A Google New search for the term “climate change” today turned up this story from Thomson Reuters titled “No trees, no crops, no jobs: Burkina Faso’s women fall back on hard labour.” The story claims desertification is increasing in Burkina Faso due to climate change which is undermining its economy—an economy largely based on agriculture. The Thomson Reuters assertion that Burkina Faso’s farm sector and economy are collapsing would likely be news to most residents of the country, because data show crop production is in a long-term growth cycle with new production records frequently being set as the earth continues its modest warming.

“[C]limate change, tree losses and desertification mean farming no longer pays … [c]hanging rainfall patterns are making farming less viable,” writes Thomsen Reuters.

Trees help secure soil, and tree loss is almost certainly occurring in Burkina Faso, but it is not due to climate change. Almost everywhere outside of Burkina Faso’s major cities lacks a modern electric power system. Absent electricity to heat and light homes, and for cooking, it is common for rural people across Africa, including in Burkina Faso, to cut down trees to make charcoal to heat their homes and to cook food.

Even so, data show any loss of trees and attendant desertification has not hampered crop production or economic growth. Both are increasing.

While economic growth in Burkina Faso swings wildly from year to year, the trend has been positive since 1990. Data from the World Bank show Burkina Faso’s annual GDP growth rate was -0.6 percent in 1990; topped 1.8 percent in 2000; exceeded 2.9 percent in 2010; and was approximately 5.7 percent in 2019.

Agriculture is Burkina Faso’s largest economic sector, and a large reason for the country’s economic growth since 1990. United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization records show Burkina Faso has set new crop production records 14 times since 1990. Indeed, cereal crop production grew 241 percent between 1990 and 2018.

Poverty is rife in Burkina Faso, as is true in so many African nations with limited property rights, poor infrastructure, marginal governments, and energy poverty. As a result, many of its women undoubtedly undertake hard labor to survive each day. This being said, contrary to Thomson Reuters’ claims, there is no evidence climate change is making life in Burkina Faso harder for women or anyone else by harming agricultural production or economic growth, because both are growing.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute's Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland's Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.


  1. I apologize Mr. Burnett for the insult but I am so frustrated with the misinformation regarding the surface temperature data.

    Tony Heller has exposed the data altering by simply comparing the measured data to the altered data being shown to the general public and that used by scientists.

    The measured data reveals a gradual decline since the beginning of the 20 century.



    I apologize again Mr. Burnett for the insult but please continue the great work.

    • It’s much more complicated than Tony Heller would have you believe. The raw data may not have been collected at the same locations or times of day, or with the same instrumentation as nowadays. I.e, the raw data might not be an apples to apples comparison with current data.
      For example,

      “Evidence suggests that the collective effect of changes in observation practice at U.S. HCN stations is systematic and of the same order of magnitude as the background climate signal. For this reason, bias adjustments are essential to reducing the uncertainty in U.S. climate trends. The largest biases in the HCN are shown to be associated with changes to the time of observation and with the widespread changeover from liquid-in-glass thermometers to the maximum–minimum temperature system (MMTS).”


      Likewise, but for different reasons, Spencer and Christy have had to alter the originally reported UAH satellite data several times.

      Nefarious? Not necessarily.

      • Nefarious? Very possibly.

        Climate gate exposed the intent.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_8xd0LCeRQ (Hide the Decline)

        If the corrections fixed known problems in the instruments, that would help accuracy. But they are statistical. They make the station measurements smoother when mapped and they smooth over discontinuities. In my opinion, NOAA has overdone it. TOB, PHA, infilling and gridding are overkill. This is easily seen in Figure 7 and by comparing Figure 3 to Figure 6 or Figure 5. Does the final trend in Figure 3 more closely resemble the measurements (Figure 6) or the net corrections in Figure 5? The century slope of the data is 0.25°, the corrections add 0.35° to this and the “climatological gridding algorithm” adds 0.9°! It is worth saying again, the type of statistical operations we are discussing do nothing to improve the accuracy of the National Temperature Index, and they probably reduce it.


        • SK,
          I don’t have the interest, patience or skill to do a deep dive into temperature records. Clive Best does. From his very thorough essay: ‘A Skeptics Guide To Global Temperatures’

          “This is why it is so important to accurately and impartially measure the earth’s average temperature rise since 1850. It turns out that such a measurement is neither straightforward, independent nor easy.”


          Good luck, it’s a lot to take in.

  2. Dr. Burnett –
    “Even so, data show any loss of trees and attendant desertification has not hampered crop production or economic growth. Both are increasing.”

    You seem to be arguing here that life in Burkina Faso has improved despite a trend towards desertification. In fact, Burkina Faso has been getting greener,

    “Despite intense human land use, the Sahel has been re-greening in recent decades as precipitation has recovered from the dry period of the 1970s and 1980s. Whether vegetation expands further into the Sahel and Sahara depends in part on the complex interplay among vegetation, climate, and environmental changes. Despite large modeling uncertainties, state-of-the-art climate-model projections provide some support for the notion of a strengthening of the WAM in the future21 given that enhanced warming of the Northern Hemisphere extratropics favors a stronger monsoon, thus allowing vegetation to expand.22 A crucial factor beyond precipitation changes is the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2): elevated CO2 concentrations from unabated anthropogenic emissions could, in water-limited situations, directly promote vegetation growth and contribute to greening of arid to semiarid landscapes. Under a “high-emission” scenario (i.e., business as usual), by the end of the century CO2 levels will reach values last seen 50 million years before present (BP; >1,000 ppm), a period of climate warmth and a green northern tropical Africa.23,24“



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