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The Positive Impact of Human CO₂ Emissions on the Survival of Life on Earth Title: The Positive Impact of Human CO 2 Emissions on the Survival of Life on Earth Format: Electronic book Publisher

Authors:
e Positive Impact of
Human CO Emissions on the
Survival of Life on Earth
Patrick Moore, PhD
Chief Scientist, Ecosense Environmental Inc.
Senior Fellow, Frontier Centre for Public Policy
March 2017
Title: e Positive Impact of Human CO2 Emissions on the Survival of Life on Earth
Format: Electronic book
Publisher: Patrick Moore, Ph.D.
ISBN: 978-0-9686404-1-8
For further information or to comment please contact
Patrick Moore
pmoore@ecosense.me
e author gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by Christopher Monckton of
Brenchley in researching and editing this document.
Disclaimer:
e opinions expressed in this paper are exclusively those of the independent author(s)
and do not reect the opinions of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, its Board of
Directors, sta and/or donors.
ISSN # 1491-78 ©2015
Research conducted by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy is conducted under the
highest ethical and academic standards. Research subjects are determined through an
ongoing needs assessment survey of private and public sector policymakers. Research is
conducted independent of Frontier Centre donors and Board of Directors and is subject
to double-blind peer review prior to publication.
1
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
About Patrick Moore
Executive Summary
Introduction
The History of CO2 in the Global Atmosphere
The Rise of Terrestrial Woody Plants
The Second Long Decline of CO2
CO2 Rises from the Brink
The Distribution of Carbon Today
CO2 in the Oceans
CO2 in the Modern Era
Higher CO2 Concentrations Will Increase Plant Growth and Biomass
Discussion
Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations in the Future
A Paradigm Shift in the Perception of CO2
Conclusion
References
Bibliography
2
4
5
6
10
16
19
21
23
Table of Contents
2
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
Dr. Patrick Moore is Chief Scientist with
Ecosense Environmental and a Senior
Fellow with the Energy, Ecology and
Prosperity program at the Frontier Centre
for Public Policy. He has been a leader in
the international environmental field for
over 45 years. Dr. Moore is a Co-Founder
of Greenpeace and served for nine years
as President of Greenpeace Canada and
seven years as a Director of Greenpeace
International. Following his time with
Greenpeace, Dr. Moore joined the Forest
Alliance of BC where he worked for
ten years to develop the Principles of
Sustainable Forestry, which have now
been adopted by much of the industry.
In 2013, he published Confessions of
a Greenpeace Dropout – The Making
of a Sensible Environmentalist, which
documents his 15 years with Greenpeace
and outlines his vision for a sustainable
future. Dr. Moore is a founding director
of the Washington DC-based CO₂
Coalition.
About Patrick Moore
e author gratefully acknowledges the assistance
provided by Viscount Monckton of Brenchley in
researching and editing this document.
3
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
Human emissions of CO
have restored a balance to the
global carbon cycle, thereby
ensuring the long-term
continuation of life on Earth.
4
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
Executive Summary
This study looks at the positive
environmental eects of carbon dioxide
(CO₂) emissions, a topic which has
been well established in the scientific
literature but which is far too often
ignored in the current discussions about
climate change policy.
All life is carbon based and the primary
source of this carbon is the CO₂ in the
global atmosphere and hydrosphere.
As recently as 18,000 years ago, at
the height of the most recent major
glaciation, atmospheric CO₂ dipped to
its lowest level in recorded history at 180
ppm, low enough to stunt plant growth.
This is only 30 ppm above a level that
would result in the death of plants due
to CO₂ starvation.
It is calculated that if the decline in CO₂
levels were to continue at the same
rate as it has over the past 140 million
years, life on Earth would begin to die as
soon as two million years from now and
would slowly perish almost entirely as
carbon continued to be lost to the deep
ocean sediments.
The combustion of fossil fuels for
energy to power human civilization has
reversed the downward trend in CO₂
and promises to bring it back to levels
that will foster a considerable increase in
the growth rate and biomass of plants,
including food crops and trees.
Human emissions of CO₂ have restored
a balance to the global carbon cycle,
thereby ensuring the long-term
continuation of life on Earth.
This extremely positive aspect of human
CO₂ emissions must be weighed against
the unproven hypothesis that human
CO₂ emissions will cause a catastrophic
warming of the climate in coming years.
The one-sided political treatment of CO₂
as a pollutant that should be radically
reduced must be corrected in light of
the indisputable scientific evidence that
it is essential to life on Earth.
5
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
ere is a widespread belief that CO2 emissions from
the burning of fossil fuels for energy are a threat to
the Earths climate and that the majority of species,
including the human species, will suer greatly
unless these emissions are drastically curtailed or
even eliminated.1
is paper oers a radically dierent perspec-
tive based on the geological history of CO2. CO2 is
one of the most essential nutrients for life on Earth.
It has been approaching dangerously low levels
during recent periods of major glaciation in the
Pleistocene Ice Age, and human emissions of CO2
may stave o the eventual starvation and death of
most life on the planet due to a lack of CO2.2 is is
not primarily a discussion of the possible connec-
tion between CO2 and global warming or climate
change, although some mention must be made of
it. ere has been a great deal of discussion on the
subject, and it is hotly contested in both scientic
and political spheres. ere is no question that the
climate has warmed during the past 300 years since
the peak of the Little Ice Age. ere is also no ques-
tion that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and all else being
equal, the emissions would result in some warm-
ing if CO2 rose to higher levels in the atmosphere.
Yet, there is no denitive scientic proof that CO2
is a major factor in inuencing climate in the real
world. e Earths climate is a chaotic, non-linear,
multi-variant system with many unpredictable feed-
backs, both positive and negative. Primarily, this is
a discussion about the role of atmospheric CO2 in
the maintenance of life on Earth and the positive
role of human civilization in preventing CO2 from
trending downward to levels that threaten the very
existence of life.
Introduction
6
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
It is an undisputed fact that all life on Earth is car-
bon based and that the source of this carbon is CO2,
which cycles through the global atmosphere. e
original source of CO2 in the atmosphere is thought
to be massive volcanic eruptions during the Earths
early history, the extreme heat of which caused the
oxidation of carbon in the Earths interior to form
CO2.3 Today, as a minor gas at 0.04 per cent, CO2
permeates the entire atmosphere and has been
absorbed by the oceans and other water bodies (the
hydrosphere), where it provides the food for pho-
tosynthetic species such as phytoplankton and kelp.
If there were no CO2 or an insucient level of CO2
in the atmosphere and hydrosphere, there would
be no life as we know it on our planet.
