Climate Craziness of the Week: Plants blamed for us not roasting since 1950

From the Department of irrelevant “what ifs”, and Princeton University, comes this story about what Earth would be like if we didn’t have plants pumping the carbon cycle since the industrial revolution. They seem almost disappointed we don’t have a bigger temperature increase, citing plants “…significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot”. Red-hot? Gee, they must visualize in GISTEMP.

Without plants, Earth would cook under billions of tons of additional carbon

Pacala forest

Enhanced growth of Earth’s leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton University found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.

The planet’s land-based carbon “sink” — or carbon-storage capacity — has kept 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere since the mid-20th century, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. From the 1860s to the 1950s, land use by humans was a substantial source of the carbon entering the atmosphere because of deforestation and logging. After the 1950s, however, humans began to use land differently, such as by restoring forests and adopting agriculture that, while larger scale, is higher yield. At the same time, industries and automobiles continued to steadily emit carbon dioxide that contributed to a botanical boom. Although a greenhouse gas and pollutant, carbon dioxide also is a plant nutrient.

Researchers based at Princeton University found that Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems have absorbed 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon since the mid-20th century, which has significantly contained the global temperature and levels of carbon in the atmosphere. The study is the first to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times.

Had Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems remained a carbon source they would have instead generated 65 billion to 82 billion tons of carbon in addition to the carbon that it would not have absorbed, the researchers found. That means a total of 251 billion to 274 billion additional tons of carbon would currently be in the atmosphere. That much carbon would have pushed the atmosphere’s current carbon dioxide concentration to 485 parts-per-million (ppm), the researchers report — well past the scientifically accepted threshold of 450 (ppm) at which the Earth’s climate could drastically and irreversibly change. The current concentration is 400 ppm. [Anthony: No, it is not. The current concentration is: 393.32 ppm as of October 6th, 2013 Source: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html ]

Those “carbon savings” amount to a current average global temperature that is cooler by one-third of a degree Celsius (or a half-degree Fahrenheit), which would have been a sizeable jump, the researchers report. The planet has warmed by only 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early 1900s, and the point at which scientists calculate the global temperature would be dangerously high is a mere 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) more than pre-industrial levels.

The study is the most comprehensive look at the historical role of terrestrial ecosystems in controlling atmospheric carbon, explained first author Elena Shevliakova, a senior climate modeler in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Previous research has focused on how plants might offset carbon in the future, but overlooked the importance of increased vegetation uptake in the past, she said.

“People always say we know carbon sinks are important for the climate,” Shevliakova said. “We actually for the first time have a number and we can say what that sink means for us now in terms of carbon savings.”

“Changes in carbon dioxide emissions from land-use activities need to be carefully considered. Until recently, most studies would just take fossil-fuel emissions and land-use emissions from simple models, plug them in and not consider how managed lands such as recovering forests take up carbon,” she said. “It’s not just climate — it’s people. On land, people are major drivers of changes in land carbon. They’re not just taking carbon out of the land, they’re actually changing the land’s capacity to take up carbon.”

Scott Saleska, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona who studies interactions between vegetation and climate, said that the researchers provide a potentially compelling argument for continued forest restoration and preservation by specifying the “climate impact” of vegetation. Saleska is familiar with the research but had no role in it.

“I think this does have implications for policies that try to value the carbon saved when you restore or preserve a forest,” Saleska said. “This modeling approach could be used to state the complete ‘climate impact’ of preserving large forested areas, whereas most current approaches just account for the ‘carbon impact.’ Work like this could help forest-preservation programs more accurately consider the climate impacts of policy measures related to forest preservation.”

Although the researchers saw a strong historical influence of carbon fertilization in carbon absorption, that exchange does have its limits, Saleska said. If carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue rising, more vegetation would be needed to maintain the size of the carbon sink Shevliakova and her colleagues reported.

“There is surely some limit to how long increasing carbon dioxide can continue to promote plant growth that absorbs carbon dioxide,” Saleska said. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”

The researchers used the comprehensive Earth System Model (ESM2G), a climate-carbon cycle model developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid and Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), to simulate how carbon and climate interacted with vegetation, soil and marine ecosystems between 1861 and 2005. The GFDL model predicted changes in climate and in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide based on fossil fuel emissions of carbon. Uniquely, the model also predicted emissions from land-use changes — such as deforestation, wood harvesting and forest regrowth — that occurred from 1700 to 2005.

“Unless you really understand what the land-use processes are it’s very hard to say what the system will do as a whole,” said Shevliakova, who worked with corresponding author Stephen Pacala, Princeton’s Frederick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Sergey Malyshev, a professional specialist in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton; GFDL physical scientists Ronald Stouffer and John Krasting; and George Hurtt, a professor of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland.

“After the 1940s and 1950s, if you look at the land-use change trajectory, it’s been slowed down in the expansion of agriculture and pastures,” Shevliakova said. “When you go from extensive agriculture to intensive agriculture you industrialize the production of food, so people now use fertilizers instead of chopping down more forests. A decrease in global deforestation combined with enhanced vegetation growth caused by the rapid increase in carbon dioxide changed the land from a carbon source into a carbon sink.”

