Claim: 23 Million Year Old Fossilized Leaves Offer Proof of CO2 to Greening the Planet link

From the we told you so department.

Composite image showing the global distribution of photosynthesis, including both oceanic phytoplankton and terrestrial vegetation. Dark red and blue-green indicate regions of high photosynthetic activity in the ocean and on land, respectively. Image: NASA SEAWIFS

The links between rising carbon dioxide levels, and greening trends have been supposedly confirmed by fossilized leaves from a 23 million-year-old forest.

Researchers previously postulated that ancient increases in atmospheric CO2 during the early Miocene allowed plants to perform photosynthesis more efficiently. But the latest research, published last Thursday in the journal Climate of the Past, is said to confirm the link between CO2 and greening in the fossil record.

This is something NASA satellites have already observed in the modern-day era. Recent satellite surveys suggest rising CO2 levels are responsible for greening patterns across the planet, including Arctic and drylands ecosystems.

The latest research suggests that greening trends are likely to continue as CO2 levels approach those recorded during ancient period of warming.

According to the new study, increases in photosynthesis rates won’t be able to keep up with current rates of human-caused carbon emissions. In addition, previous studies suggest increases in rates of photosynthesis can prevent staple crops from absorbing calcium, iron, zinc and other minerals important for human health.

By comparing the fossilized leaf structures, including microscopic veins, stomata and pores, to those of modern leaves, researchers designed a model to more accurately predict CO2 levels.

“It all fits together, it all makes sense,” said study co-author William D’Andrea, a paleoclimate scientist at Lamont-Doherty. “This should give us more confidence about how temperatures will change with CO2 levels.”

Well, it may “all fit together” but the plants sure seem happy as of late.

43 thoughts on “Claim: 23 Million Year Old Fossilized Leaves Offer Proof of CO2 to Greening the Planet link

    • CO2 follows temperature, as warmer seas outgas more plant food, but more essential trace molecules in the air might yield a slight positive feedback effect.

      • Of course we’d be an icy rock without the Sun, but climatic fluctuations don’t follow it in linear fashion. Solar output was about one percent weaker when Earth was four to nine degrees C hotter, in the mid-Cretaceous, with hottub temperature tropical seas. Its radiation was still half a percent lower than today during the five to eight degrees toastier PETM.

        So other factors besides just the Sun affect global climate.

        • John,

          “Solar output was about one percent weaker when Earth was four to nine degrees C hotter, in the mid-Cretaceous”

          This is very uncertain and based on tenuous proxies, where land was assumed to have been at the time, where our orbit was thought to be relative to the Sun and wild presumptions about the influence of CO2.

          I also suspect that the Sun is far more variable than many want to believe. Most of the other stars we observe have measurable variability in their brightness with arbitrary magnitudes and periods. There also certainly seems to be strong evidence for multi-century periodicity in solar output.

          Yes, other factors have a second order influence relative to their effects on the albedo, but the driver of the average surface temperature is solar input PERIOD. According to the IPCC, just a 2% change in solar energy (4.8 W/m^2) owing to an albedo decrease or solar increase will increase (or decrease) the temperature by about 4C (almost 8C if you use the high end of the presumed ECS). It’s actually only about 1.5C based on the measured nominal contribution to the surface emissions per W/m^2 of solar forcing, so an 8C difference from today would actually require about a 10% change (24 W/m^2) in solar input, which is still in the noise relative to any differences we can reasonably discern in the proxies.

          The data is pretty clear that the average ratio between surface emissions and emissions at TOA above that surface is a constant 0.62 W/m^2 of planet emissions per W/m^2 of surface emissions, so in the steady state there must be 1.62 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of solar forcing (after reflection). The green line in the following plot is the expected behavior for 0.62 W/m^2 of planet emissions per W/m^2 of surface emissions. Each little dot is a 1 month average for each 2.5 degree slice of latitude and the larger dots are the averages for each slice over the 3 decades of data making up the plot. The surface temperature is the Y axis and the planets emissions are the X axis.

          http://www.palisad.com/co2/tp/fig1.png

          You should notice that the rapid convergence to this constant ratio is independent of temperature, forcing, latitude, topography, GHG concentrations or anything else. If you know the average incident solar energy after reflection, you can trivially calculate the average surface temperature. Not just globally, but providing that the chaos of weather is modulating the local climate, even locally.

          • CO2,

            That the Mid-Cretaceous was much hotter than now is obvious. North America was in about its present position, but largely covered by epicontinental seas.

            Antarctica had no ice sheets and croc relatives lived in the Arctic.

            The sun has been steadily shining more powerfully at the rate of one percent per 110 million years, probably for virtually all its history.

            Its output does vary slightly, but no way was it stronger 90 Ma than now.

        • ”Solar output was about one percent weaker when Earth was four to nine degrees C hotter,”
          …. but we were closer to the sun back then too weren’t we?

      • Of course the sun is the ultimate source of nearly all energy on earth, but as John Tillman said, other factors than the remarkably stable sun affect climate. The heat engine called earth is a very complex machine.

        CO2 is a bit player, mostly an effect of temperature rather than a cause.

      • Claiming that the only thing that influences climate is the sun, is as wrong as claiming that CO2 is the only thing that influences climate.

        • MarkW,

          What I’m saying is that the temperature of the surface is dependent only on the average incident energy. The average incident energy can be affected by many things, even CO2. The point being that this gain factor of 1.62 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing is immutable. I’ve also recently discovered why it has this value and why it can’t have any other. Look at the data in the previous post. It doesn’t want to be anything else and among all the relationships between climate variables, this ratio emerges faster and more consistently than any other. Here’s the math explaining why:

          http://www.palisad.com/co2/chaos2gold.pdf

          However; for this average ratio to be constant, the average fraction of surface radiant emissions absorbed by the atmosphere must also be constant where clouds chaotically modulate this ratio. More CO2 means the clear sky absorption is greater, so less of the surface needs to be covered by clouds which will decrease the albedo increasing the incident solar energy. Although, at the same temperature, there’s the same amount of water in the clouds and the fewer clouds are both more reflective and more absorptive of surface emissions. The net effect is still not clear, but it’s still small.

