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Best of 2014: A controversial column, a strong response

Nadine Unger's claims in the New York Times lacked a scientific basis.
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The New York Times has released an article claiming "large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse". Ricky Martin / CIFOR.
The New York Times has released an article claiming “large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse”. Ricky Martin / CIFOR.

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BOGOR, Indonesia—It was the shot heard ’round the forestry world.

In September, on the eve of Climate Week NYC, The New York Times published an op-ed by a Yale University climate scientist in which the writer, Nadine Unger, wrote that that the way to save the planet was to not plant trees.

Conversely, she wrote, in light of all the complex interactions among plants and the atmosphere, “large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse.”

Reaction to the article was swift and emphatic. According to CIFOR forest and climate expert Lou Verchot, the author had the science exactly wrong.

“This opinion was wrong at so many levels that it is hard to cover them all here,” he wrote in a reply to the piece. “There are all sorts of good reasons to keep forests around; reducing climate change is just one of them.”

Verchot’s response went viral on social media and quickly became the year’s most-read article on Forests News.

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