For scientists, the model is a significant contribution to understanding the terrestrial carbon sink, Saleska said. Scientists only uncovered the land-based carbon sink about two decades ago, while models that can combine the effects of climate change and vegetation growth have only been around for a little more than 10 years, Saleska said. There is work to be done to refine climate models and the Princeton-led research opens up new possibilities while also lending confidence to future climate projections, Saleska said.

“A unique value of this study is that it simulates the past, for which, unlike the future, we have observations,” Saleska said. “Past observations about climate and carbon dioxide provide a test about how good the model simulation was. If it’s right about the past, we should have more confidence in its ability to predict the future.

###

The paper, “Historical warming reduced due to enhanced land carbon uptake,” was published Oct. 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This work was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (grant NA08OAR4320752), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (grant 2011-67003-30373), and the Princeton Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

Related:

Surprise: Earths’ Biosphere is Booming, Satellite Data Suggests CO2 the Cause

AGU says CO2 is plant food

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140 thoughts on “Climate Craziness of the Week: Plants blamed for us not roasting since 1950

  1. “Without plants, Earth would cook under billions of tons of additional carbon”

    And who would care?

    Without plants, all creatures that rely on the plants would die.

    So, even if they “cooked”, who would be around to eat them?

    We would not have a runaway carbon cycle without plants – the carbon cycle would quickly cease to revolve, would it not?

  2. Please, Lord, stop me from reading the above:

    “The planet’s land-based carbon “sink” — or carbon-storage capacity — has kept 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere since the mid-20th century,…”

    Uh, sure is a good thing those plants did that. Wonder if they were removing carbon from the atmosphere before the mid-20th century, too?

  3. A useful admission that CO2 is plant food that promotes plant growth (that will provide food for humans) and will limit temperature in ways not modeled by climate models.

  4. Aarrgh!

    ““A unique value of this study is that it simulates the past, for which, unlike the future, we have observations,…”

    Yeah, that soundsunique all right. Surely, this is the first study, ever, from the beginning of recorded history, since man first walked on the planet, that didn’t observe the future. Worse, it only simulates the past, for which we actually do have observations!

    Is it just me, or is there a comedy skit here just waiting to be written?

  5. Still waiting for the study how many flawed climate change studies would have been avoided if these damned plants wouldnt be around the last million years. My God, can all this be true??
    Rgds from Europe, annother key place for costly but worthless science,
    Matt

  6. Wow, so when C02 in the atmosphere increases, the amount of vegetation increases,and thus the amount of Carbon taken out of the atmosphere and “locked up” in a Carbon Sink increases. It’s almost like the system has some kind of self-limiting factors built in to it!

    Hmm, what would you call that, negative something or other… Negative Feedback, maybe???

    It’s amazing without a study like this no one could ever have predicted that the natural world would act this way. Could they?

  7. Friends:

    The report says

    “A unique value of this study is that it simulates the past, for which, unlike the future, we have observations,” Saleska said. “Past observations about climate and carbon dioxide provide a test about how good the model simulation was. If it’s right about the past, we should have more confidence in its ability to predict the future.

    No competent scientist would utter such nonsensical drivel.

    If a model cannot emulate the past there is reason to suppose it cannot predict the future.

    But an ability of a model to emulate the past does NOT of itself provide any “confidence in its ability to predict the future”. This is because there are an infinite number of ways to make a model fit the past but there is only one way the future will occur.

    Richard

  8. “Scientists only uncovered the land-based carbon sink about two decades ago, …”

    Is this true?

    We didn’t figure out that plants removed carbon from the atmosphere as part of the carbon cycle until almost the end of the 20th Century?

  9. Yes, without plants there’d be more CO2, although we animals who ultimately depend on plants for food would never have existed in the first place.

    Also remember that without hemorrhoids we’d all sit easier, and without Princeton studies we’d all sleep better, and without gravity we’d all be flung through the sky to die in the cold darkness of space.

  10. If they had asked an indoor gardener they could have learned that most plants don’t even hit their maximum growth potential until the level of CO2 is above 1200 ppm. That’s when they really start to take off.

    Oh well, we can’t let simple facts get in the way of a Mad Magazine style scientific paper.

  11. Mark Bofill says:
    October 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    … without gravity we’d all be flung through the sky to die in the cold darkness of space.

    Please stop it Mark. You are scaring me.

  12. “Scientists only uncovered the land-based carbon sink about two decades ago, …”

    I guess they’re referring to progressive climate scientists.

    I knew 50 years ago, when I was a kid in grade school.

  13. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”

    Gosh. And if they eat all that yukky CO2 then they get too big and fall over. They get too big and can’t find enough water so they die the awful death of dehydration. Sigh… another reason to avoid putting too much devil-gas in the air. I think I’ll go to Princeton and become a scientist. I can become a plant dietician and help fat plants detox from CO2 abuse.

    And if you can’t tell this is sarcasm, you need to get out more.

