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Climate Change

Greening of the Earth Enhanced by ... India and China?

Over the last two decades, the earth has seen a big increase in area covered by green leaves.

Jordan Candler · Feb. 21, 2019

China and India take a lot of flak for their heavy carbon footprints. However, NASA Ames reports, “A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land.” What explains this dichotomy? The journal Nature Sustainability relays some specifics:

Recent satellite data (2000–2017) reveal a greening pattern that is strikingly prominent in China and India and overlaps with croplands world-wide. China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6% of global vegetated area. The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%), but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%). China is engineering ambitious programmes to conserve and expand forests with the goal of mitigating land degradation, air pollution and climate change. Food production in China and India has increased by over 35% since 2000 mostly owing to an increase in harvested area through multiple cropping facilitated by fertilizer use and surface- and/or groundwater irrigation. Our results indicate that the direct factor is a key driver of the ‘Greening Earth’, accounting for over a third, and probably more, of the observed net increase in green leaf area.

NASA Ames adds, “Taken all together, the greening of the planet over the last two decades represents an increase in leaf area on plants and trees equivalent to the area covered by all the Amazon rainforests. There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s — a 5% increase.”

Researcher Chi Chen noted, “China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation — a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation.”

And according to Ames Research Center’s Rama Nemani, “Once people realize there’s a problem, they tend to fix it. In the 70s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss wasn’t good; in the 90s, people realized it; and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data.” This is a salient point that reinforces the pertinence of adaptation. What’s causing climate change remains obscure, despite the mainstream narrative. Moreover, CO2 isn’t a pollutant. And crops, as demonstrated above, thrive on it — which is a good thing.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this greening would likely be less so without fossil fuels. As Joseph L. Bast and Peter Ferrara wrote in The Wall Street Journal last June, “Fossil-fuel emissions create additional benefits, contributing to the greening of the Earth. A 2017 study published in Nature magazine found that the global mass of land plants grew 31% during the 20th century. African deserts are blooming thanks to fossil fuels.”

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