We examined trends in vegetation activity at the global scale from 1982 to 1998 using a recently developed satellite‐based vegetation index in conjunction with a gridded global climate dataset. Vegetation greening trends were observed in the northern high latitudes, the northern middle latitudes, and parts of the tropics and subtropics. Temperature, and in particular spring warming, was the primary climatic factor associated with greening in the northern high latitudes and western Europe. Temperature trends also explained greening in the US Pacific Northwest, tropical and subtropical Africa, and eastern China. Precipitation was a strong correlate of greening in fragmented regions only. Decreases in greenness in southern South America, southern Africa, and central Australia were strongly correlated to both increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation. Over vast areas globally, strong positive trends in greenness exhibited no correlation with trends in either temperature or precipitation. These areas include the eastern United States, the African tropics and subtropics, most of the Indian subcontinent, and south‐east Asia. Thus, for large areas of land that are undergoing greening, there appears to be no climatic correlate. Globally, greening trends are a function of both climatic and non‐climatic factors, such as forest regrowth, CO2 enrichment, woody plant proliferation, and trends in agricultural practices.