On a relatively short-term basis (years to hun-
dreds of years), the carbon cycle is a complex series of
exchanges among the atmosphere, the hydrosphere,
living species and decomposing organic matter in
soils and sediments. Over the long term (millions
to billions of years), the majority of the carbon that
has been absorbed from the atmosphere by plants
has been lost to the cycle into deep deposits of fos-
sil fuels and carbonaceous rock (minerals) such as
chalk, limestone, marble and dolomite. By far the
majority of the carbon sequestered over the long
term is in the form of carbonaceous rock.
We do not have a good estimate of the total
amount of CO2 that has been emitted from volca-
nic activity into the global atmosphere. We do not
know the total amount of carbon that has been lost
to long-term sequestration in fossil fuels and carbo-
naceous rock, but we do have order-of-magnitude
estimates. We do have quantitative estimates of the
level of CO2 in the atmosphere going back more
than 600 million years, i.e., the net result of addi-
tions from volcanic events, losses to deep deposition
in carbonaceous rocks and fossil fuels, the biomass
of living species and decomposing organic matter.
ese estimates become more accurate the closer
The History of CO2 in the
Global Atmosphere
they are to the present. is paper will focus on the
past 540 million years and in particular the past 140
million years.
e best estimate of CO2 concentration in the
global atmosphere 540 million years ago is 6,000
ppm, with a wide margin of error. (See Figure 1). For
the sake of discussion, we will accept that number,
which indicates a mass of more than 13,000 billion
tonnes (Gt) of carbon in the atmosphere, 17 times
the present level, during the Cambrian Explosion,
when multicellular life evolved. is is considered
the advent of modern life, when both plant and
animal species diversied rapidly in warm seas and
later colonized the land during a warm terrestrial
climate.4 Prior to this, for more than three billion
years, life was largely unicellular, microscopic and
conned to the sea.
The Rise of Terrestrial Woody Plants
One of the most signicant developments during
the establishment of terrestrial plant species was the
evolution of wood, a complex of cellulose and lignin
that provided a rigid stem. is allowed plants to
place their photosynthetic structures higher toward
the sun, thus providing a competitive advantage. e
evolution of lignin also provided protection against
attack from bacteria and fungi, as no species had
yet evolved enzymes that could digest lignin. ere
followed in the Devonian Period the spread of vast
forests of tree ferns, trees and shrubs, resulting in a
massive increase in living biomass compared with
the low-lying vegetation prior to the woody era.
is orders-of-magnitude increase in biomass came
with an inevitable drawing down of CO2 from the
atmosphere, as wood is almost 50 per cent carbon.
From that time until the present day, the biomass
of trees and other woody plants far surpasses the
sum of all other species combined.6
It could be expected that once living biomass
had reached a much higher but relatively stable
7
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
state that the net withdrawal of CO2 would end and
would level o at a concentration somewhat lower
than the approximately 4,000 ppm (7,600 Gt of car-
bon) in the mid-Devonian. However, this was not
the case. CO2 levels continued to drop, with minor
uctuations perhaps caused by volcanic activity,
for the next 80 million to 100 million years into
the mid-Carboniferous Period until they reached
a level of about 400 ppm (760 Gt of carbon), simi-
lar to present-day levels. erefore, during this era,
the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was reduced
by about 90 per cent. Many of the massive coal
deposits we are mining today were formed during
this period.
ere are two competing hypotheses regarding
the formation of coal during these ancient times.
One hypothesis postulates that coal deposits came
about as trees died and fell into vast swamps where
they were preserved, eventually buried by deep sed-
iments, and over time transformed into coal by heat
and pressure.7 An alternative explanation is that the
decomposer species of bacteria, fungi and insects
had not yet developed the complex set of digestive
enzymes necessary to digest wood. erefore, the
dead trees in forests simply piled up on top of one
another and new trees grew upon an ever-deepening
layer of dead trees until eventually they were buried,
and heat and pressure converted them into coal.8
e end of the Carboniferous and the begin-
ning of the Permian marked a reversal of the down-
ward trend in CO2, and over the next 125 million
years, CO2 rose to about 2,500 ppm in the Jurassic
Period. During this period, species of fungi devel-
oped enzymes that could digest the lignin in wood.9
Figure 1. Graph of global temperature and atmospheric CO₂ concentration over the past 600 million
years. Note both temperature and CO₂ are lower today than they have been during most of the era of
modern life on Earth since the Cambrian Period. Also, note that CO₂ and temperature are not highly
correlated, therefore this does not indicate a lock-step cause-eect relationship between the two
parameters.5
Geological Timescale: Concentration of CO and Temperature Fluctuations
PALEOZOIC MESOZOIC CENOZOIC
TODAY
TERTIARY
PALEOCENE
CRETACEOUS
JURASIC
TRIASIC
570
CO
2
PPMV
MILLIONS OF YEARS BEFORE PRESENT
2,000
4,000
6,000
8,000
510 439 409 363 290 246 202 146 65 56.5 35.5 23.5 5.2 1.64 0.01 0
DEVONIAN
SILURIAN
ORDOVICIAN
CAMBRIAN
PERMIAN
CARBONIFEROUS
EOCENE
OLIGOCENE
MIOCENE
PLEISTOCENE
HOLOCENE QUATERNARY
EPOCH PERIOD ERA
PLIOCENE
Temperature ºC
CO2
∆ = 1° C
∆ = 10° C
∆ = 6° C
∆ = 3° C
8
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
It is plausible that these species consumed vast stores
of dead wood near the surface, with the attendant
release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Coincident with
the development of decomposers that could digest
lignin was a signicant reduction of coal formation.
Volcanic activity and outgassing of CO2 from the
oceans may also have played a role in bringing CO2
levels higher.
Regardless of which coal-forming hypothesis
one favours, and a combination of the two is plau-
sible, if fungi and other species had not evolved to
produce the enzymes necessary to digest lignin, it is
likely that atmospheric CO2 would have continued
to decline until it reached the 150 ppm threshold
for the survival of plant life. At that point, species
of plants would begin to die for lack of CO2, and as
more carbon was sequestered as wood and as cal-
cium carbonate in marine deposits, living biomass
would begin to shrink steadily until most or all of
it died. It was therefore most fortuitous that white
rot fungi and other species evolved the enzymes to
digest lignin, or the history of life on Earth would
have been considerably shorter.
The Second Long Decline of CO2
With this historical background, we will now focus
on the period from 140 million years ago to the pres-
ent. Having recovered to approximately 2,500 ppm,
CO2 concentrations gradually and steadily fell to
what was certainly the lowest level it has been in the
history of the Earth. e ice cores drilled at Vostok
Station in Antarctica indicate that at the height of
the last major glaciation event, 18,000 years ago,
CO2 dropped to roughly 180 ppm (See Figure 2).10
Figure 2. The graph of CO₂ and temperature shown in Figure 1 with the trend in CO₂ concentration
in the global atmosphere represented by the green arrow. Note the uptick at the far right of the graph
representing the reversal of the 600 million-year downward trend due primarily to emissions of CO₂
from the use of fossil fuels for energy. Note that even today, at 400 ppm, CO₂ is still far lower than it
has been during the most of this 600 million history.