  14. So… Isn’t this the equivalent of saying, “If he didn’t have testicular tissue, your uncle would have been your aunt”? Really?

    pbh

  15. I like to think that carbon is more important for the sinks than the sinks are important for the carbon. Carbon is very beneficial to the sinks. I happen to like the sinks myself, so I suggest we should emit more carbon to help the sinks grow better.

  16. Those “carbon savings” amount to a current average global temperature that is cooler by one-third of a degree Celsius

    On the basis of what happened over the last 17 years with huge increases in CO2 and no change in RSS, how can they prove this?

  17. Without trees and plants there would be very little atmospheric oxygen and everyone would die.

    Without water and sunlight, there wouldn’t be any trees or plants and everyone would die.

    etc. etc. etc.

    Do these environmentalists understand anything about the environment.

  18. Wow what a lot of words, and I guess salary? In order to state the bleeding obvious except for the absurd postulation that plants will have so much to eat they will stop being carbon dioxide hungry – yeah right.
    .
    Stop paying these academidiots now and make them get proper jobs.

  19. JohnWho says:
    October 16, 2013 at 1:47 pm


    Sorry John. But people need to be alarmed about gravity. It’s just plain irresponsible that more scientists don’t explain these facts to people clearly.

  20. And lest we all forget, 15,000 years ago CO2 levels fell to 180ppm, only just above plant life Armageddon of circa 150ppm.

  21. This is just another small incremental step in the direction of the skeptical position from the beginning. Increasing CO2 increases plant growth greening the planet and reducing temperatures. One of many negative feedbacks we’ve been ridiculed for mentioning time and time again. In another few years you won’t be able to tell the pigs (official position) from the people (skeptical position @ the beginning), but they’ll still be calling for action on climate change and calling us deniers.

  22. Maybe everyone missed it, but the real purpose of this study was to try to put a dollar value for forest restoration into the fondly-dreamed-of “Carbon” markets. This was a means for the rabid environmentalist to get their piggy snouts into the trough of Carbon-offsets. It says what it says without reliance on any conception of reality whatsoever, because it is purely about getting other people’s money into their pockets!

  23. Maybe….just maybe…that’s why the earth and all the life forms on it have evolved the way it did? Nah. Can’t be as simple as that. We need a major taxpayer funded study before we can answer that. Or that could direct the funding my way and use this as their conclusion.

  24. Some day, hopefully soon, these rocket scientists will discover that the oceans are net emitters and the plants are taking up far more natural CO2 than we humans emit.

  25. What a curious evolution. The “it’s worse than we thought” meme has been replaced with the “here’s why it’s not as bad as we thought but in the future it still will be worse than we thought” meme. They’re like a kid on a bicycle who insists one has to peddle backwards to change gears.

  26. I haven’t read the paper. However, be careful how you use hindcasts to measure a model. Models depend on past data for training purposes. Therefore the idea that hindcasts are a measure of the validity of the model itself and its forecasts in particular is not based on the use of an independent analysis of ability. The only thing that can be said is that the data entry process used to train the model was done accurately since the model reflects back accurately on the data used for that period.

    I did it the hard way. After hand entering a thousand data points, I did several random checks by printing out the data and checking it against the punch cards which were also checked against the paper copies of the actual test session. If the print out matched the paper and pen original, great. Data entry was accurately done. So too, if the hindcast matches the training period, great. But you can’t say anything else.

  27. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”
    ‘Earth to “ecologist”, come in!” Plants are like people in that they get “full” if they eat too much? Has this so-called scientist ever seen kudzu? What happens if plants overeat? Do they develop Type II diabetes? I am sure that at some point CO2 levels become less stimulative but the number I had seen was about 5000 ppm. Whatever, the number is, I don’t think that the plants get “full” (unless he is thinking of Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors).
    Just when you think it is safe to read the peer reviewed literature, the loonies take over the asylum again. I’m all for analogies but they out to be a little more rational than that.

  28. Does anyone else remember an episode of Saturday Night Live with a segment called “What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?”

  29. Vegetation has to be punished for masking consequences of our eco-sins for so long. The obvious way to do that is to reclaim as much forest as possible and convert the land to energy crops. That’s sustainable, because biofuel is a renewable resource, unlike forests. Oh, wait. Am I getting confused or what?

    Well, let’s start it over with a better plan. Remove all carbon dioxide pollution from air, making it nice and clean. That would surely put an end to those pesky plants, starving the evil things to death. There, fixed.

  30. “Is it just me, or is there a comedy skit here just waiting to be written?”

    It’s already started years ago. “it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yogi Berra.

  31. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”
    Comedy gold. You can’t make this stuff up.

  32. JohnWho says:
    October 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm
    “Scientists only uncovered the land-based carbon sink about two decades ago, …”

    Is this true?

    We didn’t figure out that plants removed carbon from the atmosphere as part of the carbon cycle until almost the end of the 20th Century?

    Well — I learned this in Public School in the 1950s — in grade six and seven science class….

    Perhaps the knowledge was lost in the mists of time…. It’s arcan knowledge yah know — like unto witchcraft and sorcery so to speak.

  33. Next, scientist discover we live on a planet, which has a climate dominated by the water cycles.
    Actually this is an indication of the panic the activists are suffering, as in Oh my God, CO2 is plant food,…. Who knew.

  34. Gahhhh, these people are such egotists! Or have never been outside a city in their entire lives. Maybe they could of just asked some of the major paper/logging companies how long they have been replanting the forests they log in…answer is well over 100 years! But according to these clowns that’s only since the 1950s? Maybe they can’t do math either…

  35. I must have missed something. Did the planet “cook” back in part of the Cambrian (500-600 MYA) when CO2 levels were mostly above 5000 ppm and peaked at almost 7000 ppm? No, temperature then was about 10C warmer than today, about the same as during Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (65 – 248 MYA) when CO2 fluctuated between a high of about 2000 ppm into a steady decline to under 1000 ppm. See here for a convenient graph.

    Besides, in the biosphere the waste of one organism is nourishment for another. If by some magic all the green plants disappeared and CO2 levels rose sharply, it just means something would evolve to take advantage of the bounty, bringing CO2 concentration back down (not that we would be around to care).

    I myself am going to go home and imbibe some yeast excrement. It’s the least I can do for them as otherwise they’d all expire in their own pee. I have no worries that the planet will cook, but it’s clear that has already happened to the brains of some Princeton researchers.

  36. And without carbon we would be talking about any of this.

    Which rocks do they turn over to find these guys & gals???

    But Frank, the GCM models have problems even making predictions about the past. Yogi was on to something.

  37. “Is this true?
    We didn’t figure out that plants removed carbon from the atmosphere as part of the carbon cycle until almost the end of the 20th Century?”

    Nope.

    http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/missing-carbon/

    “Alone in a sealed jar, a mouse would die from exhaled CO2. But as scientist Joseph Priestley observed in 1771, adding a mint plant allows the mouse to thrive. In this proof of photosynthesis, the mint absorbed CO2, retained carbon for growth, and released oxygen. “

  38. Although a greenhouse gas and pollutant, carbon dioxide also is a plant nutrient.

    Of course.

    ……well past the scientifically accepted threshold of 450 (ppm) at which the Earth’s climate could drastically and irreversibly change.

    So what happened in the past when co2 was over 5 times higher than 450ppm? Did it “drastically and irreversibly change”?

    They’re not just taking carbon out of the land, they’re actually changing the land’s capacity to take up carbon.”

    That must be why some studies find that the biosphere has been greening in recent decades.

    “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”

    But I was told by thinkprogress to say co2 is plant food is “Crock”. Now a Warmists tells me that it is. Maybe Romm rejects the science or denies the facts.

    We now need a study to tell us what would happen if plankton didn’t exist. Followed by another on what would happen if bees didn’t exist. The list is endless, but then researchers need to eat. Publish any old crap or perish.

  39. Sounds like someone’s scratching out a new fantasy explanation for the pause in temperature rise over the past sixteen years … the plants did it.

  40. Here’s the rub: more CO2 means more food and more food can mean more people. They seldom admit it, but t’s population, not climate, that they really worry about.

  41. Ah but have they realised that those pesky plants not only take up CO2 but they release oxygen, the second most reactive element after flourine, introducing free radicals and potential high combustion rates in any material. Will these enviromentalists now suggest the plants have to be eliminated?

    Let’s send them to the Moon to experience the world they want.

  42. Jimbo says:
    October 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    As you know, it’s not just that existing plants eat more, but that higher CO2 levels allow vegetation to spread to regions presently too dry for verdant growth. With more plant food in the air, land plants need to keep their stomata open for less time, conserving water that would otherwise be lost.

  43. What’s next? More atmospheric CO2 causes a reduction in gravity. That would justify trees evolving root systems to hold them to the ground in past times of high atmospheric concentrations ao CO2.. The increased density of the atmosphere due to CO2 would make objects weigh less and coupled with a reduction in gravity and the end of time is near as everything but trees would fly off into outer space.

  44. Jimbo says:
    October 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    The press release of the paper says “land-based carbon sink”, so it appears that phytoplankton weren’t included. Most of them get most of their CO2 from seawater rather than the air, so “acidification” of the surface waters of the oceans would thus be good for them, too.

  45. Let’s see, about 200GTonnes of CO2 get pumped into the atmosphere from dead matter on land per year. If those darned plants weren’t around, there wouldn’t be the CO2 either. Perfect balance.

    Christ on a bike!! Have we really come to this? Stop the planet. I want to get off.

  46. So CO2 is a nutritious pollutant. Like beer?
    The false premise here is that warmth is bad.
    1.3C is consistent with recovery from the LIA.
    Nothing scary here.

  47. “The planet has warmed by only 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early 1900s,”
    I mean this observation is consistant with the recovery in temperature that the Earth has enjoyed since the” Little Ice Age” .

  48. “Scientists only uncovered the land-based carbon sink about two decades ago, …”
    i thought the Carboniferous Period was earler, but i don’t have a degree in climate scientology, so what do i know…

  49. Richardscourtney says:

    “This is because there are an infinite number of ways to make a model fit the past but there is only one way the future will occur.”

    Fantastic! I’m going through William Briggs statistics lessons at the moment so this resonates strongly with me.

  50. Here is an effect of co2 based on observations from the past. It concerns neo-tropical forests under far higher levels of co2 than today. PS we have also learned that arid areas have been greening in recent decades. What is wrong with these co2 panickers?

    Abstract – Stephanie Pau et. al. – 23 May 2013
    Clouds and temperature drive dynamic changes in tropical flower production
    …..Our results show that temperature, rather than clouds, is critically important to tropical forest flower production. Warmer temperatures increased flower production over seasonal, interannual and longer timescales, contrary to recent evidence that some tropical forests are already near their temperature threshold…..
    doi:10.1038/nclimate1934

    Abstract – James L. Crowley – 12 November 2010
    Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation
    Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago)………eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide,…….
    doi: 10.1126/science.1193833

    Abstract – Carlos Jaramillo et. al. – May 2013
    Global Warming and Neotropical Rainforests: A Historical Perspective
    …Our compilation of 5,998 empirical estimates of temperature over the past 120 Ma indicates that tropics have warmed as much as 7°C during both the mid-Cretaceous and the Paleogene….. The TRF did not collapse during past warmings; on the contrary, its diversity increased. The increase in temperature seems to be a major driver in promoting diversity.
    doi: 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105403

  51. Jimbo says:
    October 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Science has known that land plants take up carbon dioxide from the air for a bit longer than two decades. It was discovered in wood in the 17th century! Around 1630, Flemish chemist, physiologist & physician Jan Baptista van Helmont identified a gas given off by burning wood & called it gas sylvestre, ie “wood gas”.

  52. Arid areas have been greening! We must act now before it’s too late. The Earth can’t take any more of this. Climate change is the most serious problem facing man today. The finest brains on the planet are thinking hard about how to tackle this beast.

    Abstract – 31 May, 2013
    CO2 fertilisation has increased maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments

    [1] Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades. …….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, analysed to remove the effect of variations in rainfall, show that cover across these environments has increased by 11%.…..

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50563/abstract

    Let’s not mention the greening of the Sahel. It’s not happening because we have been told that we must tackle desertification now.

  53. Some plants and animal life cycles are timed to a grand greening and drought cycle that loads the Earth with green vegetation and plant material during warmed greening decades, which then is killed in cold extended drought decades, and forms part of the fertilizing dust that is blown out to sea. This approximate half century cycle moves land and sea flora and fauna on a grand migration and prompts a diminution/expansion of offspring.

  54. Jimbo says:
    October 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    CO2: it’s not just for plants any more!

    It’s good for people, camels, goats & other living things!

  55. Pamela Gray says:
    October 16, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    For 3.8 billion years or longer, life has played a role in the Earth’s climate system. Whatever effect, whether cooling, warming or both, humans may or may not have now pales in comparison with what those evil cyanobacteria did c. 2.4 Ba, catastrophically poisoning our planet’s precious air supply with noxious oxygen!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event

  56. Just pay the tax, then all those thoughts that always end with a … why ?, won’t have to be asked anymore.
    It has been settled by those that know, don’t you know !!

  57. It appears that the Princeton Carbon Mitigation Initiative must be run out of a day care center. This paper and the PNAS both deserve Ignoble Awards.

    Absolutely pathetic!

  58. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”
    Except for the fact that plants don’t have stomachs. Could somebody who claims to be a scientist actually have made this statement? High comedy!

    I’ve been vilified for the last 15 years for pointing out that CO2 would increase earths biomass in a negative feedback that was not being taken into account in the models. In a recent discussion in Mother Jones a true believer wouldn’t accept a paper by James Hanson saying the same thing as evidence.

  59. kcrucible says:

    “Alone in a sealed jar, a mouse would die from exhaled CO2. But as scientist Joseph Priestley observed in 1771, adding a mint plant allows the mouse to thrive. In this proof of photosynthesis, the mint absorbed CO2, retained carbon for growth, and released oxygen. “

    Don’t give them any ideas! Pretty soon they’ll make us live in sealed jars with mint plants.

  60. Sorry, isn’t increased plant growth a good thing? Increased agricultural production? More food for the starving poor, kept in poverty by the Western middle class enviro-fascsists … but I digress.

  61. ““…significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot”.

    Well, yeah, I saw the maps, they were pretty red. No argument there.

    “Although a greenhouse gas and pollutant, carbon dioxide also is a plant nutrient.”

    So the ecology loves the stuff but it is a pollutant. Where is Steven Mosher to talk about illogical nonsense when it is on the alarmist side of the divide. I guess they love it because its like candy to them but definitely not good for them.

    “first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times”

    Well we should still cite the preindustrial studies that explored it, don’t you think? Also this is a load of bull, even NOAA has been talking about the greening of the planet and the WHO has been talking about huge boosts in agricultural yields. Willis and a number of others have covered this territory in a few threads. Oh, and BTW, this makes plant growth a ….wait for it…. a NEGATIVE FEEDBACK and a POSITIVE BENEFIT of rising CO2- words banned in IPCC reports, children’s dictionaries, the EPA, Penn State, and in polite company.

