Out of ClimateREALISM
By James Taylor
A drop of maple sap dripping from a faucet into a bucket to make maple syrup. Tradition in Quebec, Canada.
This article originally appeared in Townhall
February is the peak of the maple syrup production season, meaning climate activists and their media allies are once again claiming that climate change is ravaging maple syrup production. The media spreads this story every year, and every year maple syrup production thoroughly refutes this claim. The objective fact – backed by undisputed scientific data – is that maple syrup production regularly breaks new records.
At the top of this week’s climate change search results, Google News links to a Feb. 16 Boston Globe article that claims, “Welcome to the new normal of winters in New England, where more and more maple syrup producers are tapping trees over a month early.” ‘ to try to save production in the climate crisis. The headline of a Feb. 11 Bloomberg article, also promoted by Google News, claims, “$1.5 billion maple syrup industry fragments as winters warm.”
Dozens of media outlets spread the maple syrup climate crisis every winter and spring. Here are just a few examples from last year: On May 30, 2022, Global News Canada published an article entitled “Climate Change Threatening Maple Syrup Industry, Say Producers”. USA Today published an article on May 16, 2022 entitled “Climate Change Means Uncertain Future for Northeast Maple Trees, Syrup Season”. Gothamist published an article on April 6, 2022 entitled “How Climate Change Is Making Maple Syrup Less Sweet – and Sapping Production in NY, NJ”.
There are two points of misinformation peddled in the maple syrup scare stories. First, warming winters alter and shorten the late-winter maple syrup production season, which devastates maple syrup production. Second, hotter, drier summers reduce the amount of photosynthesis in sugar maples. Less photosynthesis results in less sugar production, resulting in sugar maple sap being less sweet.
Regarding the first point, scientists have found that the maple sap production season advances only four days per 1 degree Celsius temperature. That means the juice production season has advanced by just four days over the last century. It’s not a big change.
Also regarding the first point, the tiny change in maple sap production season has not caused a drop in sap production. On the contrary, maple syrup production regularly sets new records. The website Statista documents that 2022 was the best season ever for US maple syrup production, breaking the previous record by almost 20 percent.
Each of the seven best years in juice production of all time occurred in the last seven years. Maple syrup production in Canada is showing a similarly dramatic upward trend.
Regarding the second point, the claim that climate change is making maple syrup less sweet rests on the assumption that global warming is inhibiting photosynthesis in maple trees. Maple trees produce sugar when their leaves collect sunlight and turn it into sugar. Climate activists argue that a summer of more environmental stress — like a climate with drier summers and more drought — stunts leaf growth, inhibits the efficiency of photosynthesis, and inhibits the tree’s ability to convert sunlight into sugars.
In reality, climate change is not inhibiting photosynthesis and tree health. NASA satellite measurements show that global leaf intensity has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, mostly due to more atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is particularly the case in New England and southern Canada, where much of the world’s sugar maple is found.
Furthermore, the claimed increase in hot, dry summers is not happening. Vermont is by far the state with the largest maple syrup production. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) State Climate Summaries 2022: Vermont documents that there is no trend in the number of hot summer days in Vermont. 1954 was the year with the most hot summer days and 1975-1979 was the five-year period with the most hot summer days. Similarly, the NOAA Summary reports, “Mean annual precipitation since 1970 has generally been above long-term averages.” So much for suggesting that climate change is exposing maples to harmful summer stress through increased heat and drought. Of course, we already know that there is less stress and more photosynthesis in Vermont’s maples from NASA satellite imagery, which shows staggering growth in Vermont’s leaf intensity.
As with so many fictitious climate fears, ignore the media alarmism and treat yourself to a second helping of delicious maple syrup!
James Taylor is President of the Heartland Institute. Taylor is also director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy in Heartland. Taylor is the former Editor-in-Chief (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication dedicated to sound science and free-market environmental protection.
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