PALEOZOIC MESOZOIC CENOZOIC
TODAY
TERTIARY
570
CO2 PPMV
MILLIONS OF YEARS BEFORE PRESENT
2,000
4,000
6,000
8,000
510 439 409 363 290 246 202 146 65 56.5 35.5 23.5 5.2 1.64 0.01 0
DEVONIAN
SILURIAN
ORDOVICIAN
CAMBRIAN
PERMIAN
CARBONIFEROUS
MIOCENE
PLEISTOCENE
HOLOCENE QUATERNARY
EPOCH PERIOD ERA
Temperature ºC
CO2
PALEOCENE
EOCENE
OLIGOCENE
PLIOCENE
∆ = 1° C
∆ = 10° C
∆ = 6° C
∆ = 3° C
JURASIC
TRIASIC
CRETACEOUS
Geological Timescale: Concentration of CO and Temperature Fluctuations
9
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
is is only 30 ppm above the level of starvation for
most plant species, which is 150 ppm.11
One hundred and forty million years ago at
2,500 ppm, the atmosphere held 4,750 Gt of carbon
as CO2. At 180 ppm, the atmosphere held 342 Gt
of carbon as CO2, which over the 140-million-year
period represented a loss of 4,530 Gt of carbon or
92.8 per cent of atmospheric CO2. While we do
not have accurate estimates of volcanic emissions
of CO2 or of deep ocean sequestration of CO2 over
this period, we do have a very good representation
of the net eect on atmospheric levels of CO2.
Because of this decline, on a number of occasions
during the present Pleistocene Ice Age, CO2 has
dropped during major glaciations to dangerously
low levels relative to the requirements of plants for
their growth and survival. At 180 ppm, there is no
doubt that the growth of many plant species was
substantially curtailed.12
e solubility pump and the biological pump
continuously remove carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere.13 e solubility pump refers to the
high solubility of CO2 in cold ocean water at higher
latitudes where sinking cold seawater carries it into
the depths of the ocean. e biological pump refers
to the sequestration of carbon from biomass and
calcium carbonate (CaCO3) from planktonic shells,
corals and shellsh into the deep ocean sediments.
During the past 140 million years, these processes
have removed more than 90 per cent of the CO2 in
the atmosphere.
e steady reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere
over the past 140 million years from 2,500 ppm to
180 ppm, prior to the Holocene interglacial period
and prior to signicant human emissions of CO2,
amounts to a net loss from the global atmosphere
of 32 thousand tonnes (Kt) of carbon every year. We
can reasonably surmise that the primary cause of
this downward trend was CaCO3 deposition from
plankton and coral reefs as marine sediments.15
During the major glaciations, cooling oceans
absorbed additional CO2.
Figure 3. Graph of temperature and CO₂ concentration from the Vostok ice cores in Antarctica
showing that atmospheric CO₂ concentration descended close to 180 ppm at 18,000 YBP (years
before present). Note that CO₂ levels tend to lag behind changes in temperature.14
Vostok Ice Cores 50,000 — 2,500 years ago
50,000 40,000 30,000 20,000 10,000 0
10
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
CO2 Rises from the Brink
Aer the most recent major glaciation peaked
18,000 years ago, CO2 levels began to rise in the
atmosphere, reaching 260 ppm 10,000 years ago and
280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution when
fossil fuels became dominant for energy produc-
tion. e most plausible explanation for the major-
ity of this rise is outgassing of CO2 from the oceans
as they warmed with a warming climate.16 Since
then, human emissions of CO2 have contributed to
raising the level to about 400 ppm, a level perhaps
not experienced during the past 10 million to 20
million years. Since the onset of the Industrial Age,
CO2 has risen by 120 ppm or approximately 230 Gt
of carbon in a little more than 100 years, whereas
the lesser “natural” increase from 180 ppm to 280
ppm took about 15,000 years. e increase during
the Industrial Age is likely due to a combination
of fossil fuel combustion, land-use change, cement
production and possibly outgassing of CO2 from
the oceans due to rising global temperature. is
latter point is the subject of much discussion and
contention but is not of principal concern in the
context of this paper.
11
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
The Distribution of Carbon Today
e global atmosphere today, at about 400 ppm
CO2, contains approximately 850 Gt of carbon
compared with the oceans, which contain approx-
imately 38,000 Gt of carbon, most of which was
initially absorbed from the atmosphere (See Figure
4). erefore, the emission or absorption of 1 per
cent of CO2 from or into the oceans would make
a 45 per cent change to the CO2 level in the atmo-
sphere at the present concentration of CO2.
e truly astounding gure is the estimate of
100,000,000 Gt (one hundred million billion tons,
also known as 100 quadrillion tons) of carbon in
carbonaceous rock in the Earths crust. All the
carbon in these rocks originated from CO2 in the
atmosphere, which was absorbed by the oceans,
converted into calcium carbonate (CaCO) by
marine species, and then deposited on the sea-
oor as marine sediment. ese are the shale beds
that are now being mined by hydraulic fracturing
(fracking) for oil and natural gas. If all that CO2
had remained in the atmosphere, it would repre-
sent approximately 70 current global atmospheres
by weight at 100 per cent CO2. is highlights the
fact that during the Earths early times, vast quanti-
ties of CO2 were outgassed from volcanism. During
the past 3.5 billion years, the vast majority (about
99.5 per cent) of the carbon in that CO2 has been
sequestered in carbonaceous rocks and to a much
lesser extent, fossil fuels.
It is also very interesting that the present atmo-
sphere of Venus is 96% CO2 and weighs 4,600 bil-
lion Gt, 4,100 billion Gt of which is CO2, while the
Earths atmosphere weighs only 51 billion Gt, about
90 times less than Venus’ atmosphere, and contains
only 3,115 Gt of CO2. It is therefore plausible that
an early Earth atmosphere contained a similar level
of CO2 from early vulcanism as did Venus and that
the estimate of 100,000,000 Gt C derived from CO2
in Earths hydrosphere now contained in carbona-
ceous rocks is well within the observed magnitude
on Venus, the planet that is most similar to Earth
in size and composition.
