Global greening’ sounds good. In the long run, it’s terrible

By | August 1, 2018

Carl Zimmer writes:

“Global greening” sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Plants need carbon dioxide to grow, and we are now emitting 40 billion tons of it into the atmosphere each year. A number of small studies have suggested that humans actually are contributing to an increase in photosynthesis across the globe.

Elliott Campbell, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues last year published a study that put a number to it. Their conclusion: plants are now converting 31 percent more carbon dioxide into organic matter than they were before the Industrial Revolution.

Climate change denialists were quick to jump on Dr. Campbell’s research as proof that increased carbon dioxide is making the world a better place.

“So-called carbon pollution has done much more to expand and invigorate the planet’s greenery than all the climate policies of all the world’s governments combined,” the Competitive Enterprise Institute declared shortly after the study came out.

“The best messages are positive: CO2 increases crop yields, the earth is greening,” wrote Joseph Bast, the chief executive officer of the Heartland Institute, in an October 2017 email obtained by EE News.

In June, Mr. Bast co-authored an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal in which he cited Dr. Campbell’s work as evidence of the benefits of fossil fuels. Our unleashing of carbon dioxide contributes “to the greening of the Earth,” he said.

Recently I talked Dr. Campbell, and as it turns out, he feels people like Mr. Bast are drawing the wrong lessons from his research. Here are four reasons he believes nobody should be celebrating “global greening.” [Continue reading…]

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