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CO2 is bad for plants

08 Dec 2021 | OP ED Watch

One luxury climate alarmists enjoy is that they can say anything and people will assume it’s true. Announce that wildfires are increasing globally and no one will question it. Declare that sea level rise is causing shorelines to shrink around the world and everyone will nod along. Wail about the rising threat of floods and you’ll be hailed as a sage. You can say climate change makes penguins swim north to New Zealand, or that it brings cold weather and floods, or hot weather and floods. You can say it spells hunger and misery as unnatural disasters wipe out crops. And in case they don’t, well, just announce that CO2 is bad for plants and global greening be hanged: “Climate change surprise: High carbon dioxide levels can retard plant growth, study reveals”. From a study that found higher CO2 was associated with 40 percent faster plant growth. [Read more.]

No, really. It is obvious to every sane person that CO2 is plant food, whatever else it might be. At least we hope so. It is certainly obvious to everyone who pays any attention to the issue that greenhouse owners pump the stuff into their hot wet glass boxes to help plants grow. Hence the famous image of Sherwood Idso next to four pine saplings grown at various concentrations, mostly far higher than today.

The Stanford press release begs to differ: “Climate change surprise: High carbon dioxide levels can retard plant growth, study reveals”. And they admit that it sounds weird: “The prevailing view among scientists is that global climate change may prove beneficial to many farmers and foresters – at least in the short term. The logic is straightforward: Plants need atmospheric carbon dioxide to produce food, and by emitting more CO2 into the air, our cars and factories create new sources of plant nutrition that will cause some crops and trees to grow bigger and faster. But an unprecedented three-year experiment conducted at Stanford University is raising questions about that long-held assumption. Writing in the journal Science, researchers concluded that elevated atmospheric CO2 actually reduces plant growth when combined with other likely consequences of climate change – namely, higher temperatures, increased precipitation or increased nitrogen deposits in the soil.”

Except that makes the results sound worse than what they were. The researchers said that if the only thing that changes is we have more CO2, plants grow faster. Or if it gets warmer, wetter and more nitrogenous, but without extra CO2, plant growth increases by 84%. But if you also add CO2 it only increases 40%. So the plants still grew faster. But no one foresees a future with no extra CO2 in the air yet more warming, rain and nitrogen. So the first big surprise is that an impossible scenario turns out to be really good for plants, and the second is that a feasible scenario is also good, just not as good, except for the fact that it is feasible. And the researchers don’t know why the extra CO2 limited the extra growth although they hypothesize that the CO2 also benefits soil microorganisms that compete for nutrients with the plants.

So it’s perfectly legitimate to say yes, if nothing else changed more CO2 would help plants. And also that the floods, droughts, wildfires, rising oceans, atmospheric rivers, polar vortices and so forth that rising CO2 might call forth would counteract this effect, or might. And many people do so, saying stuff like “Fishing yields and agriculture in some areas could collapse, Millions could face poverty” although to get all picky and technical agricultural yields seem to be going up dramatically. As Vijay Jayaraj put it irritably back in August, “All-time record crop production in India belies the doomsday narrative of climate alarmists. To no great surprise, the U.N. and media ignore the remarkable achievement of this country of 1.4 billion people because it contradicts a political agenda pursued with religious fervor.” And as he added in October, India is now projecting yet another record crop for 2021-22.

Never mind. The point is, you can say just anything if you’re a climate alarmist. Provided it includes that we are all going to die.

4 comments on “CO2 is bad for plants”

  1. Ummm... There are an awful lot of greenhouse operators who control temperature, humidity, and nitrogen (fertilizer) levels in their greenhouses. Are we to believe that none of them noticed, when it became popular to add CO2, that their yield decreased dramatically?

  2. At a CLINTEL lecture in Amsterdam November 15, 2021, Dr. William Happer, eminent physicist and professor emeritus at Princeton University not only contends that climate change is “not a problem” but that doubling the current CO2 level would be beneficial to humanity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PblYr-KjOVY&t=3556s). The documentary film by John Robson entitled “The Environment - A True Story” gave me my first awareness of the rock solid expertise of Dr. Happer.

  3. I used to laugh at friends who said their plants grew faster/better when they would talk to them. Exhaling at 25,000/30,000 ppm on them now makes sense! Love your site.

  4. This article is the equivalent of saying that starvation is the leading cause of obesity on the planet. Who would be stupid enough to believe this. Oh yeah, alarmist climate reality deniers.

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