Terrestrial biosphere response to rising CO2 and temperature

Rise of global temperature and increasing carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere are predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other climate alarmists to cause all kinds of undesirable consequences. However, a review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature shows that terrestrial productivity is responding very positively and the planet is greening.

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has a new report which refutes claims that global warming is stressing Earth’s natural and agro-ecosystems by reducing plant growth and development. The report,”The State of Earth’s Terrestrial Biosphere” (133 pages, 2.3Mb) is a meta-analysis, a review, of nearly 400 peer-reviewed scientific studies examining how the productivity of Earth’s plants have responded to the 20th and now 21st century rise in global temperature and atmospheric CO2.

Major findings:

The productivity of the planet’s terrestrial biosphere, on the whole, has been increasing with time, revealing a great greening of the Earth that extends throughout the entire globe. Satellite-based analyses of net terrestrial primary productivity (NPP) reveal an increase of around 6-13% since the 1980s.

There is no empirical evidence to support the model-based claim that future carbon uptake by plants will diminish on a global scale due to rising temperatures. In fact, just the opposite situation has been observed in the real world. Earth’s land surfaces were a net source of CO2-carbon to the atmosphere until about 1940. From 1940 onward, however, the terrestrial biosphere has become,

in the mean, an increasingly greater sink for CO2-carbon. Over the past 50 years, for example, global carbon uptake has doubled from 2.4 ± 0.8 billion tons in 1960 to 5.0 ± 0.9 billion tons in 2010.

The observed global greening has occurred in spite of all the many real and imagined assaults on Earth’s vegetation that have occurred over the past several decades, including wildfires, disease, pest outbreaks, deforestation, and climatic changes in temperature and precipitation, more than compensating for any of the negative effects these phenomena may have had on the global biosphere.

There is compelling evidence that the atmosphere’s rising CO2 content is most likely the primary cause of the observed greening trends.

In the future, Earth’s plants should be able to successfully adjust their physiology to accommodate a warming of the magnitude and rate-of-rise that is typically predicted by climate models to accompany the projected future increase in the air’s CO2 content. Factoring in plant productivity gains that will occur as a result of the aerial fertilization effect of the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2, plus its accompanying transpiration reducing effect that boosts plant water use efficiency, the world’s vegetation possesses an ideal mix of abilities to reap a tremendous benefit in the years and decades to come.

See also:

The Eocene climatic optimum and paradise lost

Climate Change and Biodiversity


Climate craziness and warming activists

On the front page of the Arizona Daily Star this morning we were treated to a story about a group called the National Institute for Peer Support asking Tucsonans about their opinions on climate change. The group is also sponsoring a bicycle ride to promote alternative fuels.

Upon looking at the NIPS (as they call themselves) website we find that they were “founded as ‘Deep Democracy’… to develop and apply a model of social change based on the principles and practices of peer support.” Where have we heard that before? The site also claims “In global warming, the United States and the world now face the greatest crisis in the history of our species. If we keep on doing what we are doing, the planet will become inhabitable [sic] by humans and most other species.” Wow! (Note to NIPS: inhabitable means fit for habitation.)

Looking at another NIPS website cited in the Star story, :, we find that this group is affiliated with a group advocating reducing the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide from the current 396ppm (that’s 0.0396%) to 350 ppm (0.0350%) in order to save the planet.

Add to that a story from Reuters which says in part: “At present emissions levels, in less than 20 years the sky would effectively be full [of carbon dioxide], meaning every extra tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted would have to be removed to stay within safer climate limits…” This story is apparently a propaganda precursor to the next IPCC report on climate change. How will we ever get around when the atmosphere is “full.” The political atmosphere seems to be full of it now.

That magic number 350 is apparently the concentration to keep the global temperature from rising beyond 2° C according to the activists.

Of course, neither the IPCC nor any of these warming activists have presented any physical evidence to support their contention that human carbon dioxide emissions have a significant effect on global temperature nor any evidence to support the contention that 350ppm is the proper “safe” limit.

 And, they appear to be ignorant of the fact that for most of this planet’s history, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has been above 1,000ppm. Only during the Carboniferous Period ice age has carbon dioxide been as low as it is now.

Phanerozic temp

 The NIPS may be well-intentioned, but through ignorance, they are fighting a phantom menace.

