USA blurs Climate Change

America’s Discovery Channel has decided not to purchase  the last episode of the BBC Frozen Planet series because it deals with the effects of climate change and many Americans simply do not believe in this concept.

Obviously America is such an enormous country that the climate varies from one coast to the other by huge amounts. 

Could this  make national awareness of what is happening to our climate more difficult to achieve? (Obviously, I am trying to be kind to our American cousins!).

Surely a programme like Frozen Planet would be the perfect way to educate millions of cynical American viewers?

The Guardian expressed this view in an excellent article this week: “If those in the US or anywhere else see all the action, the hunts and fights and chases, the polar bear cubs slipping and sliding on the ice, but miss out on the analysis underpinning it because the commentary, in whatever language, is not adjusted to incorporate some of these crucial facts, their broadcasters will have failed them. For what is the point of education, if not the truth?”


The Climate Zone map of America pictured here denotes 11 major belts for growing plants and is displayed on most seed packets sold in the States.


In keeping with American disbelief in climate change, it is not surprising to learn that this climate zone map is 21 years old and just does not take account of the effects of climate change over the past few decades.

 Most American gardeners have known for ten years that there has been a gradual shift northward of growing zones for many plants in the US. Examples include the Southern Magnolia, once limited to growing zones from Florida to Virginia, which apparently now thrives as far north as Pensylvania. Or, certain kiwis, previously hardy only as far as Oklahoma, which can now bear fruit in St Louis.

Much of this information originates from a fascinating article in USA Today – which explains that possibly one of the main reasons why this map has not been updated to accomodate changing temperatures, is linked to money! It appears that, because so many USA nurseries offer money-back guarantees on plants, many are worried that adjusting the climate maps would encourage customers in cooler areas to possibly risk buying tender plants that would not survive in a freak cold period. The article provides some interesting debate on this issue and makes me realise how much more serious the impact of climate change must be in such a huge country.

The Arbor Day Foundation published an excellent US climate zone map in 2006 based on data from 1991-2005 which includes a comparison to the 1990 version showing the increase northwards in the warm zone for plants and crops .

The American Horticultural Society also developed its own zone map which concentrates on heat tolerance as it explains:

“But as we all know, cold isn’t the only factor determining whether our plants will survive and thrive. Particularly during seasons of drought, we are all aware of the impact that heat has on our plants. Based on numerous studies, the consensus of scientists is that our planet’s climate is warming because of changes in its atmosphere

The effects of heat damage are more subtle than those of extreme cold, which will kill a plant instantly. Heat damage can first appear in many different parts of the plant: Flower buds may wither, leaves may droop or become more attractive to insects, chlorophyll may disappear so that leaves appear white or brown, or roots may cease growing. Plant death from heat is slow and lingering. The plant may survive in a stunted or chlorotic state for several years. When desiccation reaches a high enough level, the enzymes that control growth are deactivated and the plant dies.” .

All I can say is American gardeners must be very confused by all of this. If you garden in America do let me know your thoughts on these climate issues by posting here or feel free to email me at [email protected].

I suppose the best advice must be to check with neighbours and see what they have been growing succesfully . This is what works for me in the UK and with such unpredictable weather patterns probably the best way for gardeners to plan for an uncertain climatic future.

portugal-033April 6th heavy snowfall on one of my Cordylines

This post was written by:

- who has written 872 posts on My Climate Change Garden.

I am not an experienced gardener - more of an enthusiastic amateur who learns by trial and error and who is keen to "manage" the effects of shifting weather patterns on my garden. Writing this blog is my passion and it has evolved over 12 years to inspire engagement with climate change outside our back doors, in our personal gardens and green spaces. My mission is to fertilise and expand this platform to grow a community of global gardeners communicating about the effects of climate change on our plants and exploring how each individual can make small changes in our lives to become more sustainable. The future of our gardens and #OurPlanet is in our hands - please plant your own seeds for our collective sustainable future.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Will Giles Says:

    I should be amazed by the fact that the US will not be seeing the last part of BBC’s Frozen Plant, but I’m not – it was to be expected! From everything I have gleaned from the IPCC,the situation is actually getting worse. It looks as though the earth is becoming much warmer on an escalating scale over the next hundred years or so.

  2. MandyH Says:

    Good Day Friend, I am writing from Ballarat Australia. We have had a lot of rain the last month and I’ve only just been able to log onto the interwebs Thanks so much for the easy to read blog. It assisted me a lot with my TAFE social studies research. God Bless the internet !