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How Climate Change Could Ruin Your Christmas

How Climate Change Could Ruin Your Christmas

Written by Emily Atkin

The first report of Christmas tree shortages has arrived, with Fox News 44 reporting that tree crops in both Vermont and New Hampshire have been seriously compromised this year following an unexpected early heat wave in March and a summer of flash floods.

Though the young trees — some growing for a few years — had been able to withstand the warmer temperatures in late winter, they were unable to hold up to the subsequent flooding in the summer, tree farmer Bob White told the station. “It probably took out as much as half the farm,” he said. “You get used to 20, 30 years of how everything works, and now you don’t know anymore.”

This is the first year that localized extreme flooding has been said to cause a decrease in Christmas tree crop, and scientists have repeatedly linked increased unexpected flooding events caused by a warmer, moister climate to man-made global warming. But this year is not the first where the holiday staple has been put in danger by climate change.

In 2012, drought and heat in Wisconsin and Michigan caused the loss of about 4,000 young trees — about half of their new crop. One Illinois farmer called that year’s loss of young trees the worst he’d seen in 55 years, with almost all of the several thousand trees he planted in the last two years dead from lack of water.

Most farmers said the death of trees wouldn’t reflect in Christmas tree prices this year, but the loss had left some farmers saying they wouldn’t replant. So even though the full-grown trees are still widely available, the crop set to be fully matured six to 10 years from now might be at risk.

The news is not the best for the holiday season, according to Saint Joseph’s University plant biologist Clint Springer. Springer wrote last year that buying a real Christmas tree is highly preferable to buying an artificial tree in terms of contributions to climate change.

“Choosing a real Christmas tree is one way that an average person can make a difference in terms of climate change,” Springer said. “A 7-foot cut tree’s impact on climate is 60 percent less than a 7-foot artificial tree used for six years. So while cut trees are not carbon-neutral, in terms of carbon-use, they are better than artificial trees.”

Christmas tree plots also act like natural sponges for soaking up atmospheric carbon, according to a report in Mother Jones. The soil absorbs around 10 times as much carbon as the wood itself.

Andrew Revkin of the New York Times, however, thinks maybe it’s time for the trees to have a holiday of their own.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: Frank Heinz

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74 comments

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5:26AM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

6:35PM PST on Dec 19, 2013

thanks for the doom and gloom

4:58PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

we have an old artificial tree we bought really cheap one year at a post-Christmas sale....however, we also have had, over the years, several live (not cut down) trees that we decorated and then have kept living outside.......

if you want to do good for the world, better than having a tree is to gift everyone by planting trees for the holiday.

2:28AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

I don't have a christmas tree since ages.

5:12PM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Drive through places like Illinois, Iowa and Indiana and you will find out what a world without trees is like, thanks to all those "poor" farmers, who I have not a trace of sympathy for. Hope they and their world destroying agribusiness buddies all go bankrupt. Same no sympathy for greedy commercial fishermen, I hope they all go bankrupt.

4:46AM PST on Dec 6, 2013

thank you

1:24PM PST on Dec 5, 2013

If it was only my christmas, I wouldn´t bother. I don´t celebrate.

10:21AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

People are so gross... there is no reason to buy a live tree just to drag it into your living room and decorate.. and then toss it out like a piece of garbage in a few weeks. This is not what the tradition was originally about...

12:23AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

Maybe you would be better off recommending that we stop cutting down trees for Christmas.

10:24PM PST on Dec 4, 2013

Merry Christmas

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