During the growing season, I provide weather forecasts and advice to a number of farmers. It’s given me an opportunity to get to know quite a few of them and understand the nature of their business of providing food for much of the world.
Farmers spend a great deal of time, money and hard work using expensive equipment, supplies and the latest technology to get the highest yield from their crops. One exception to this is something out of their control, has nothing but benefits, is free, and is an important factor they are unaware of. Can you guess what that might be?
The weather? Nope. Mother nature can be perfect at times and help greatly but at other times will dish out adverse conditions and even destroy the crop. Sunshine is free and plentiful but so are cloudy days and unpredictability.
Soils? Nope. Good soil contributes to a good crop but soils must be worked, tested/monitored and amended to add nutrients in order to create the right balance. Otherwise, the plants grown in them will not have an ideal environment to spread their roots and bring in what they need to maximize growth.
The answer is carbon dioxide!
Hundreds of studies and extensive research conclusively show the link between CO2 levels and plant growth. Using a conservative estimate for the range of the recent atmosphere, for every 10 ppm (parts per million) that CO2 increases, plant growth increases roughly 1%. This varies from species to species and with other conditions/nutrients needed for growth. With CO2 levels rising from 280 ppm to 390 ppm (+110 ppm) since the Industrial Revolution, this equates to an 11% increase in plant growth.
This much overlooked atmospheric fertilizer is helping our farmers to increase food and crop production. When added to technological advances, their increased production rate is even greater than the world’s growing population. There are no additional input costs to the producer during the growing season to use the added carbon dioxide in the air. The crop continually uses the higher levels of this natural substance to make more food. However, harvesting the bigger crop does require an extra effort and cost that everyone agrees is well worth it. These bigger crops boost supplies, which makes prices more affordable for end users and consumers.
Not only are farmers getting to use that extra atmospheric fertilizer for free, so are home gardeners. Those tomatoes, green beans and squash in your backyard are producing more bountiful harvests than anything your great grandparents grew, even after accounting for improvements in plant genetics and technology.
The benefits extend to most other plants too, whether they are for landscaping or in a rain forest, in a desert or a tundra. Woody plants benefit even more than herbaceous plants. Increased CO2 is playing a major role in boosting plant growth, whether it’s in a controlled agricultural situation or in the wild. Not only is the increased growth rate of plants providing more food for humans, most other animals have more food because of it. Every animal survives by eating plants or eating something that ate plants.
This is only one part of the “Climate Change” issue that’s not represented truthfully. The science and empirical data on increasing CO2 is compelling and lopsidedly positive, yet many political leaders and scientists have managed to define this same gas as “pollution” to accomplish personal agenda. A clue to help identify those who are disingenuous is the fact that their efforts focus almost exclusively on carbon dioxide. A sincere environmentalist, even one misled by junk science would be fighting hard against all pollution. Ironically, trillion-dollar legislation to regulate what they call “pollution” would do little to control most of the genuine major pollutants. CO2 is where all the money and power is for those hiding behind the environmental facade. We’ve heard these exaggerated, dire predictions of a future world calamity that can only be prevented if we act now — for the past 20 years, even while the earth gets greener and thrives on increasing CO2.
It doesn’t take a horticulturalist or botanist to see this positive CO2-plant connection. Heck, we all learned about it in biology or science class growing up. Trust the professional plant growers: greenhouses that are able to manipulate conditions for optimal development use carbon dioxide enrichment generators to boost CO2 to several times the atmospheric level.
This should not change our goal to fight against the many real pollutants poisoning our air, water and soils. However, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is helping to feed most of the life on this planet. Even at levels much higher than projected in the future, it will continue to increase food/plant production without ever getting close to being harmful to breathe.
Here are some links that explain the science and support this discussion: