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Rise in CO2 has ‘greened Planet Earth’

April 29, 2016
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood 

 

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36130346

 

From the BBC:

 

Carbon dioxide emissions from industrial society have driven a huge growth in trees and other plants.

A new study says that if the extra green leaves prompted by rising CO2 levels were laid in a carpet, it would cover twice the continental USA.

Climate sceptics argue the findings show that the extra CO2 is actually benefiting the planet.

But the researchers say the fertilisation effect diminishes over time.

They warn the positives of CO2 are likely to be outweighed by the negatives.

The lead author, Prof Ranga Myneni from Boston University, told BBC News the extra tree growth would not compensate for global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, ocean acidification, the loss of Arctic sea ice, and the prediction of more severe tropical storms.

The new study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change by a team of 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries.

It is called Greening of the Earth and its Drivers, and it is based on data from the Modis and AVHRR instruments which have been carried on American satellites over the past 33 years.The sensors show significant greening of something between 25% and 50% of the Earth’s vegetated land, which in turn is slowing the pace of climate change as the plants are drawing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Just 4% of vegetated land has suffered from plant loss.

Image copyright Thinkstock Image caption The extra growth is the equivalent of more than four billion giant sequoias – the biggest trees on Earth

This is in line with the Gaia thesis promoted by the maverick scientist James Lovelock who proposed that the atmosphere, rocks, seas and plants work together as a self-regulating organism. Mainstream science calls such mechanisms "feedbacks".

The scientists say several factors play a part in the plant boom, including climate change (8%), more nitrogen in the environment (9%), and shifts in land management (4%).

But the main factor, they say, is plants using extra CO2 from human society to fertilise their growth (70%).

Harnessing energy from the sun, green leaves grow by using CO2, water, and nutrients from soil.

"The greening reported in this study has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system," said a lead author Dr Zaichun Zhu, from Peking University, Beijing, China.

The authors note that the beneficial aspect of CO2 fertilisation have previously been cited by contrarians to argue that carbon emissions need not be reduced.

Co-author Dr Philippe Ciais, from the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences in Gif-sur‑Yvette, France (also an IPCC author), said: "The fallacy of the contrarian argument is two-fold. First, the many negative aspects of climate change are not acknowledged.

"Second, studies have shown that plants acclimatise to rising CO2 concentration and the fertilisation effect diminishes over time." Future growth is also limited by other factors, such as lack of water or nutrients.

 

A co-author Prof Pierre Friedlingstein, from Exeter University, UK, told BBC News that carbon uptake from plants was factored into Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models, but was one of the main sources of uncertainty in future climate forecasts.

Warming the Earth releases CO2 by increasing decomposition of soil organic matter, thawing of permafrost, drying of soils, and reduced photosynthesis – potentially leading to tropical vegetation dieback.

He said: "Carbon sinks (such as forests, where carbon is stored) would become sources if carbon loss from warming becomes larger than carbon gain from fertilisation.

"But we can’t be certain yet when that would happen. Hopefully, the world will follow the Paris agreement objectives and limit warming below 2C."

Nic Lewis, an independent scientist often critical of the IPCC, told BBC News: "The magnitude of the increase in vegetation appears to be considerably larger than suggested by previous studies.

"This suggests that projected atmospheric CO2 levels in IPCC scenarios are significantly too high, which implies that global temperature rises projected by IPCC models are also too high, even if the climate is as sensitive to CO2 increases as the models imply."

And Prof Judith Curry, the former chair of Earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, added: "It is inappropriate to dismiss the arguments of the so-called contrarians, since their disagreement with the consensus reflects conflicts of values and a preference for the empirical (i.e. what has been observed) versus the hypothetical (i.e. what is projected from climate models).

"These disagreements are at the heart of the public debate on climate change, and these issues should be debated, not dismissed."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36130346

 

 

It is pleasing to see alternative views from the likes of Nic Lewis and Judith Curry put forward for a change.  

The comment from the lead author that “the extra tree growth would not compensate for global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, ocean acidification, the loss of Arctic sea ice, and the prediction of more severe tropical storms”, must be taken with a hefty dose of salt, as his funding is at stake.

In any event, it is impossible to quantitatively compare large scale global greening with the items he quotes, which are either not necessarily all bad,or are inconsequential or simply “predictions”. Either way, it is clear that the extra CO2 in the atmosphere and the warming seen since the Little Ice Age have so far been extremely beneficial for the world.  

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2016 11:43 am

    The greening is consistent with my finding that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels are not related to fossil fuel emissions. Please see
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2770539
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2642639
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2725743

  2. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    April 29, 2016 12:32 pm

    “They warn the positives of CO2 are likely to be outweighed by the negatives.”

