Africa · but is it science · Climate Change · Environment · Life · science and philosophy

AGW Claims vs Truth – 2b Benefits of Carbon Dioxide

Chart Source: Review Article: “Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide,” Willie Soon (1), Sallie L. Baliunas(1), Arthur B. Robinson (2), Zachary W. Robinson (2) Climate Research. 13, 149-164, (1999)
CO2 Enhanced Plant Growth Rates – Chart Source: Review Article “Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide,” Willie Soon (1), Sallie L. Baliunas(1), Arthur B. Robinson (2), Zachary W. Robinson (2) Climate Research. 13, 149-164, (1999)

a.) Animals exhale CO2 and breathe in O2, while plants use CO2 for photosynthesis and “exhale” O2. Professional greenhouses often add extra CO2 to increase growth rates. Increased plant growth removes much of the CO2 released into the atmosphere. Between pre-industrial and present times, studies show an average of 15 percent increase in plant growth rates, with some species increased many times that, e.g, young pine trees.  Increased plant growth rates and wider distribution of arable (farmable) land due to warming as well as improved farming practices can solve the so-called overpopulation problem.

b.) Critics created the “progressive nitrogen limitation hypothesis,” which assumes that increased growth rates of trees would deplete poor soils of nitrogen, thus mediating the positive effects of increased CO2. This is a scenario based on an unproven hypothesis, not reality, which stubbornly refuses to support the hypothesis. Many studies[1] show that, contrary to the hypothesis, although roots grow deeper and produce more fine hairs, soil and forest floor are enriched in nitrogen from biological sources, ie, increased root mass and leaf litter supporting beneficial microbes in the soil.  Deeper roots with more fine hairs also make plants mean enhanced tolerance to dryer conditions. (also see next item)

c.) One benefit of increased CO2 is that the stomata (openings) of leaves, which take in CO2 and emit water vapor and oxygen, are reduced, leading to less water loss, enhanced water use and improved tolerance to dryer conditions. At elevated CO2 levels, stomata do not need to be open as far to allow sufficient CO2 in for photosynthesis and, as a result, less water is lost through transpiration[2]. In controlled studies, an additional benefit of reduced stomata openings is a reduction in ozone damage.

d.) The increased rate of growth of plants, from forests to sea algae, results in more of certain cooling aerosols being produced. These include Carbonyl Sulfide (COS) from soil and seas that become highly reflective sulfate in the stratosphere to reflect more solar radiation back into space; iodo-compounds[3] from sea algae that nucleate clouds to reflect more solar radiation back into space; and dimethyl sulfide (DMS), from seas that nucleates clouds as well as other aerosols such as isoprene from trees with similar effects.

The increase in carbon dioxide is greening many arid regions because of more efficient use of water and the increased growth rate. Sub-Saharan Africa is blooming, the Amazonian jungle is flourishing and global vegetative cover is increasing.  The effect on ocean phytoplankton is equally as dramatic.  Significant reduction of carbon dioxide levels as proposed by the various climate agreements would have a detrimental effect on plant growth and consequently food supplies.  A concentration of 150 ppm is too low for photosynthesis to occur and plants die.

Hormesis Diagram with CO2 concentration on the horizontal axis vs plant growth
Hormesis Diagram with CO2 concentration on the horizontal axis vs plant growth rate

Hormesis is a phenomenon, commonly seen in medicine and nutrition, where a low or moderate concentration or dose results in a positive effect, but a larger dose results in damage. For instance, some salt and water are necessary to good health, but beyond a certain point, ingesting more can be harmful or fatal. The effect of CO2 on plant life appears to be one such system. Increased CO2 obviously benefits plant life, but it is uncertain at what level CO2 might have a detrimental effect on growth. In professional greenhouses and experiments, even ten times the current level is still beneficial.

[1] Example: Phillips, R.P., Finzi, A.C. and Bernhardt, E.S. 2011. “Enhanced root exudation induces microbial feedbacks to N cycling in a pine forest under long-term CO2 fumigation”. Ecology Letters 14: 187-194.

[2] See review article of research papers: “Responses of agricultural crops to free-air CO2 enrichment” Kimball, B.A., Kobayashi, K. and Bindi, M., Advances in Agronomy 77: 293-368 2002.

[3] Iodo-compounds contain iodine derived from seaweed

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