What If Increased CO2 Is Good For Us?

I have made this point before: no one denies the climate is changing and the real question is why does our climate change? Climate change has occurred for millenniums so what we are witnessing is not unprecedented for we have seen colder and warmer weather in the past, including the past 2000 years, but climate alarmist have put their entire theory around the rise of CO2 as result of human activity. The theory has several problems contrary to what one reads in the media. The problem with the theory is simply it doesn’t fit what has actually occurred in the world. In a congressional testimony, Princeton Physics scientist William Happer noted, “We have been in a period of global warming over the past 200 years, but there have been several periods, like the last ten years, when the warming has ceased, and there have even been periods of substantial cooling, as from 1942 to 1975. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased from about 280 to 385 parts per million over past 100 years. The combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, has contributed to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. And finally, increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will add a warming trend to the natural warmings and cooling of the earth’s surface.  The key question is: how much warming will there be, and will the warming, and any other effects of the CO2, be good or bad for humanity?...The current warming period began about 1800 at the end of the little ice age, long before there was appreciable burning of fossil fuel.  There have been similar and even larger warmings several times in the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age. These earlier warmings clearly had nothing to do with the combustion of fossil fuels.” Happer, like other skeptics, doesn’t dispute the present warming trend nor the rise in CO2 but he makes the case the real world is not behaving according to the theories as Carbon Dioxide levels increased over the past century. We’ve witnessed substantial cooling from 1942 to 1975 and the present hiatus despite the rise in CO2.  He added that the present warming began since 1800, long before massive use of fossil fuels so the theory that CO2 and human is the driving force has serious flaws including the computer models failure on predicting the hiatus.

Another aspect that Happer brought up, the positive aspect of CO2 on our planet as he stated, “CO2 is not a pollutant and it is not a poison and we should not corrupt the English language by depriving “pollutant” and “poison” of their original meaning. Our exhaled breath contains about 4% CO2.  That is 40,000 parts per million, or about 100 times the current atmospheric concentration.  CO2 is absolutely essential for life on earth.”   The entire weakness of the Alarmist position is that they took a building block of life and declared it a poison, and thus undermine the very science they purport to serve.  

Happer explains, "Commercial greenhouse operators often use CO2 as a fertilizer to improve the health and growth rate of their plants. Plants, and our own primate ancestors evolved when the levels of atmospheric CO2 were at least 1000 ppm, a level that we will probably not reach by burning fossil fuels, and far above our current level of about 380 ppm.” Happer's point is that our planet has seen higher atmospheric CO2 and Happer notes that increased CO2 may enhance crop yields and combined with better use of fertilizers and herbicides, the rise in CO2 has aided the green revolution.  Professor Happer explains basic science, “But no small part of the yield improvement has come from increased atmospheric levels of CO2. Plants photosynthesize more carbohydrates when they have more CO2.  Plants are also more drought-tolerant with more CO2, because they need not “inhale” as much air to get the CO2 needed for photosynthesis. At the same time, the plants need not “exhale” as much water vapor when they are using air enriched in CO2. Plants decrease the number of stomata or air pores on their leaf surfaces in response to increasing atmospheric levels of CO2.” With more Carbon Dioxide, plants need less water vapor and we see higher crop yield, enough to feed a growing population.  If the alarmist holds forth, we would see a browning of the planet but instead we are seeing a greening of the planet and we are feeding more people today because of it.  The number of people living in poverty has been cut by three fold and the number living in Middle Class worldwide.

There have been this year alone, 35 reference studies showing that the present increase in Carbon Dioxide may be good for our planet. One study observed, “The sustained increasing vegetation activity trend (greening) in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) has been a prominent feature in satellite observations since the 1980s and is consistently simulated by models. The trend in vegetation greenness has been linked to increasing growing season length at high latitudes and enhanced terrestrial CO2 uptake in northern ecosystems. The greening pace has been associated with asymmetric effects of climate trends in vegetation activity or variations in the climate forcing. It has also been shown that regional greening trends are further attributed to land use change, land management, CO2 fertilization, and nitrogen deposition” This study support what others have done, that our planet is greening.

Steven Hayward reviewed data on this greening of the planet in Powerlineblog.com when he quipped, “Because that “carbon pollution,” as Gore likes to call it in his uniquely sonorous voice that instantly makes you want to disbelieve him, is what plants and trees eat for dinner.”  He quoted Science Daily, “After analyzing 45 studies from eight countries, Lixin Wang, assistant professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and a Ph.D. student in Wang’s group, Xuefei Lu, concluded the greening likely stems from the impact of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant water savings and consequent increases in available soil water…“We know from satellite observations that vegetation is greener than it was in the past,” Wang said. “We now understand why that’s occurring, but we don’t necessarily know if that’s a good thing or not.” … The researchers believe the greening is a response to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide inducing decreases in plant stomatal conductance — the measure of the rate of passage of carbon dioxide entering, or water vapor exiting, through the stomata of a leaf — and increases in soil water, thus enhancing vegetation growth.”

Steven Hayward concluded with a sarcastic note, “Imagine that: higher levels of carbon dioxide cause plants to grow more robustly and with less water. A “pollutant” with benefits! It’s something a 4th grader might predict the first day of instruction about photosynthesis. This is not a new story, of course. The so-called “deniers” have been making this observation, and pointing to data sets and studies, for a long while now. Still, nice to see it breaking out into the “mainstream” literature.”

The data presented shows that one doesn’t need to be a PHD to understand the weakness of the Climate Alarmist position namely, the data doesn’t match the reality of what is actually happening on our planet and a brief review of photosynthesis shows that Carbon Dioxide is not a poison or pollutant but a necessary building block of life on this planet.

Happer concludes, “If we really were to decrease our current level of CO2 of around 400 ppm to the 270 ppm that prevailed a few hundred years ago, we would lose some of the benefits of the green revolution. Crop yields will continue to increase as CO2 levels go up, since we are far from the optimum levels for plant growth. Commercial greenhouse operators are advised to add enough CO2 to maintain about 1000 ppm around their plants. Indeed, economic studies like those of Dr. Robert Mendelsohn at Yale University project that moderate warming is an overall benefit to mankind because of higher agricultural yields and many other reasons.”  Happer’s view is that the present increase of Carbon Dioxide may be beneficial for our planet.  This is a controversial view that challenges the present conventional wisdom but then Happer and others have enough data to challenge the conventional wisdom, whose own science is slowly imploding into oblivion.


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