In praise of carbon dioxide – Increase of Gross Primary Production and Net Primary Production

Another interesting article relating to global warming.  This is from a 7 June 08 article, by Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Energy Probe.  [Note: GPP measures the amount of new plant matter on land, while NPP is an annual tally of the globe’s production.]  


According to a study that used (daily) satellite data from the last couple of decades, the Earth’s GPP are NPP are way up, and the planet is the greenest it’s been in decades, perhaps in centuries.  In fact, according to two scientists from NASA and the University of Montana involved in analyzing the data, the Earth has become more bountiful by a whopping 6.2% over the last two decades; about 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass has enjoyed significant increases and only 7% had showed significant declines.  A different picture from what we usually hear about, it would seem.

The GPP and NPP increases are owed to the warming of the planet and the presence of CO2, which enables plants to grow faster and larger and to live in drier climates. Further, Plants provide food for animals, which are thereby also enhanced. The extent and diversity of plant and animal life have both increased substantially during the past half-century.  Increased temperature has also mildly stimulated plant growth.


The benefits of CO2 for the greening of the planet were also summarized in a report last month, released along with a petition signed by 32,000 U.S. scientists (including over 9,000 with PhDs) who vouched for the benefits of CO2.


From a sustainable “food production” perspective, it would seem that a little more CO2 in the atmosphere may actually be a good thing overall if we are concerned about production shortages.  It is also interesting to note that this is very similar to the Earth having a feedback mechanism in place to deal with CO2 (i.e., the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more green the planet becomes and the more CO2 is captured by that “greenery” – the oceans also capture much more CO2, but that’s another story there).


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2 comments on “In praise of carbon dioxide – Increase of Gross Primary Production and Net Primary Production
  1. jsitu79 says:

    The premise that because the Earth is “greener” means that increased CO2 is good is false in my opinion. Global warming is not about whether the Earth is greener or not, it is about climate shifts. I do not think people in Australia sleep better at night knowing that there is more water in the world from the melting icecaps.

    Case in point: The US Department of Agriculture has found that increased CO2 levels have increased the amount of cheatgrass. Unfortunately, cheatgrass is an invasive weed that increases the chances of fires. (see Too bad they can’t eat it.

    The Earth has evolved to its current state over billions of years, any shock to the system cannot be viewed as a good thing!


  2. fsingcaster says:

    Warning – This may be a little long…

    Actually, there are both good and bad sides to increased CO2. However, the IPCC and environmental activists have gone out of their ways to exagerate the potential impacts of increases and to completely ignore the good sides (e.g., more people die from the cold than from the warmth). But their most disingenuous behaviours have been to pretend that the models of climate models are anywhere near representative and, worse, to link normal climactic events to GW not only without relevant data, but often going completely against it. Hurricanes are a good example – According to Dr Christopher Landsea, a foremost expert on hurricane and tropical forecasting and previous contributor to the IPCC until 2004 (when he resigned over what he perceived as a corrupted scientific process within the organization), there are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity. Yet, after a few (intentionally) “fuzzy” statements to the press from the IPCC following hurricanes in recent years (incl. 2004, of course), a majority of the population is now convinced that there is a link and you certainly don’t see the IPCC correcting them. On the specific subject of melting ice caps, if we look at Antarctica, which is considered to represent the greatest threat to the globe from GW, some of the world’s leading experts are saying that this may be a as much of a myth as the hurricane link. That is, while there may be melting at the edges, the picture is not the same when you look at a larger portion of the continent; based on a survey of 72% of its ice sheet, Antarctica was actually a (water) sink between 1992-2003 (and while this does vary up and down a little, the observed variations are very small and well within expected values). There does seem to be melting in Greenland, but the impacts would be much, much smaller (without the additional melting from Antarctica) and not unknown of (e.g., if you go back ino history, Eric the Red and a group of Vikings had actually established a settlement in the southern part of Greenland, showing the place was habitable back then; this would not really be the case nowadays). That being said, a full picture of the overall situation in Antarctica will be available only after 2009 (if CryoSat II safely reaches orbit and becomes operational, that is), but the point is that there have been a lot of pronouncements on what GW has been apparently doing to the planet but yet very little science behind it most of the time. Now, wrt Australia, they have had droughts for over 110 years (and probably longer), their agriculture has grown significantly along with their use of natural capital, and they’ve used agricultural practices that were not adjusted for the environment – You don’t really need GW warming to create a problem here – all the ingredients are already in place. I would agree that the weather and climate have indeed evolved over time, but one must ask why it should stop evolving now, i.e., it’s been warmer and it’s been colder, and multiple times for both, and there are also more and more indications now that this is in sync with short and long-term solar cycles, so MMGW may not be the cause of the main cause, which means we might be wasting significant resources that could be better applied elsewhere, and as we know, waste does not improve global SD – in the end, the whole carbon reduction impetus is a significant policy issue and right now we are betting mostly on only one theory, i.e., putting all our eggs in the same basked (and as a note, if solar cycles are indeed driving climate change, then we may have a reason to worry a lot more soon enough, but that’s another story). Ultimately, this points to my main concern with this whole matter – Resources are limited and social and environmental problems are plenty; we should be allocating resouces where most needed and where we know they will have the most impact, and that based on scientific and human considerations; I don’t see that happening much right now.

    As further info, this is the abstract of the report initially discussed in this blob: A review of the research literature concerning the environmental consequences of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to the conclusion that increases during the 20th and early 21st centuries have produced no deleterious effects upon Earth’s weather and climate. Increased carbon dioxide has, however, markedly increased plant growth. Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in hydrocarbon use and minor green house gases like CO2 do not conform to current experimental knowledge.

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