    “That means a total of 251 billion to 274 billion additional tons of carbon would currently be in the atmosphere. That much carbon would have pushed the atmosphere’s current carbon dioxide concentration to 485 parts-per-million (ppm), the researchers report — well past the scientifically accepted threshold of 450 (ppm) at which the Earth’s climate could drastically and irreversibly change. ”

    Steve McIntyre was right on with his remark that in earlier generations, the-climate-is-very-scary professors would be lucky to be high school teachers. Here they have an actually good news story and look what they changed it into. This is climate change at its best.

    Now the obligatory testimony of a bystander who wasn’t part of the study:

    “Scott Saleska, an associate professor of ecology and (r)evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona …said … researchers provide a potentially(?) compelling argument for continued forest restoration ….Saleska is familiar with the research but had no role in it”.

    And then blah, blah ..but the plants will get full at some point – stupid, stupid. You morons, the plants will be more productive and make more seeds and … sheesh, I’m only a geolgist! Shame, shame! Comon Joel Shore, Steve Mosher, its okay to criticize your own. We do it here all the time.

  62. The authors of the “study” are evidently deniers. They claim deforestation is not only not happening. They claim the planet is getting greener. Lies, clearly.

  63. Have they considered the plants did too good a job removing carbon from the atmosphere between the Eemian and the Holocene? Fickle plants. 10% of the time they help, 90% of the time they cause trouble.

  64. I don’t know why people are laughing at this study.

    The authors say it is … historic … first time ever … the most comprehensive look … Unless you really understand … a significant contribution … lending confidence to future climate projections …
    Enhanced growth of Earth’s leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot .. Those “carbon savings” amount to a current average global temperature that is cooler by one-third of a degree Celsius …

    Can you imagine the circus atmosphere created when the authors are sitting down with the news release writers trying to come up with the story-line. I mean a serious disconnect with reality. It should appear to be the most important study ever, even if all of this was known long ago.

  65. milodonharlani says:
    October 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Jimbo says:
    October 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Science has known that land plants take up carbon dioxide from the air for a bit longer than two decades.

    I know but I like to give a reference and time under pressure. Secondly, I only need one example to show them to be wrong.

  66. Re: Jimbo says:
    October 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I just read your link to Think and Kevin Trenberth’s video. I think my IQ just dropped by half, and I’m struggling to maintain my sanity.

  67. SARC ON /
    Hey, the atmosphere of Mars is 95.9% co2 AND it’s RED! The study is true. :-( We are all going to dieeeeeee.

  68. Now if they wanted to really scare us they could have calculated how much the earth would have sped up its rotation by pulling mass out of the atmosphere and drawing it in closer to the surface. Hmm, but I guess the plants release oxygen which is heavier than carbon… so the earth would slow down…anyway, it has to be worse than we thought.

  69. Oh and the plants haven’t filled up and stopped eating CO2 for ~1B yrs, but I guess they’ll have to someday. This looks like a Malthusian argument dressed up in green.

  70. Now it’s time for some video entertainment. This video clearly shows that co2 is a toxin to all life. We must act now.

  71. If trees lived forever they would be a carbon sink. But, they die and decompose and release all kinds of gases (including carbon dioxide) that go right back into the atmosphere. Trees are carbon neutral.

  72. kerucible: ” But as scientist Joseph Priestley observed in 1771 …”

    You can expect environmentalists to have been reading things printed and distributed on dead trees. Well, until now. I expect the great push to ban the internet will commence soon. So we can go back to sequestering carbon in acid-free 20 lb bond.

  73. Does any geologist here know when vegetation in general had TOO MUCH CO2 in Earth’s history? I’m sure there are limits in a lab or theoretically on Earth but I want to know about the past.

  74. In an equilibrium, the reaction moves to offset the applied change……..

    So plant uptake of CO2 is the only carbon dioxide sink….???

  75. Jimbo,

    Alarmists like to point to charts like this one, in order to scare folks.

    But for some better perspective, here is a chart showing how high CO2 has been in the geologic past.

    Notice that CO2 has been up to about twenty times higher — notice also that now, CO2 is at the very low end of its historical parameters. CO2 could go up a lot, and it still wouldn’t be any problem.

  76. Wrong on every count. 450 is of no more significance than any other level, which is negligible, except for availability of atmospheric carbon for plants.
    “If everything were dead, it would die.” Alarmist funding must be so profligate they’f reduced to coming up with dreck like this to “study”.

  77. “There is surely some limit to how long increasing carbon dioxide can continue to promote plant growth that absorbs carbon dioxide,” Saleska said. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”
    =========================================================================
    Oh dear. Where does Saleska think the dinosaurs came from? Those huge
    herbivours like Argentinosaurus which weighed in at 25 + plus tons?

    “CO-2 is food for plants…” … true.
    “putting more food out there stimulates them to eat more …” … so true.
    “… however, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more
    food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.” Wrong. Plants are NOT animals.
    They have NO appetite regulation. After 1200ppm, they become real gluttons.
    They put on so much ‘weight’ they can easily sustain regular mowing by herds
    of Argentinosauri and just grow right back. Of course, such huge forest mowers
    also sustain huge herbivore eaters like T-Rex. And all this is sustainable with
    higher levels of CO-2. There’s a LOT more eating going on!

