that the deniers keep bitching about, you could start digging around here:


2011-10-04 19:25:33
Paul D


If I went back in time about 300 or 400 years, I would be sitting in the middle of a forest.

I guess it depends the start point you pick. Go back 100 years and we have more trees now, go back further and we have less.
However I doubt if todays population in the UK would have enough space to live if large forests still existed or were replanted.

The growth in UK forestry in the last hundred years has been due to the First World War and coal mining, both of which required a lot of wood. In fact there were many women lumberjacks/ forestry workers in the UK during WWI. The forests grown then were kept and formed the basis of todays forestry in the UK.

Actually this also highlights the fact that most 'nature' in the UK is highly managed by humans.