CO2 in the Oceans
e solubility of CO2 in the oceans is dependent
on the salinity and temperature of the oceans and
on CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Salinity
varies among oceans between 30 parts per thou-
sand and 38 parts per thousand and is relatively
constant over time. e oceans have warmed since
the height of the Little Ice Age, so it is likely there
has been a net outgassing from them during the
past 300 years, at least until human-caused emis-
sions of CO2 began in earnest. From the literature,
it appears that we do not have denitive quantita-
tive data for the fate of the current 10 Gt of carbon
emitted annually due to human activities. We can
measure the increase in the CO2 concentration in
the atmosphere, but some of this may be due to out-
gassing from the warming oceans rather than from
human-caused emissions. Many scholars conclude
that the oceans are absorbing roughly 25 per cent
of the human CO2 emissions, therefore negating the
possibility of a net outgassing of CO2. It is generally
recognized that global plant biomass is increasing
because of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, but
quantifying this accurately is dicult. One recent
paper concluded that most of the short-term CO2
uptake is by terrestrial plants and that very little, if
any, is absorbed by the oceans.18
In recent years there has been an outpouring of
papers warning that if CO2 emissions continue, and
CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, that a
phenomenon called “ocean acidication” will occur
that will threaten the entire marine food chain. Some
postulate that the decrease in the pH of the oceans
will render it impossible for calcifying species such
as corals, shellsh, and calcifying species of plank-
ton such as coccolithophores and foraminifera to
produce their shells from CaCO3. e author has
12
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
Figure 4. Depiction of the global carbon budget in gigatons (billions of tons) of carbon. Values in blue
are stocks of carbon while values in red are annual flows. Note that the ocean contains nearly 50 times
as much carbon as the atmosphere does, and the ocean and atmosphere are in constant flux.¹⁷
recently published an in-depth paper on this sub-
ject. e paper concludes that “ocean acidication
is a fabrication and provides ve key factors that
make such an outcome impossible.19
CO2 in the Modern Era
e most important question facing a species on
Earth today is how long would it have been in the
absence of human-caused CO2 emissions until the
gradual depletion of CO2 in the atmosphere fell to
levels that began to decrease biomass due to starva-
tion, thus signalling the beginning of the end of life
on Earth?
It is commonly believed that volcanic activity
results in massive emissions of CO2 comparable
or greater than human-caused emissions. is is
not the case. Whereas the original atmospheric
CO2 was the result of massive outgassing from the
Earths interior, there is no evidence that large vol-
umes of new CO2 were added to the atmosphere
during the 140-million-year decline leading to
the present era. e eruption of Mount Pinatubo,
the largest in recent history, is estimated to have
released the equivalent of 2 per cent of the annual
human-caused CO2 emissions. erefore, in the
absence of human-caused emissions, it could rea-
13
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
CO₂ Concentrations and temperature have tracked closely over the last , Years
Figure 5. Graph showing the atmospheric CO₂ concentration and temperature from Antarctica for
the most recent four interglacial periods, closely tied to the Milankovitch cycles of 100,000 years. This
graph is based on data from the 420,000 year record obtained from the Vostok ice cores drilled by Rus-
sian scientists.22 Note the gradual nature of the onset of colder temperatures and the rapid warming at
the end of the cycle. Note that the peak warming during the most recent interglacial period (the Holo-
cene) is lower than during the previous three interglacial periods.
sonably be presumed that CO2 levels would have
continued to fall as they had done for the previous
140 million years.20
Judging by the timing of the many glacial and
interglacial periods during the Pleistocene Ice Age,
the next major glaciation period could begin any
time. Interglacial periods have generally been of
10,000 years’ duration, and this Holocene intergla-
cial period began nearly 12,000 years ago. In the
absence of human-caused CO2 emissions and other
environmental impacts, there is no reason to doubt
that another major glaciation would have occurred,
following the pattern that has been established for at
least the past 800,000 years. ese glaciations have
coincided with the Milankovitch cycles.21 (See Fig-
ure 4) e Milankovitch cycles are determined by
oscillations in the Earths orbit and by cycles of the
tilt of the Earth toward the sun. e strong correla-
tion between the onset of major periods of glaciation
during the past 800,000 years and the Milankovitch
cycles has led the majority of earth scientists and
climatologists to accept this hypothesis.
For 90 million years from the late Jurassic Period
to the Early Tertiary Period, global temperature rose
considerably while CO2 levels steadily declined.
en aer the Paleocene-Eocene ermal Max-
imum, there began a 50-million-year cooling trend
in global temperature to the current era. (See Fig-
ure 2 and 6) e Paleocene-Eocene ermal Max-
imum saw an average global temperature as much
as 16°C higher than the temperature today. Yet, the
ancestors of every species living today must have
survived through this period, as they had also sur-
vived through previous much colder climates. It is
instructive to note that despite the numerous peri-
ods of extreme climatic conditions and cataclysmic
events, every species alive today is descended from
species that survived those conditions. is leads
one to question the predictions of mass species
extinction and the collapse of human civilization
if the average global temperature exceeds a rise of
2°C above today’s level.23
14
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
It may seem surprising that the average global
temperature could have been 16°C higher in previ-
ous ages, as this would appear to render parts of the
Earth that are warm today virtually uninhabitable.
e key to understanding this is that when the Earth
warms, it does so disproportionally, depending on
the latitude. While the Arctic and Antarctic expe-
rience considerable warming, there is much less
warming in the tropics. us, the tropical regions
remain habitable while the high latitudes shi from
polar to temperate, and during the warmest ages,
they shi to a sub-tropical climate.
It is clear from the 800,000-year Antarctic ice
core record that the coldest periods during major
glaciations coincide with the lowest levels of CO2
in the atmosphere (see Fig. 5). e correlation is
certainly strong enough during this period to sug-
gest a cause-eect relationship between CO2 and
temperature. However, there is disagreement in the
literature about which is the cause and which is the
eect. ose who ascribe the warming over the past
century to greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 in par-
ticular, also tend to agree with the position set forth
in Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth: e Planetary
Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can
Do about It that the warming during the interglacial
periods is caused by rising CO2 levels.25 However, it
is problematic to postulate how the Milankovitch
cycles could cause an increase or decrease in atmo-
spheric CO2 levels, whereas it is plausible that the
Milankovitch cycles could cause a uctuation in
global temperature due to changes in solar radia-
tion, which in turn could cause either CO2 outgas-
sing from or absorption into the oceans. Indeed,
both sets of ice core data from Antarctica show that
changes in temperature usually precede changes in
CO2 levels, suggesting that temperature change is
the cause of change in the level of CO2.26 Some have
Figure 6. Global surface temperature from 65 million YBP showing the major cooling trend over
the past 50 million years. While the poles were considerably warmer than they are today, there was
much less warming in the tropics, which remained habitable throughout. The Earth is now in one of
the coldest periods during the past 600 million years.