    The elephant (a mere 4 ton beasty) is the largest sustainable herbivore
    for current plant growth rates, fuelled by current CO-2 levels.

    What planet did this individual say he/she came from?

  78. wws says:
    October 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Laughing uproariously. My thoughts exactly. I think that “feedbacky thing” is not in the little red book.

  79. OK, I can do paradox.

    So, imagine for a moment, it is a few tens of MYBP. The PPM(CO2) is running sort of low. Photosynthesis is barely happening. Then something happens – maybe a bolide, maybe volcanic catastrophe, or some other perturbation or combination of them. Most green plants and phytoplankton croak. Fungi and other decomposers run wild. PPM(CO2) spikes. Eventually, a few hopeful monsters amongst what had been the community of green plants and phytoplankton flourish in newly created niches. A new, rich era of untold biomass and diversity emerges.

    Rinse, repeat.

    BTW, about the current PPM(CO2) – in terms of the span of Earth History, values are running on the low side ….

  80. sophocles: ” Plants are NOT animals. They have NO appetite regulation. ”

    Oy now. It’s called gastronomy for a reason. First thing, ‘gas’, so right there. Second thing, what else are you going to keep gas in but a sac? If they weren’t able to regulate the gas they put in their sacs, they’d burst open like a popped balloon. Seen many of those?

    I didn’t think so.

    That proves that plants have gastronomic sacs to regulate their carbon sequestration. Qoud Et Climatatum.

  81. …to paraphrase Mr. Watts….”The stupidity, it burns like a magnesium flare!” Damn idiots, it is called the “biosphere,” and the carbon cycle is integral.

  82. “Work like this could help forest-preservation programs more accurately consider the climate impacts of policy measures related to forest preservation.” According to Skaleska. In a slight change of topic, it was learned that Skaleska walked over to his neighbor’s house and the IQ of both households went down.

  83. The stupid…. It hurts…

    Imagine that… Plants ACTUALLY metabolize CO2 during photosynthesis.. Who knew???….

    Well, other than just about everyone on the planet over the age of 8 knows of photosynthesis, except, apparently, CAGW grant whores who didn’t have a clue until this Princeton paper was released….

    How dare those “evil” farmers use cheap “evil” petroleum-based fertilizers to help increase crop yields 80% since 1980? Forget the poor starving masses in Africa, what about the poor starving CAGW grant whores that will soon be out of jobs? Have farmers even thought about them? I don’t THINK so… Do these heartless farmers have any idea how these “evil” increases in crop yields have wreaked havoc on CAGW models? Of course not! All their worried about is making a profit–those greedy capitalist pigs!

    What can be done about those evil fatty forests that are just gobbling up all that additional “CO2 pollution” man is pumping into the atmosphere? Do these rotund CO2 gluttons realize what an embarrassing disaster they’ve made of AR5? Have they looked in a mirror lately? Helloooo…

  84. That’s the mother of all carts before horses: the reality is that if there were not CO2, there would be no plants!

  85. The only thing that this ivory tower, over schooled, but under-educated person did, is point out the duplicity and utter stupidity of our so-called CO2 accounting. Essentially we threaten humans and collect their reports and estimates of what they will emit.

    Somehow the bureaucrats forgot, or can not get, the Oak and Pine tree to file those EPA estimates of what they consume for themselves and their saplings. It is accounting for outgo, but not recording income Only an EPA quack or a Greenie accountant or a science phony labeling themselves as a climatologist, is dumb enough not to see something wrong here,

    But they do that and are that dumb,

  86. Fred Said: “If trees lived forever they would be a carbon sink. But, they die and decompose and release all kinds of gases (including carbon dioxide) that go right back into the atmosphere. Trees are carbon neutral.”

    Wrong. Trees produce seeds like acorns or nuts to reproduce. Those reproductions will harvest the CO2 remants of the dead parent tree. That is the beauty of trees and plants. They can reproduce. And they will reproduce a lot better in higher CO2 levels.

  87. Saleska said. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”

    ====================================
    So commercial growers must pump the CO2 levels up to 3000PPM in their greenhouses for another reason.

  88. Oh boy , they “cooked” the books again, but…wait a moment , let me think (some days it hurts BTW) aren’t books made with paper and doesn’t paper come from ?? ah ?? OH YES right !!! Plants like trees? And rice and fibers of all sorts of other PLANTS?, uh I am getting really confused.. and then, don’t you need plant material to make a fire to “cook” said books….. ,, I think?? HELP!!

  89. @ David Ball @7.23pm , the plants should sue yes and it should be a class action against the Gore’s, Obama’s and especially the people in the background, IE the over a 120 year old Progressive movement, the paid for Mann’s and that whole crew. And add all off US that are beng screwed, blued and tattooed by these low lives!