    I’m sure mummy nature is aware (NOT)

  3. Don B permalink
    April 29, 2016 12:37 pm

    Matt Ridley has been writing about CO2’s greening of the earth for some time, and has been mocked by activists. It does not matter how often sceptics are shown to be correct, the activists will never admit they were correct.

  4. David Liddle permalink
    April 29, 2016 12:50 pm

    Shock horror – when will Cameron accept that he needs to set up a Plan B regarding green energy taxes?

  5. Dorian permalink
    April 29, 2016 1:03 pm

    Interesting study, however, I would like to point out it is behind a pay-wall.

    Personally, I have the strong belief, that if you have an open blog like this one, you shouldn’t be supporting or using such work. It is time we started cleaning up Science, and stop supporting or giving free publicity to work that is paid by the tax-payer that is then used to illicit more money from the public, really doesn’t do justice for your blog Mr. Homewood.

    Please no more links to pay-walled work. Its immoral and unethical, both the work that is pay-walled and linking to it. You are just encouraging corrupt behaviour, and there is already enough of that in Science.

    • April 29, 2016 1:24 pm

      Dorian unfortunately you are being far too idealistic.. Your point re pay-wall is valid, but if Paul Homewood’s blog was curtailed as you suggest, then any studies that deserve critiquing, whether sound or not, would by pass important scrutiny or challenge and ‘society’ would be ‘potentially’ misled even further … Paul you/we do not need this constraint, long may you continue to expose the flaws, misrepresentations and down right lies..

      Paul you and everyone who is concerned also need to be aware of:

      http://limits2growth.org.uk/about/

      This is the next phase……

      • April 29, 2016 3:36 pm

        They seem to have dropped Thomas Malthus from their panel, must be dead.

    • Brian H permalink
      April 30, 2016 1:28 am

      silicit

      • Brian H permalink
        April 30, 2016 1:29 am

        Doh.
        solicit

  6. Broadlands permalink
    April 29, 2016 1:43 pm

    “The comment from the lead author that “the extra tree growth would not compensate for global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, ocean acidification, the loss of Arctic sea ice, and the prediction of more severe tropical storms”, must be taken with a hefty dose of salt, as his funding is at stake.”

    1)… compensate for predictions?, not for what has actually happened… 14 inches of sea level rise?

    2) Funding at stake: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair

  7. malcolmbell@btinternet.com permalink
    April 29, 2016 2:19 pm

    Dear Mr Homewood

    I am looking at the latest issue of New Scientist (23/4/16) and on page seven it says 2016 is continuing monthly records so that 2016 may be the warmest year beating 2015 as the warmest which beat 2014.

    Is this accurate – you keep telling me that the last decade plus show no warming. So have the temperatures suddenly started to rise?

    The same column says the Greenland melt has started a month early. More “evidence” of a new burst of warming?

    Or is NS peddling misinformation? Who is right?

    This morning there was over half an inch of snow on my garden in Leeds.

    Very best wishes

    Malcolm (Mike) Bell

    • April 29, 2016 6:30 pm

      Currently satellite temperatures show this year running close to 1998, but it is much too early to prejudge. It is only the heavily adjusted surface datasets that show as a record.

      Greenland is an interesting case. We know that temperatures in the last decade or so are little different to the 1930s and 40s. I am waiting for DMI to publish the official 2015 data, but provisionally last year appears to have been one of the coldest for some years.
      Is this month unusually warm? Don’t know, but it is only weather.

  8. john cooknell permalink
    April 29, 2016 3:01 pm

    Can someone tell me what CO2 fertilisation mechanism is being hypothesised and how they worked out that this mechanism caused 70% of the “greening” ” due to CO2 fertilisation.”?

  9. Brian H permalink
    April 30, 2016 1:32 am

    Industrial and urban emissions are not visible to CO2 satellites. Insignificant.

  10. tom0mason permalink
    April 30, 2016 7:17 am

    How can anyone take these so called scientist seriously?
    They are complete propagandists!
    This statement is WRONG!

    “Second, studies have shown that plants acclimatise to rising CO2 concentration and the fertilisation effect diminishes over time.” Future growth is also limited by other factors, such as lack of water or nutrients.

    CO2 is not a plant fertilizer. It is THE essential plant nutrient. Without CO2 plants die and quickly. CO2 for plants is at the same level as food is to humans.

    I contend that the aim of this paper is to set-up the meme of CO2 being widely thought of as a non-essential addition to plant nutrition — CO2 IS A VITAL AND ESSENTIAL COMPONENT FOR PLANT LIFE!

    • dave permalink
      April 30, 2016 9:00 am

      “…the fertilization effect…”

      More unwed mothers then!

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