Global Temperature for the past 65 million years
15
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
suggested that although the onset of warming aer
a glaciation is caused by the Milankovitch cycles,
the subsequent outgassing of CO2 from the ocean
then becomes the predominant driver of further
warming.27 Presumably, it would also be postulated
that the cooling leading to glaciation is triggered by
the Milankovitch cycle and then driven by reduced
CO2 levels due to ocean absorption. is hypothesis
is not proven and is highly improbable.
It is extremely unlikely or perhaps impossible
to imagine how CO2 could have increased from a
pre-industrial 280 ppm to 400 ppm in the absence
of human-caused emissions. No other species,
existing or imagined in the near future, is capable
of digging and drilling into the massive deposits of
fossil fuels and then burning them so as to release
CO2 back into the atmosphere from where it had
come in the rst place. Many scientists think this
increase in atmospheric CO2 is the dominant cause
of the slight warming (0.5C) of the atmosphere over
the past 65 years. Only time will tell if this is the
case. Since the Little Ice Age peaked around 1700,
the climate has been warming in ts and starts for
about 300 years. It is possible that the most recent
warming is a continuation of the longer period
of warming that had already begun long before
human-caused CO2 emissions could have been
a factor.
16
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
It has been well demonstrated that the increase in
CO2 in the atmosphere is responsible for increased
plant growth on a global scale (see Fig. 8). Many
studies suggest that nearly 25 per cent of human-
caused CO2 emissions, or 2.5 Gt of carbon annually,
are absorbed by plants, thus increasing global plant
biomass. A recent study postulates that up to 50
per cent of human CO2 emissions are absorbed by
increased plant growth.28 is has been described
as a “greening of the Earth” as CO2 reaches con-
centrations well above the near-starvation levels
experienced during the major glaciations of the
Pleistocene.29 e most prestigious Australian
science body, the Commonwealth Scientic and
Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has
shown that CO2 particularly benets plants that
are adapted to dry climates. In higher CO2 envi-
ronments, they become more ecient at photo-
synthesis, growing faster without using more water
(see Fig. 9).30
One of the most impressive records comes from
an experimental forest in Germany where there is
a continuous record of forest growth since 1870.
Since 1960, as CO2 emissions began to rise rapidly,
the growth rate of individual trees has increased
by 32 per cent to 77 per cent. While some of this
may be due to the slight increase in temperature
since 1960, the much higher growth rate is consis-
tent with laboratory and eld studies on the eect
of increased CO2 levels on plants.31
Higher CO Concentrations
Will Increase Plant Growth and
Biomass
Atmospheric CO at Mauna Loa Observatory
Figure 7. The rise of CO₂ in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa, Hawaii since 1959. Note the seasonal rise
and fall due to decomposition of leaves in the autumn and growth of leaves in the spring.
17
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
Figure 9. Field demonstration of increase in growth rate of pine trees exposed to ambient and
three higher levels of CO₂. All other parameters (water, nutrients, sunlight) remained equivalent for
all four trees.
Figure 8. Change in net primary productivity of vegetation 1982 to 2010. The driest regions, such as
Western Australia, sub-Saharan Africa, western India and the Great Plains of North America, show the
greatest increase in plant growth.32
Greening of the Earth due to more CO in the atmosphere
Direct evidence of the CO fertilization effect
18
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
It is n
ot widely known that greenhouse oper-
ators worldwide inject additional CO2 into their
greenhouses in order to increase the growth and
yield of their crops. Among horticulturalists, it is
well known that this practice can increase growth
by 40 per cent or more. is is because the opti-
mum level of CO2 for plant growth is between 1,000
ppm and 3,000 ppm in air, much higher than the
400 ppm in the global atmosphere today.33 Every
species on Earth, including our own, is descended
from ancestors that thrived in climates with much
higher levels of CO2 than are present today.
One of the fundamental principles in ecology
is there are “limiting factors” to growth and
survival.34 All organisms require a minimum
amount of many factors, rst to survive, and then to
grow and ourish. ese factors include essentials
such as water, sunshine, and nutrients. Too much
of a given factor, too much water, sunshine or a
particular nutrient can also be limiting to growth
and survival.
It is now obvious that for the past 20-30 million
years CO2 has been the key limiting factor in many,
and more recently, in most ecosystems. In wild
nature the limiting factors are oen water and key
nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. But
if these nutrients and water are in sucient supply
for optimum growth then at 400 ppm CO2 will
be the key factor limiting growth. In agricultural
practice it is standard to supply sucient water and
nutrients (fertilizer) to ensure optimum growth.
us virtually all agriculture is limited in yield due
to lack of CO2. e same is true for most intensive
forestry management. erefore the addition of
CO2 to the atmosphere will have a widespread
positive impact on global food production, the
most important industry for human survival.
e “CO2 fertilization eect” is very well
documented and yet is rarely recognized and
oen characterized as a negative factor by the
proponents of catastrophic climate change. is
is simply not acceptable if we are to determine
an accurate weighing of the positive and negative
impacts of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. In the
authors view there are no proven negative impacts
of higher CO2 whereas it is proven beyond a doubt
that higher CO2 levels result in increased growth
of plants around the world.
Discussion
e debate about climate change has one side
insisting that the “science is settled.” Yet, there is
no scientic proof that increased CO2 will result
in disaster, as CO2 has been higher during most
of the history of life on Earth than it is today. On
the other hand, it can be stated without a doubt
that if CO2 once again falls to the level it was
only 18,000 years ago, or lower, there would be a
catastrophe unlike any known in human history.
We are advised by many scientists that we should
be worried about CO2 levels climbing higher when,
in fact, we should actually be worried about CO2
levels sinking lower.
Atmospheric CO₂ Concentrations in the
Future
If humans had not begun to use fossil fuels for
energy, it is reasonable to assume that atmospheric
CO2 concentration would have continued to drop
as it has done for the past 140 million years. It is
also reasonable to assume that the Earths climate
would continue to uctuate between relatively long
periods of glaciation and relatively short periods
of interglacial climate similar to the present cli-
mate. Given continued withdrawal of carbon from
the atmosphere into the ocean sediments, it would
only be a matter of time before CO2 dropped to 150
ppm or lower during a period of glaciation. At the
average rate of 32 Kt of carbon lost annually, this
would occur in less than two million years from
now. In other words, the beginning of the end of
most life on planet Earth would begin in fewer
years into the future than our genus of primates,
Homo, has existed as a distinct taxonomic unit.