    There is little reason to shut down the Coal industry and other energy sections. If we do not keep up improving the science to improve all of them, guess what,

    (and I include the current delusional thinking behind “green” energy, which may become feasible in the future IF weaned of GRANTS and corruption, the “industry” that every minute of the day depends on products made by “Big OIL”, pipelines, mining, transportation, satellites, rocket fuel,computers, cellphones, you know it, and the list goes on and on even the rubber on their bikes are synthetic for Pete’s sake, etc),

    we as a race will die on the vine ( a plant ).

  90. Pamela Gray: ” be careful how you use hindcasts to measure a model. Models depend on past data for training purposes…”

    A good test is to split the historic data into two parts. Use the first to “train” the model – for example, best fit parameters into an assumed structural relationship. Use the second part of the data to see if the trained model can predict observations you already have in hand.

    If it cannot, you know the model is unreliable and don’t use it.

    The suggestion that we have to wait for the predictive test is nonsense.

  91. “A unique value of this study is that it simulates the past, for which, unlike the future, we have observations,” Saleska said.

    Dear me. Unconscious parody or intentional ?

    Then there is….”There is work to be done to refine climate models and the Princeton-led research opens up new possibilities while also lending confidence to future climate projections”, Saleska said.

    No doubt all well intentioned and one shouldn’t be unkind, but are there prizes for stating the bleeding obvious?

  92. Jordan:

    You are mistaken in your post at October 17, 2013 at 1:54 am which replies to the correct point made by Pamela Gray.

    Yes, as you say, a test as to whether a model can be rejected for predictive ability is provided by training the model on half the time series then using it to predict the other half. However, ‘one swallow does not make a spring’ so that test does NOT demonstrate the model does have predictive ability. The test demonstrates it is possible that the model may have predictive ability because the model is not known to not have predictive ability.

    Knowing the model may be able to do something is not the same as having an indication that the model can do something.

    The issue is stated in my above post at October 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm. This link jumps to it

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/10/16/climate-craziness-of-the-week-plants-blamed-for-us-not-roasting-since-1950/#comment-1450116

    Richard

  93. “Scientists only uncovered the land-based carbon sink about two decades ago”, so what was that photosynthesis thing I was taught in the 1960’s? CO2 in O2 out, ipso fatso the carbon’s in the plant. and this wasn’t a novelty.
    The “what if” premise is pointless. what if I took a bucket of fog, would it be mist?

  94. This is superstition with a sciencey facade.
    What if Godzilla was real and had successfully bred?
    What if we had a time machine and kept Hitler out of power?
    What if Napoleon had a B52 bomber at Waterloo?

  95. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!
    Macbeth scene 5 W.Shakespeare

  96. “a greenhouse gas and pollutant,”

    Let’s get it over with. “EVERYTHING” is a pollutant and must be regulated by govt.

  97. Well, darn me – all we have to do, then – is cut down all the greenery on the planet and PROVE that we have runaway global warming…
    As we say in the UK, what a load of b*ll*cks…

  98. Every bit of O2 in the atmosphere came from CO2 — produced via plant photosynthesis. CO2 in the atmosphere is why we also have free oxygen. Cut CO2 & you eventually cut O2.

  99. richardscourtney on October 17, 2013 at 2:49 am

    I just wanted to make the point that if a model cannot even replicate the second half of the historic data, you have an immediate conclusion that it is no good.

    If the model performs well on the second half of the data (eg approximately “white” residuals), you have reason to feel more confident about the model.

    I understand your concern, and there is a need for model verification. But be careful not to be over cautious, there is a standard where we need to recognise that a model has merit.

    Ps my earlier comment was not aimed at Pamela, I was responding to the position of the researchers in the post above. Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that. ;-)

  100. Since 1933, companies in the timber industry in the USA such as Weyerhauser have
    been planting more acreage of trees than they harvest. As a result, the USA now
    has more more acreage under forest than it did in 1900. And those evil trees have
    been sucking up the CO2 at a fantastic rate, since they are still relatively young and
    growing.

    Oh, the humanity.

  101. No, no, I think they’re really on to something here. Where do our fossil fuels come from? Not dinosaurs, but plants! No plants, no coal. No plants, no oil. Plants are the ultimate evil.

    Think about it.

  102. Reading this article, and the one above about grazing animals engenders two thoughts. The granting agencies and professional societies have rendered granting solely to CAGW. All disciplines must now advocate the “cause” and prescribe outcomes to CC. Second, these two articles seem to be the beginning of a rationale for the Agenda 21 desire to move all humans into enclaves and restore much of the planet to natural areas. It is indeed sad that major universities and the next generation of academics are now enslaved to government.

  103. This study definitely falls into the “Friday Night Funny” category (It’s Friday night for me, and it is very very funny)!

  104. “Enhanced growth of Earth’s leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton University found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.”

    I have not tried to work this out, because to be honest it’s hogwash, but are there any estimates as to how much CO2 would be required in the atmosphere to “…transition to being red-hot…” on Earth @ 1 bar? I’d say we’d all be dead before there was any transition to being “red-hot”.

  105. I see to remember, back from high school, that the first lifeforms on Earth were… plants. They then wolved down all that delicious CO2 and started to produce O2, which in return allowed us land dwelling oxygen breathers to live.

    Yeah, I had kinda weird teachers, who were teaching facts. How odd is that!

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