For background see:

A Perspective on Climate Change a tutorial

Your Carbon Footprint doesn’t Matter

A Modest Proposal: Triple Your Carbon Footprint

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Book Review: What Environmentalists Need To Know About Economics

This book is somewhat troubling. The author, Jason Scorse, makes a few good points, shows a complete misunderstanding of some issues, and tends to explore each issue in sometimes exhaustive and exhausting detail. Rather than economic advice, much of the book is a polemic on Scorse’s view of what constitutes an environmental problem; chief among those is anthropogenic caused climate change.

The seven chapters of the first part of the book deal with determining the optimum amount of pollution, tying to put a value on ecosystems, property rights, and jobs.

Scorse’s main points in part one are:

The world’s oceans and atmosphere are devoid of property rights (this is the tragedy of the commons), therefore no one takes responsibility for the sustainability of the resources. He uses the example of fisheries in which, Scorse says, fisherman take as much as they can, as quickly as they can.

Scorse notes that food production and electricity are really two things we cannot do without and both engender some pollution. He says that zero pollution is not feasible and environmentalists must accept this fact. They have to judge the benefit versus cost. Some pollution can be abated at a relatively low cost. “The optimum level of pollution is the amount where the benefits of abating additional pollution are not worth the added cost.” Scorse offers advice on how to judge that optimum point. He also notes that many U.S. environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and many EPA programs specifically mandate that the agencies are not allowed to use benefit-cost analysis.

Scorse spends many pages bashing the market system, but then he says “Market-based mechanisms have the benefit of allowing firms multiple pathways to compliance, thereby allowing them to choose the cheapest. Market-based mechanisms are also generally much better at promoting innovation because they create incentives for the development of new cleaner technologies.”

Some conflicting statements: As a result of environmental regulations “many forestry industries have experienced significant employment declines” (page 73). “There is no evidence that, overall, environmental regulation leads to job losses” (page 74).

In Part 2, Scorse takes another seven chapters to deal more specifically with climate change, forest and biodiversity conservation, agriculture, chemical pollution, fisheries, population growth, and “demand side interventions”. Scorse says that it is critical that private land owners be provided positive incentives to conserve natural resources. He advocates ending agricultural production subsidies saying these are “a colossal waste of taxpayer money.”

In discussing the ban on DDT, Scorse makes a foolish generalization: “Almost forty years have passed and there is virtually no one in the United States who believes that the ban was the wrong direction.” Apparently Scorse is not familiar with many studies which showed that the ban was unnecessary and has doomed many people, especially children in Africa, to death by malaria. (See 100 things you should know about DDT , The Excellent Powder, and DDT, A Case Study of Scientific Fraud.)

Some other points from the book: “The population issue is largely a distraction.” “The example of ethanol subsidies should be environmentalists’ Exhibit A of how not to craft government policy.”

As I said at the top, this book is troubling, many of Scorse’s economic recommendations are ambiguous platitudes rather than specifics. On the other hand (and Scorse uses many “on-the-other-hands”), “economic theory does not offer black and white answers…”

The author: Jason Scorse received his Ph.D. in Agricultural & Resource Economics, 2005 and M.S., Agricultural & Resource Economics, 2003, from UC-Berkeley and , M.S. in Applied Economics & Finance, 2001 and B.A. in Environmental Studies, 1991, from University of California, Santa Cruz.

The book is available at I received a free copy from the publisher.

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Climate alarmists have claimed that global warming will cause massive species extinctions. The geologic record shows the opposite. As “climate change” itself loses traction, green extremists are switching to “biodiversity” as the next bogeyman. The U.N. is launching its “International Year of Biodiversity.” But the current wildlife extinction rate is the lowest in 500 years according to the UN’s own World Atlas of Biodiversity. Environmental groups are beginning to use the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as an excuse to control carbon dioxide emissions. Perhaps the first species to be listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) on speculation of the effects of global warming is the polar bear.

On May 14, 2008, FWS listed the polar bear as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on the supposition that carbon dioxide emissions are melting the bear’s Arctic habitat.

In 2007, just prior to listing, the Arctic sea ice reached the lowest level recorded since 1979 when satellites began tracking the ice. However, that same year, Antarctic sea ice reached the maximum extent ever recorded. Did you hear about that?

The Department of the Interior press release on the polar bear claimed, “The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.” Really? Environmental groups are suing to force FWS to upgrade the listing to “endangered.”