It is instructive to note that our species is a
tropical species that evolved at the equator in
ecosystems as warm or warmer than today’s. We
were only able to leave the warmth of the tropical
climate due to harnessing re, wearing clothing
and building shelters. is allowed us to settle in
temperate climes and even Arctic conditions by
the sea where domesticated dogs as well as marine
19
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
mammals made life possible for a very small pop-
ulation. However, we cannot grow food crops in
abundance on glaciers or in frozen soil. Moreover,
we would not be able to grow much of anything
anywhere if the level of CO2 went below 150 ppm.
ere is a distinct possibility that no amount of
additional CO2 will shi the climate out of the next
period of glaciation. is is not a reason to aban-
don hope but rather to marvel at the fact that we
can actually put some of the CO2 needed for life
back into the atmosphere while at the same time
enjoying abundant, reasonably priced energy from
fossil fuels.
ere has been a gradual net loss of CO2 from
the atmosphere during the past 550 million years
from approximately 14,000 Gt to approximately
370 Gt at the lowest level during the height of the
last glaciation. is is a reduction of nearly 98 per
cent of one of the most essential nutrients for life
on Earth. In the absence of human CO2 emissions
over the past century, it is dicult to imagine how
this process of continuous removal of CO2 would
be interrupted. Massive volcanism on a scale not
seen for more than 200 million years would be
required to bring about a reversal in the long-term
CO2 trend that has now been achieved by human
Figure 9. Reconstructed Greenland mean temperature anomalies (top) and Antarctic CO₂
concentration (bottom). Halving the temperature anomalies to allow for polar amplification gives
a reasonable approximation of global temperature change in the Holocene. Since the Holocene
Optimum began about 9,000 years before present, global temperature has fallen by ~1°C, though CO₂
concentration rose throughout (graph courtesy Christopher Monckton).
20
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
CO2 emissions. ere is no doubt the Earths inte-
rior has cooled substantially over its roughly 4.6-bil-
lion-year existence. is makes massive volcanism
an ever-decreasing likelihood. ere is no other
plausible natural mechanism to release carbon to
the global atmosphere in the form of CO2.
e present Holocene interglacial has already
endured longer than some previous interglacial
periods. e Holocene is also somewhat cooler than
previous interglacial periods. Of more urgent con-
cern than the possible starvation of life two million
years from now is what would happen at the onset of
the next glaciation, possibly a relatively short time
from now. In the absence of human CO2 emissions,
both temperature and CO2 would have dropped to
levels that would result in a continuous reduction
in plant growth, bringing in climatic conditions
similar to or perhaps even more severe than those
that occurred in previous glaciations. is would
certainly lead to widespread famine and likely the
eventual collapse of human civilization. is sce-
nario would not require two million years but pos-
sibly only a few thousand. Even if the conditions of
the Little Ice Age reoccurred in the next hundreds
of years with a human population of nine billion or
more, we can be sure the population might not be
nine billion for long.
ere is a strong argument to be made that the
Earth is already in a cooling trend that is descend-
ing into the next 100,000-year cycle of glaciation
(see Fig. 4). Note that in the three preceding inter-
glacial periods, there was a sharp peak followed by
a steady downward trend in temperature. e peak
temperature in this Holocene interglacial period
was during the Holocene Optimum between 5,000
and 9,000 years ago. Since then, the warming peaks
have been diminishing, and the cool periods have
been colder (see Fig. 9). e Little Ice Age, which
peaked about 300 years ago, was likely the coldest
period of climate since the Holocene Optimum.35
A Paradigm Shift in the Perception of CO
Independent scientist James Lovelock provides
an interesting example of both these contrasting
predictions of future catastrophe versus salvation
regarding CO2 emissions. He is undoubtedly one
of the foremost experts in atmospheric chemistry,36
which is why NASA retained him to design part of
the life-detection equipment for the rst U.S. Mars
landers.37 He concluded from the results that there
is no life on Mars.
Since publishing his rst book on the Gaia
hypothesis in 1979, Lovelock became concerned
with human civilizations impact on the global atmo-
sphere.38 He became a strong advocate for reducing
CO2 emissions, stating that humans had become a
rogue species” against Gaia (the Earth). He went so
far as to state in 2006, ‘“Before this century is over,
billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of
people that survive will be in the Arctic where the
climate remains tolerable…a broken rabble led by
brutal warlords.39
Only four years later, in a public speech at Lon-
dons Science Museum in 2010, Lovelock recanted,
stating,
‘It is worth thinking that what we are doing in
creating all these carbon emissions, far from
something frightful, is stopping the onset of a
new ice age. If we hadn’t appeared on the earth,
it would be due to go through another ice age
and we can look at our part as holding that up.
I hate all this business about feeling guilty about
what were doing.40
is abrupt reversal of Lovelocks interpretation
of CO2 is precisely what is required universally to
avoid the tragedy of depriving billions of people of
reasonably priced, reliable energy, especially those
with a need to li themselves out of poverty. ere
must be a total paradigm shi from demonizing fossil
fuels and fearing CO2 as a toxic pollutant to celebrat-
ing CO2 as the giver of life that it is while continuing
to use fossil fuels ever-more eciently. Like Lovelock,
we should be hopeful that CO2 will prove to be the
moderate warming inuence that it is predicted to be
in theory. A somewhat warmer world with a higher
level of CO2 in the atmosphere would result in a
greener world with more plant biomass, higher yields
of food crops and trees, a more hospitable climate in
high northern latitudes and a possible reduction in
the likelihood of another major glaciation.
21
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
It is highly probable, and ironic, that the exis-
tence of life itself may have predetermined its own
eventual demise due mainly to the development of
CaCO3 as armour plating in marine organisms.41
e fact that humans appear able to reverse this fate
temporarily due to our recycling of CO2 back into
the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for energy
verges on the miraculous. Nevertheless, there is only
so much fossil fuel, and once burned, it is not renew-
able in the short to medium term. e vast bulk
of carbon is sequestered into carbonaceous rocks,
mainly as CaCO3. Today, about 5 per cent of human
CO2 emissions are derived from converting CaCO3
(limestone) with heat into CO2 and CaO (lime) to
manufacture cement. erefore, when fossil fuels
become scarce in future centuries, and if CO2 again
begins to dwindle, we will have the option of pro-
ducing additional CO2 by burning limestone with
nuclear or solar energy, with lime for cement as a
useful by-product. is has the potential to extend
the existence of a highly productive living Earth
into the far distant future.
It is clear from the preceding discussion that
rather than bringing on a catastrophic climate con-
dition, human CO2 emissions are serving to reinstate
a balance to the global carbon cycle. By reversing
the 140-million-year decline in atmospheric CO2,
we are helping to ensure the continuation of car-
bon-based life on Earth.
22
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
Conclusion
of fear and guilt: we are fearful that driving our
cars will kill our grandchildren, and we feel guilty
for doing so.
