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As The Globe Warms, Trees Grow In Frozen Tundra

By Countercurrents.org

12 March, 2013

Trees and shrubs are taking hold in what was once frozen tundra. A new study of 30 years of satellite data shows vegetation moving northward as climatic conditions shift. Kristen Butler reported [1]:

The study, conducted by an international team of 21 researchers from 17 institutions in 7 countries and funded by NASA, appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change on March 10.

Professor Bruce Forbes from the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, one of the authors, says "we are seeing more frequent and longer-lasting high pressure systems. In winter, the snow cover comes later, is deeper on average than in the 1960s, but is melting out earlier in spring."

"Arctic plant growth during the early 1980s reference period equaled that of lands north of 64 degrees north. Today, just 30 years later, it equals that of lands above 57 degrees north — a reduction in vegetation seasonality of about seven degrees south in latitude," says co-author Prof. Terry Chapin, Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The change equates to a distance of approximately 480 miles.

“In a few decades, if the current trends continue, much more of the existing low shrub tundra will start to resemble woodlands as the shrubs become tree-sized”, says Forbes.

Northern Boreal forest species are adapted to cold. “Some areas of boreal forest will be negatively impacted by warming temperatures, from increased drought stress as well as insect and fire disturbance”, says Scott Goetz of Woods Hole Research Center in the US, another of the co-authors.

Although many climate studies can be argued, increasing deciduous growth creeping further north shows temperatures are staying warm enough to support vegetation in what was once frozen tundra.

Security threat

Susie Cagle reported [2]:

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, chief of US Pacific Command, believes there will be terrible security threats on a warming planet.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, Locklear said that societal upheaval due to climate change “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen … that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

“People are surprised sometimes,” he added, describing the reaction to his assessment. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level.

Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

Locklear said his Hawaii-based headquarters — which is … responsible for operations from California to India — is working with Asian nations to stockpile supplies in strategic locations and planning a major exercise for May with nearly two dozen countries to practice the “what-ifs.”

Locklear isn’t alone in his climate fears. A recent article by Julia Whitty takes an in-depth look at what the military is doing to deal with climate change. A 2008 report by U.S. intelligence agencies warned about national security challenges posed by global warming, as have later reports from the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel understands the threat, too.

Locklear’s words help to further mainstream the idea that climate change is a serious security problem.

Alternet in an article published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org said [3]:

Admiral Locklear told the Boston Globe that global warming could 'cripple the security environment.'

Locklear told that global warming “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”

Locklear made the comments to the Boston Globe during an interview after he met with scholars at Harvard and Tufts Universities. He met with a number of foreign policy specialists to discuss U.S. policy towards Asia as the Obama administrations goes ahead with its plan to “pivot” to the region.

Despite the real challenges including the North and South Korea tension Locklear focused on climate change as an even more important threat.

“The ice is melting and sea is getting higher,” said Locklear. “I’m into the consequence management side of it. I’m not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they’re contemplating moving their entire population to another country because [it] is not going to exist anymore.”

“We have interjected into our multilateral dialogue – even with China and India – the imperative to kind of get military capabilities aligned [for] when the effects of climate change start to impact these massive populations,” he told the Boston Globe. “If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.”


[1] “NASA: 30 years of global warming brings trees to the tundra”, UPI.com http://www.upi.com/blog/2013/03/11/NASA-30-years-of-global-warming-brings-trees-to-the-tundra/4201363022484/

[2] Grist, “Big military guy more scared of climate change than enemy guns”, http://grist.org/news/big-military-guy-more-scared-of-climate-change-than-enemy-guns/

[3] “Top Military Officer: Climate Change Biggest Threat to Security”,





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