Climate Surprise: Why More CO2 is Good for the Earth

By William M Briggs Published on March 31, 2016

I had the good fortune to attend a talk by conservative author Mark Steyn at the Princeton Club in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, sponsored by Roger Kimball’s The New Criterion and co-sponsored by the newly formed CO2 Coalition, founded by Princeton physicist Will Happer. In the talk, Steyn warned that prostitution will increase because of global warming, and that global warming will also cause impotence in Italian men. This is a compounding tragedy because, of course, all those newly formed prostitutes won’t be able to find customers — at least, not in Italy.

It gets worse. Global warming is also responsible for Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental malady affecting the reasoning centers of the brain, causing its sufferers to run nervously in ever tighter circles as they demand the government do the impossible and stop the climate from changing.

PreTSD was discovered in the maiden science of the psychology of global warming. We can only surmise that it’s caused when people are confronted with the reality that the average annual global temperature has swung dramatically in past ages — long before humans developed a rage for burning fossils — but that of late those same averages have failed to do anything dramatic and, indeed, have failed to cooperate with global warming predictions, which have soared ever upwards (see page 2 of this report).

Not only are things not as bad as we thought, they are much, much better. And they’re improving. Crop output is up, the world is greener, storms are down in frequency and number, and on and on, despite the forecasts of doom foisted on the public by politicians and media.

But why are things better? Because of the beneficial effects of releasing carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. Craig Idso, a bona fide scientist who also spoke at the event, cataloged the good CO2 does. Plants grow not just a little better when CO2 is increased, but they are vastly improved.

They have greater mass, more roots, better leafs, they use water more efficiently and, the biggest surprise, they react to warmer temperatures more robustly. These entirely salutary effects are so well known (to scientists) that commercial greenhouses artificially boost CO2 to levels about three times higher than are found in the atmosphere.

In times past, atmospheric CO2 levels were up to 30 times higher — pause and reflect on the number — than they are now; and indeed we are now in a historic, almost dangerously low, period. Yet even though CO2 was then so much higher than mankind could ever hope now to achieve even if we burn every drop of oil that exists, there was no runaway global warming. Why should we expect it now?

Ross McKitrick asked the same question in his research. His work demonstrates how climate models — running under the assumption that CO2 is dangerous — do not match the reality of actual observations. This is the central point. If the models cannot predict reality — and they have not — then we do not know all the causes of climate change.

Tossing out models which made lousy predictions used to be the golden rule of science. No longer. There’s been too much money and too much politicization for too long for people to see straight. This was the theme of Richard Lindzen, the grandfather of dynamic climatology and a man to whom all but the most rabid activists listen seriously.

Lindzen pointed out that “consensus” climate physicists and skeptical climate physicists agree on much, such as that mankind has some effect on the atmosphere, and that the only question is how much. He too says the model-reality discrepancy proves that CO2 can’t be as important as the “consensus” has it.

While Lindzen makes some headway with actual scientists, hangers-on and politicians are another matter. These people do not understand the science, and don’t care to learn, but they surely believe in the “solution” to global warming — which is defined as greater government control over everything.

And in any case, shouldn’t we “do something,” just in case? After all, animals might suffer! Probably not, said Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who has since come to see the light. Moore stressed that animals have much greater phenotypic plasticity than has been acknowledged. This means that animals can survive much better than previously thought, even when the environment around them changes dramatically. (Besides, the environment isn’t changing that much.)

Moore said that far from humans being a blight on the environment, “We are the salvation of life, because we reintroduced CO2 to the atmosphere that was taken out by oceanic” life that sucked it up. Without CO2, plants die. And without plants, we die.

Batting clean up was Tufts economist Bruce Everett, who showed that solar and wind cannot be replacements for fossil fuels. He acknowledged that some countries like Germany have splurged on these toys, but he said that Germany was like your neighbor who bought “a Prius to park in the driveway while they drive around in an SUV.” Germany can’t use solar and wind as much as they want because the two sources are unreliable. And expensive. Germans pay double what Americans do for energy.

If the climate situation is so bad, why all the fuss? Why do people make such a show of their environmental correctness? Why do politicians like our President and celebrities like Leo DiCaprio lecture us all and then hop in their private jets? Mark Steyn provided the answer at the Princeton Club Tuesday: “The great thing about professing to ‘Save the Planet’ is that it absolves you of the need to do anything.”

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