Commentary forest damage report: doing nothing is climate denial

Thanks to climate change, it’s getting too hot and too dry for many conifers. But Agriculture Minister Julia Klockner is doing – nothing.

This does not look good Photo: dpa

Anyone who talks about forest dieback in this country is in danger of quickly making a fool of themselves. One-third of Germany is covered by trees in contiguous areas, and this is commonly referred to as forest. But not even three percent of it is actually forest – in other words, natural forest ecosystems. Everything else is farmed forest, a few mixed forests and mostly monocultures.

Most of them are in bad shape, as the forest condition survey shows. Foresters have planted mostly pines and spruces. They grow fast and bring money. Climate change is changing that, because it is too hot and too dry for spruces and pines in the German lowlands. They break in storms, are too weakened to protect themselves from bark beetles because they are not kept in a manner appropriate to their species. Most forest owners are well aware of this, but still want to get the most out of the forest.

It is for this clientele that Agriculture Minister Julia Klockner (CDU) makes policy. She boasts that she has loosened up compensation for forest owners after the drought summer of 2018. Looks concerned when she accompanies a forester through Brandenburg’s pine monotony on Forest Day. Her secretary of state reassures the Bundestag’s agriculture committee by saying that pesticides continue to be used in the forest. Some forest owners think they can compensate for their forestry mistakes with poison.

Klockner is too smart to question climate change. She would be politically dead as a climate change denier, but she is also doing nothing to turn forests into ecologically useful forests that can survive climate stress. Mixed deciduous forests also cool overheated cities and contribute to climate change adaptation. Refraining from pending tasks is also a form of denial, because Klockner is not repressing anything. She uses the distortions in climate and nature to justify her unnatural policies.