If you wish to bring a civil discussion on climate to an abrupt halt, there’s a method even quicker and more dependable than criticizing wind power. You can praise CO2. And Craig D. Idso does, in a new series on MasterResource: A Free-Market Energy Blog. Of course that name alone is enough to send some people into conniptions. But here’s the real kicker: He argues that CO2 provides enormous benefits that should be taken into account even by people who believe that it also carries significant costs. And nothing spoils a good debate like a quarrel over whether there’s any such thing as those ghastly tradeoffs in public policy generally and climate in particular.
In announcing his new series Idso promises “a series of articles describing several key benefits atmospheric CO2 enrichment provides to both humanity and nature” at the rate of roughly two a month. And although we are keen, we are also chronic skeptics and we wonder how much he can really say about “topics such as the effects of CO2 on plant growth and water use efficiency, a CO2-induced greening of the planet, the monetary benefits of rising CO2 on crop yields, and much, much more.” Then again we regularly publish paper summaries from CO2Science.org that manage to cover an amazing range of subjects. So we shall see.
We shall also see whether people who do not share our views are in any way willing to consider that he might have something to add to their understanding even if he does not entirely change their view. Idso says it is “no surprise” that “most of the population remains woefully unaware of the many positive impacts of CO2 on the biosphere… considering the constant and steady stream of misinformation our society endures from sources dedicated to demeaning and defaming CO2.” And of course if you think CO2 is going to wipe out civilization and much of nature you would be remiss if you did not say negative things about it, although we in turn would certainly critique your reasoning about its impacts. But as noted, the kicker is this part: “many important and positive impacts of atmospheric CO2 enrichment remain underappreciated and largely ignored in the debate over what to do, or not do, about anthropogenic CO2 emissions. And that omission does not bode well for policy decisions.”
If you were concerned that rising CO2 could trigger a series of environmental tipping points harmful or devastating to crops, ambient temperature, ecosystems and so on, you could also be concerned that stopping it from rising, or even bringing it back down through sequestration, could hurt both crops and wild plants, and the animals that depend on them. And then you’d want to determine just how big the negative and positive impacts were, and check both the data and reasoning that led to those determinations, and keep your voice level and your tone civil in exchanging ideas even with people whose views you found improbable.