Space & Innovation

Managed Forests Accelerate Climate Change

Replacing broadleaved forests with evergreen trees is contributing to climate change, even when tree coverage increases. Continue reading →

Planting conifers to replace broadleaved forests is contributing to climate change, even when tree coverage increases, reports a new study published in the journal Science.

Commercially desirable trees - such as Scot pines, Norway spruce and beech - absorb more heat than light-green broadleaf trees, such as oak, maple and birch.

"It's not all about carbon," lead author Kim Naudts of France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, told Reuters. "Two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate."

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Deciduous trees do a better job of reflecting light than evergreens, but reforestation favors fast-growing conifers. In Europe 85 percent of forests were managed by humans as of 2010, the study reports.

Since 1850, the number of broadleaf trees has decreased by about 170,000 square miles (436,000 kilometers).

The conversion to conifers has reduced the amount of solar energy reflected back into space, say the authors, accelerating climate change rather than mitigating it even as the overall tree coverage has increased in the last two and a half centuries.

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The researchers argue warming should be considered in addition to simply replacing the same land area, to reduce the impact on Earth's climate.

The study was produced by France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement and published in the journal Science.

You've heard a lot about how human-driven climate change will lead to hotter temperatures, cause sea levels to rise and make storms more intense. But it's projected to have plenty of other unpleasant and even disastrous effects as well. Here are 10 of them. Scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to increased evaporation of the Great Lakes' water, and precipitation won't make up the difference. That means we're likely to see declines in water levels over the next century, and one study predicts they may drop as much as 8 feet.

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Thanks to climate change, jumbo-sized ragweed plants will spew out more pollen for a longer, more miserable allergy season.

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By altering the wild environment, climate change makes it easier for newly mutated microbes to jump between species, and it's likely that as a result, diseases will emerge and spread across the globe even more rapidly.

A recent Nature article reported that male Australian central bearded dragons have been growing female genitalia because of rising temperatures, a phenomenon that had not previously been observed in that species.

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Rising sea levels are wiping out beaches all over the world already. Importing fresh sand and building them up again is only a temporary solution. To make matters worse, there's currently a sand shortage, due to demand from fracking, glass and cement making.

Bark beetles are eating old growth forests, because the winters aren't cold enough to kill them off. So more trees like this American Elm will die.

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Warmer temperatures mean there will be more water vapor trapped in the atmosphere, leading to more lightning. A University of California-Berkeley study predicts that lightning strikes will increase by about 12 percent for every degree Celsius gained.

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Wine grape harvests are being hurt. Regions that have historically supplied the world’s best wine will no longer be hospitable climates to grow wine grapes, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund and others.

Coffee flavor depends upon really narrow conditions of temperature and moisture, and climate change is going to wreak havoc with that. Worse yet, as coffee growing regions become warmer, pests that couldn't survive in the past will ravage the crops. This is already being seen in Costa Rica, India and Ethiopia, which have experienced sharp declines in crop yields.

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Scientists say that as ice sheets and glaciers melt, the weight that's removed from the Earth's crust changes the stresses upon volcanoes. That unloading effect can trigger eruptions.

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