The FWS listing is based on computer projections and false assumptions. An article in Science Daily claims, “Federal Polar Bear Research Critically Flawed…” People who live in the Arctic know that polar bear populations have been increasing, mainly due to changes in hunting regulations. Native Inuit hunters say that “The growing population has become ‘a real problem,’especially over the last 10 years.”

The polar bear has been around for a very long time and somehow survived conditions that were warmer than now and warmer than computer projections. It is also telling that the Canadian government, which oversees 14 of the 19 polar bear populations, has not listed the bear as “threatened” or “endangered.” The Alaska Department of Fish & Game opposed the listing claiming that FWS did not use the best available science and that FWS cherry-picked models, choosing only those which supported their case. Alaska fish & game says that polar bear populations “are abundant, stable, and unthreatened by direct human activity.”

FWS has a Climate Change Strategic Plan which is based largely on reports from the now discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (See my posts The Assumed Authority, and IPCC and Peer Review.)

 Real, on the ground, research into the relationship between global warming, species extinction, and biodiversity paints a picture very different from the speculative computer models. Abundant research shows that warming increases the range for most terrestrial plants and animals, and for most marine creatures. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes plants more water efficient and more robust. For an introduction to this research see “The Specter of Species Extinction, Will Global Warming Decimate Earth’s Biosphere?” That report concludes:

The CO2-induced global warming extinction hypothesis claims that as the world warms in response to the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content, many species of plants and animals will not be able to migrate either poleward in latitude or upward in elevation fast enough to avoid extinction as they try to escape the stress imposed by the rising temperature. With respect to plants, however, we have shown that as long as the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration rises in tandem with its temperature, most of them will not “feel the heat,” as their physiology will change in ways that make them better adapted to warmer conditions. Hence, although earth’s plants will likely spread poleward and upward at the cold-limited boundaries of their ranges in response to a warming-induced opportunity to do so, their heat-limited boundaries will probably remain pretty much as they are now or shift only slightly. Consequently, in a world of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, the ranges of most of earth’s plants will likely expand if the planet continues to warm, making plant extinctions even less likely than they are currently.

Animals should react much the same way. In response to concurrent increases in atmospheric temperature and CO2 concentration, they will likely migrate poleward and upward, where cold temperatures prevented them from going in the past, as they follow earth’s plants. Also as with earth’s plants, the heat-limited boundaries of their ranges should in many cases be little affected, as has been observed in several of the real-world studies that have been wrongly cited as providing evidence for impending species extinctions, or their entire ranges may simply shift with the rising temperature, as has been observed in many real-world studies of marine ecosystems.

To summarize, both theory and observation paint the same picture. A goodly portion of earth’s plants and animals should actually expand their ranges and gain a stronger foothold on the planet as the atmosphere’s temperature and CO2 concentration continue to rise. If the air’s CO2 content were suddenly to stop increasing, however, the biosphere could find itself facing a significant challenge, as the world’s plants would cease acquiring the extra physiological protection against heat stress that is afforded them by rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Consequently, the end result of curtailing anthropogenic CO2 emissions might well be just the opposite of what many people are hoping to accomplish by encouraging that policy, i.e., many species might actually be driven to extinction, rather than being saved from such a fate.

For even more information, go to and look in their subject index under “extinction.” There you will find reviews of the scientific literature based on real world observations. This research, as well as geologic history, show that a warmer world increases biodiversity. Habitat destruction from other causes is a separate issue.

Looking at the greater geologic record, we see that major extinctions are associated with ice ages and other cooling events. After each ice age, as the planet warmed, life rebounded with more speciation and greater biodiversity. The geologic record also shows that the “normal” temperature of this planet (when we are not in an ice age, or an interglacial period of an ice age) is about 18 degrees F warmer than now (see chart in this post). Even in our current interglacial period, warm cycles have been up to 10 degrees F warmer than now and we have not seen massive extinctions. (The megafauna extinction of about 10,000 years ago was associated with a rapid cooling period, the Younger Dryas.) The hot and steamy Cretaceous Period saw the development of flowering plants and a great increase in biodiversity.

It seems that the Fish & Wildlife Service is following a political agenda based on junk science.

(For another example of FWS junk science see, Jaguar Listing and Habitat Designation Based on Junk Science)