A powerful convergence of interests among key
elites supports and drives the climate catastrophe
narrative. Environmentalists spread fear and
raise donations; politicians appear to be saving
the Earth from doom; the media has a eld day
with sensation and conict; scientists and science
institutions raise billions in public grants, create
whole new institutions, and engage in a feeding
frenzy of scary scenarios; businesses want to look
green and receive huge public subsidies for projects
that would otherwise be economic losers, such as
large wind farms and solar arrays. Even the Pope
of the Catholic Church has weighed in with a
religious angle.
Lost in all these machinations is the indis-
putable fact that the most important thing about
CO2 is that it is essential for all life on Earth and
that before humans began to burn fossil fuels, the
atmospheric concentration of CO2 was heading in
a very dangerous direction for a very long time.
Surely, the most “dangerous” change in climate
in the short term would be to one that would not
support sucient food production to feed our own
population. e recent “pause” in global warming,
recorded from 1996 - 2014 by two satellites and
thousands of weather balloons, does give pause to
the hypothesis that higher CO2 will inevitably lead
to higher temperatures.42 During this period of no
signicant warming, about one-third of all human
CO emissions since the beginning of the indus-
trial era was emitted into the atmosphere. e best
outcome would be that CO2 does cause some mea-
sure of warming, but considerably lower than that
suggested by extreme predictions.43
In recent years it has become fashionable for
the keepers of some the temperature records to alter
them, justied as “corrections, “adjustments, and
CO2 is essential for life, and twice in the history of
modern life there have been periods of steep decline
in the concentration of CO2 in the global atmosphere.
If this decline were to have continued at the same
rate into the future, CO2 would eventually fall to
levels insucient to support plant life, possibly
in less than two million years. More worrisome
is the possibility in the nearer future that during a
future glaciation, CO2 may fall to 180 ppm or lower,
thus greatly reducing the growth of food crops and
other plants. Human CO2 emissions have staved o
this possibility so that at least during a period of
glaciation, CO2 would be high enough to maintain
a productive agricultural industry.
A 140 million year decline in CO2 to levels
that came close to threatening the survival of life
on Earth can hardly be described as “the balance
of nature. To that extent human emissions are
restoring a balance to the global carbon cycle by
returning some of the CO2 back to the atmosphere
that was drawn down by photosynthesis and
CaCO3 production and subsequently lost to deep
sediments. is extremely positive aspect of human
CO2 emissions must surely be weighed against the
unproven hypothesis that human CO2 emissions
are mainly responsible for the slight warming of the
climate in recent years and will cause catastrophic
warming over the coming decades. e fact that the
current warming began about 300 years ago during
the Little Ice Age indicates that it may at least in
part be the continuation of the same natural forces
that have caused the climate to change through
the ages.
Despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary,
much of Western society has been convinced that
a global warming and a climate change crisis is
upon us. e idea of catastrophic climate change is
a powerful one, as it encompasses everything and
everywhere on Earth. ere is nowhere to hide from
carbon pollution.” ere is also the combination
23
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
“homogenization. In the United States both NOAA
and NASA have adjusted the historical data sets.
In the UK the Met Oce has made similar adjust-
ments and In Australia the Bureau of Meteorology
has made adjusts that they call “homogenization.44
45 46 Recently one of the satellite data sets (RSS) was
also “adjusted, resulting in an upward direction in
recent years.47 Conveniently for the supporters of
the hypothesis that human emissions are the cause
of warming all these adjustments result in increas-
ing temperatures in recent decades. e satellite
(UAH) and weather balloon records that have not
been “adjusted” do not show the same degree of
warming as the adjusted data sets.48
We should ask those who predict catastrophic
climate change, including the UNs Intergovern-
mental Panel on Climate Change, some pressing
questions regarding the outcome if humans had not
intervened in the carbon cycle.
What evidence or argument is there that the
global climate would not revert to another glacial
period in keeping with the Milankovitch cycles
as it has done repeatedly during at least the past
800,000 years?
What evidence is there that we are not already
past the maximum global temperature during
this Holocene interglacial period?
How can we be certain that in the absence of
human emissions the next cooling period would
not be more severe than the recent Little Ice Age?
Given that the optimum CO level for plant
growth is above 1,000 ppm and that CO has been
above that level for most of the history of life,
what sense does it make to call for a reduction
in the level of CO in the absence of evidence of
catastrophic climate change?
Is there any plausible scenario, in the absence
of human emissions, that would end the grad-
ual depletion of CO in the atmosphere until it
reaches the starvation level for plants, hence for
life on earth?
ese and many other questions about CO2, climate
and plant growth require our serious consideration
if we are to avoid continuing to make some very
costly mistakes.
24
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
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27
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN CO2 EMISSIONS ON THE SURVIVAL OF LIFE ON EARTH
... The entire air column emits in infrared, but the water vapours and the CO 2 retain much of the heat near the ground, thus the representation of the infrared in the figure 38. ...
... To reverse to the pre-industrial CO 2 levels, we need to absorb ¼ of the existing 800Gt of carbon from atmosphere (from about 400ppm to about 300ppm), which means 200Gt of carbon, while 600Gt have to remain in the atmosphere because without it the plants would die, and us with them [38] . ...
Book
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The human impact upon the global climate is larger than previously known. It results that deforestation is working not against, but in parallel with the carbon dioxide effect, while greatly exceeding it. The deforestation heating and the carbon dioxide warming create an accelerated degradation of the climate and of the land, with corresponding effects on human society and on wildlife. It is demonstrated that previous deforestation has produced a heating effect about 5 times larger than all the other man-made global warming causes combined.
Conference Paper
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The concept of ocean acidification is a recent phenomenon that has resulted in an explosion of journal articles, media reports and alarmist publications from environmental organizations. Many papers on ocean acidification, said to be caused by rising man-made CO2 levels in the atmosphere, predict that it will result in the mass extinction of marine species that employ calcification, including corals, shellfish and many species of plankton, and that this, in turn, will result in the extinction of many other marine species. Assumptions about pre-industrial ocean pH beginning around 1750 and laboratory studies that cannot adequately emulate natural oceanic conditions are the basis for the predictions of the future pH of the oceans. Marine species that calcify have survived through millions of years during which CO2 was at much higher levels in the atmosphere. All species are capable of adapting to changes in their environments. Over the long term, genetic evolution has made it possible for all species extant today, and their ancestors, to survive radical changes through the millennia. In the short term, phenotypic plasticity and transgenerational plasticity allow species to adapt to environmental change in relatively rapid fashion. Seawater has a very large buffering capacity that prevents large shifts in pH when weak acids such as carbonic acid or weak bases are added to it. All species, including marine calcifying species, are capable of controlling their internal chemistry in a wide range of external conditions. If the forecasts of continued global warming are borne out, the oceans will also become warmer and will tend to outgas CO2, offsetting to some extent the small increased partial pressure that might otherwise occur. An analysis of research on the effect of lower pH shows a net beneficial impact on the calcification, metabolism, growth, fertility and survival of calcifying marine species when pH is lowered up to 0.3 units, which is beyond what is considered a plausible reduction during this century. There is no evidence to support the claim that most calcifying marine species will become extinct owing to higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and lower pH in the oceans.
