New Study Shows Global Greening An ‘Indisputable Fact’, Driven By CO2 Fertilization


The CO2 fertilization effect has been the dominant driver of the global-scale increase in “leaf area index” (LAI), or greening, since the 1980s. Scientists have estimated that CO2’s photosynthesis-enhancing capacity is 70% responsible for the greening trend (Zhu et al., 2016).

Using Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data sources of questionable quality, some recent studies have suggested the greening trend has slowed or has even been reversed to browning since the 21st century began. [emphasis, links added]

As suggested, these data sources “should be used in caution” (Chen et al., 2024) as it is “well known that AVHRR-based NDVI and LAI have multiple sources of uncertainty,” such as “obvious artificial signals from the orbital drift.”

Using much more reliable MODIS data, scientists (Chen et al., 2024) can now say the LAI [greening] trend in the 21st century is robustly positive, and that 2001-2020 “global greening is an indisputable fact.”

The satellite data indicate that 55.15% of global areas are greening “at an accelerated rate,” whereas just 7.28% have undergone a browning trend since 2001.

CO2 fertilization is still the dominant driver (75.63%) of Earth’s 21st-century greening trend.

Any drought trends in recent decades cannot overtake the positive CO2 fertilization effect, as all drought does is slightly slow the acceleration of the CO2-induced greening trend.

global greening study

Source: Chen et al., 2024. Click to enlarge.

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