Climate change deniers often buttress their basic argument against climate change science by claiming that an increase in atmospheric CO2 will make Earth greener. Their reasoning revolves around the fact that plants "breathe" in CO2 and "breathe" out oxygen. In addition, the deniers theorize that more plants will remove more CO2, and pollution. This will, according to this hypothesis, reduce the effects of the existing amound, and projected growth, in these gases. In this view, the more greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere the better.
One of the problems with this and other similar arguments is that they sound so reasonable. We are accustomed to believing that more is better so why not in this case? This despite the fact that the facts of the matter are clear and supported by thousands of climate scieentists worldwide. However, understanding and accepting these facts requires more effort than just reading a headline or listening to some blowhard politician (you know who we mean) twist the truth to support his twisted vision of environmental facts.
The more CO2 the better claim has produced been a long-running and contentions debate. Like many similar scientific discussions the so-called common sense of the deniers has been difficult to combat. This is in large part because of the lack of scientific literacy in the US and the lack of easily understood data. Now thanks to an unusually long-lived research effort this may be changing. This is in part because of an extraordinarily long-term scientific study recently reported by generations of scientists at Stanford University.
According to a report on the study in the Washington Post of September 9, 2016 " … scientists put future global warming to a real world test - growing California flowers and grasslands with extra heat, carbon dioxide and nitrogen to mimic a not-so-distant, hotter future." It is important to note that this study was conducted over a 17-year period, more than enough time to assure the methodology and data were reliable. Known as the Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment, the study involved experiments on a grassland ecosystem which involved more than one million plants/ The experiment simulated real world conditions where scientists put future global warming to a real world test, growing California flowers and grasslands with extra heat, carbon dioxide and nitrogen to simulate a not-so-distant future.
Known as the The Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment this effort this collection of global change experiments have been designed to exploit grasslands as models for understanding how ecosystems may respond to climate change. Both the amount of time and effort, and the diversity of ecosystems and plants in the study. Among the key findings observed in the study are that the plants that received extra carbon dioxide and more warmth did not grow bigger, greener or healthier. In addition these plants didn't remove more pollution and store more of it in the soil. In short, if the release of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere continues to grow, indeed even if it just remains at the current level, we are not going to be bailed out by plants.
This study is not good news. It indicates what most of us have known for some time. The climate and weather of the Earth is changing. The primary agent of change is human activity and until we change the ways our behavior makes this problem worse there is no reason to believe that the climate change scientists who predict higher temperatures and more violent and extreme weather will be proven wrong.
WHAT WE CAN DO
The Stanford/Jasper Ridge study is unusual in that it covers such a long period of time. However, it is not unusual in that if confirms that combatting climate change requires more than a simple denial.
The good news is that a number of simple actions, that almost every one of us can undertake, can reverse the accumulating effects of our CO2 problems. For example, renewable energy production from solar, wind, geothermal and other technologies is growing every day. For several years more new energy production from electrical utilities has come from renewables, not fossil fuel fired powerplants. Rooftop solar photovoltaics can now be installed on virtually any roof. Not only will the building owner and/or tenants be part of the solution to global warming, they will save money as well.
The same can be said for switching to hybrid or pure electric vehicles; by investing in energy-efficient Energy Star rated appliances; by taking advantage of free "weatherization" programs offered by virtually all US electrical utilities.
Happily, the list of positive actions we can all take goes on and on. And, it is growing all the time. There is something each of us can do. The sooner we do the better.
To read the Washington Post Story on the Jasper Ridge Project click here.
For the complete report of the Jasper Ridge Project click here.
For scientist/educator/environmentalist David Suzuki's "Top Ten Ways You Can Stop Global Warming" click here.
For the results of a Google Search on "Ways to stop global climate change" click here.