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Abstract. There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5-9 meters, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1°C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms. We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in affecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500-2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10-40 year range. We conclude that 2°C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly dangerous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric.
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Forest ecosystems have been exposed to climate change for more than 100 years, whereas the consequences on forest growth remain elusive. Based on the oldest existing experimental forest plots in Central Europe, we show that, currently, the dominant tree species Norway spruce and European beech exhibit significantly faster tree growth (+32 to 77%), stand volume growth (+10 to 30%) and standing stock accumulation (+6 to 7%) than in 1960. Stands still follow similar general allometric rules, but proceed more rapidly through usual trajectories. As forest stands develop faster, tree numbers are currently 17-20% lower than in past same-aged stands. Self-thinning lines remain constant, while growth rates increase indicating the stock of resources have not changed, while growth velocity and turnover have altered. Statistical analyses of the experimental plots, and application of an ecophysiological model, suggest that mainly the rise in temperature and extended growing seasons contribute to increased growth acceleration, particularly on fertile sites.
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Atmospheric CO2 inversions estimate surface carbon fluxes from an optimal fit to atmospheric CO2 measurements, usually including prior constraints on the flux estimates. Eleven sets of carbon flux estimates are compared, generated by different inversions systems that vary in their inversions methods, choice of atmospheric data, transport model and prior information. The inversions were run for at least 5 yr in the period between 1990 and 2009. Mean fluxes for 2001-2004, seasonal cycles, interannual variability and trends are compared for the tropics and northern and southern extra-tropics, and separately for land and ocean. Some continental/basin-scale subdivisions are also considered where the atmospheric network is denser. Four-year mean fluxes are reasonably consistent across inversions at global/latitudinal scale, with a large total (land plus ocean) carbon uptake in the north (-3.3 Pg Cy-1 (±0.6 standard deviation)) nearly equally spread between land and ocean, a significant although more variable source over the tropics (1.6 ± 1.0 Pg Cy-1) and a compensatory sink of similar magnitude in the south (-1.4 ± 0.6 Pg Cy-1) corresponding mainly to an ocean sink. Largest differences across inversions occur in the balance between tropical land sources and southern land sinks. Interannual variability (IAV) in carbon fluxes is larger for land than ocean regions (standard deviation around 1.05 versus 0.34 Pg Cy-1 for the 1996-2007 period), with much higher consistency amoung the inversions for the land. While the tropical land explains most of the IAV (stdev ∼ 0.69 Pg Cy-1), the northern and southern land also contribute (stdev ∼ 0.39 Pg Cy-1). Most inversions tend to indicate an increase of the northern land carbon uptake through the 2000s (around 0.11 Pg Cy-1), shared by North America and North Asia. The mean seasonal cycle appears to be well constrained by the atmospheric data over the northern land (at the continental scale), but still highly dependent on the prior flux seasonality over the ocean. Finally we provide recommendations to interpret the regional fluxes, along with the uncertainty estimates.
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Antarctic ice cores provide clear evidence of a close coupling between variations in Antarctic temperature and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 during the glacial/interglacial cycles of at least the past 800-thousand years. Precise information on the relative timing of the temperature and CO2 changes can assist in refining our understanding of the physical processes involved in this coupling. Here, we focus on the last deglaciation, 19 000 to 11 000 yr before present, during which CO2 concentrations increased by ~80 parts per million by volume and Antarctic temperature increased by ~10 °C. Utilising a recently developed proxy for regional Antarctic temperature, derived from five near-coastal ice cores and two ice core CO2 records with high dating precision, we show that the increase in CO2 likely lagged the increase in regional Antarctic temperature by less than 400 yr and that even a short lead of CO2 over temperature cannot be excluded. This result, consistent for both CO2 records, implies a faster coupling between temperature and CO2 than previous estimates, which had permitted up to millennial-scale lags.
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Wood is a major pool of organic carbon that is highly resistant to decay, owing largely to the presence of lignin. The only organisms capable of substantial lignin decay are white rot fungi in the Agaricomycetes, which also contains non–lignin-degrading brown rot and ectomycorrhizal species. Comparative analyses of 31 fungal genomes (12 generated for this study) suggest that lignin-degrading peroxidases expanded in the lineage leading to the ancestor of the Agaricomycetes, which is reconstructed as a white rot species, and then contracted in parallel lineages leading to brown rot and mycorrhizal species. Molecular clock analyses suggest that the origin of lignin degradation might have coincided with the sharp decrease in the rate of organic carbon burial around the end of the Carboniferous period.
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[1] Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades. The role in this greening of the “CO2 fertilization” effect—the enhancement of photosynthesis due to rising CO2 levels—is yet to be established. The direct CO2 effect on vegetation should be most clearly expressed in warm, arid environments where water is the dominant limit to vegetation growth. Using gas exchange theory, we predict that the 14% increase in atmospheric CO2 (1982–2010) led to a 5 to 10% increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments. Satellite observations, analyzed to remove the effect of variations in precipitation, show that cover across these environments has increased by 11%. Our results confirm that the anticipated CO2 fertilization effect is occurring alongside ongoing anthropogenic perturbations to the carbon cycle and that the fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process.
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This book is published to tie in with a documentary film of the same name. Both the book and film were inspired by a series of multimedia presentations on global warming that the author created and delivers to groups around the world. With this book, Gore, brings together leading-edge research from top scientists around the world; photographs, charts, and other illustrations; and personal anecdotes and observations to document the fast pace and wide scope of global warming. He presents, with alarming clarity and conclusiveness, and with humor, too, that the fact of global warming is not in question and that its consequences for the world we live in will be disastrous if left unchecked.
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Pinus eldarica seedlings were grown in a field of Avondale loam at Phoenix, Arizona within transparent open-top enclosures maintained for 15 months at mean CO2 concentrations of 402 and 788 μl1l−1, after which whole-tree net photosynthetic rates were measured at a number of CO2 concentrations ranging from ambient (360 μl l−1) to 3000 μl l−1. Rates of the low-CO2-treatment trees saturated at approximately five times their ambient-concentration value; while rates of the high-CO2-treatment trees rose linearly across the entire CO2 range investigated to more than 10 times their value at 360 μl l−1. These findings suggest that long-term exposure to elevated CO2 can increase the ability of trees with unrestricted root systems to respond positively to still higher CO2 concentrations.