          • “What I’m saying is that the temperature of the surface is dependent only on the average incident energy. ”

            And what I’m saying is that you are wrong. The temperature of the earth depends on many things.

            How much energy we receive from the sun.
            How much of that energy is reflected back into space.
            The intensity of the water cycle.
            How many greenhouse gases are in the atmospher.
            Plus others.

          • MarkW,

            I get that the pedantic view is what most people have been conditioned to accept, but it can’t explain the data and if the data doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

            How can you explain the data that tells us that this ratio is constant, quickly converged to and ubiquitous from pole to pole? How can you explain the bizarre non linear behavior of clouds as a function of surface emissions that’s required to support this constant ratio from pole to pole?

            http://www.palisad.com/co2/sens/se/ca.png

            All of these things you cite vary locally, yet the 1.62 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing doesn’t. How can you explain this if this average ratio is so dependent on so many other things? The data is pretty clear that whatever effect these other things have on this ratio, the average behavior of clouds apparently offsets it.

            The IPCC’s nominal ECS corresponds to about 4.4 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of solar forcing and it’s the things you cited that gave them the wiggle room to distinguish the next Joule from the average Joule so that the next W/m^2 from the Sun can contributes 4.4 W/m^2 to the surface emissions while the average W/m^2 from the Sun contributes only 1.62 W/m^2 to those emissions. Somehow they think that ‘feedback’ only affects the next W/m^2, yet what they call ‘feedback’ can’t tell W/m^2 apart either.

            Chaos can be very counter intuitive, so I understand your inability to grok the constant ‘surface gain’ of 1.601803… W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of SOLAR forcing that I’ve discovered and that arises from the chaos, after all, it is a radical concept that defies convention, none the less, it fits the data far better than anything else and I now have the math that proves it’s the only possibility. Of course, climate science is so malformed, even the obvious violation of COE (all Joules are the same) required to support the IPCC’s insanely high ECS has been obfuscated by decades of misinformation and flawed analysis, so much so, that even many skeptics have become blind to the obvious.

    • Yes, that previous article covered what the paper was pretending to prove a lot better. This snippet is misleading as to what the paper says.

      They basically pretend, without the slightest proof that CO2 has always been the key driver of any climate change throughout geological history.

      They invent “super efficient” plants in order to make their dreamed up ideas match data which otherwise does not fit and end up suggesting that 450 ppmv CO2 , expected around 2040 corresponds to historical mean temps about 3-7 deg C “warmer than present”.

      That’s what the “it all hangs together ” comment refers to. Having suitably rigged the data and made spurious, false assumptions they manage to make their fanciful climate future “hang together”.

      • Yeah, I raised this point when the 23-myo leaf fossils were being discussed.

        If 450ppm is “calibrated” by their numbers that “all hang together” to result in global temperatures 3-7 degrees warmer than present, let’s do the math and test their claims.

        They claim that the 35pmm delta from today’s 415ppm to 450ppm equals at minimum 3K and at most 7K in temperature rise. If the warming response curve is fairly linear in the range we’re discussing (a bad assumption based on their theory), then the prior 135ppm increase since the LIA should have produced between (135/35*3) = 11.6K and (135/35*7) = 27K of warming since 1850. That’s only off by an order of magnitude. Absurd!

        But it’s worse than that! Since their theory says that there is a logarithmic function for equilibrium temperature as a function of CO2, each incremental increase in CO2 becomes less effective at producing warming. Every ppm of CO2 that was added in the past should have produced a greater response than what could be expected from the next 35pmm. Therefore the minimum temperature rise since 1850 should be significantly in excess of 12K. The last glacial maximum occurred with global average temperatures about 6K colder than present. So their own data dramatically invalidate the CO2 as control knob theory.

        Until somebody can refute that logic, I’m left with no other explanation than bad faith on the part of these “scientists” (activist scaremongers). They cannot possibly be so obtuse as to claim that we’re right on course for 3-7K of temperature rise from the next 35ppm of CO2, while never having considered the implications for that claim on historical temperature rise vs historical CO2 increases.

        If their actions end up k!lling millions of people, I suppose that they will indeed “all hang together” one day.

  1. Thanks Anthony, looking forward to greener times due to increasing CO2, but without greenies, thank you. The original article presents some comments in conflict, like mummified versus fossilized, but the basic claim appears legit. The Early Miocene, 23 mya, saw the onset of tremendous pyroclastic volcanic eruptions in central Nevada and adjacent Utah, with many calderas formed (OK, also some gold deposits). Volcanos and lush vegetation, lots of tasty critters to eat, what’s not to like?

  2. “According to the new study, increases in photosynthesis rates won’t be able to keep up with current rates of human-caused carbon emissions.”

    It is like the fire triangle. The fire can’t keep up with the increase in oxygen.

    What a bizarre 23 million year old leave.

  3. market gardeners use 700 to 1,100 ppm CO2 to speed up growth. Does this indicate that this is the “normal” level of CO2?

    • I wouldn’t have thought so, I would say it’s the most cost effective level. Plants would probably prefer an even higher level.

      • Even C3 plants don’t benefit from CO2 over 1300 ppm, so commercial greenhouses are generally kept at 1000 to 1200 ppm. C4 and CAM plants do fine at much lower levels.

        Tripling present CO2 concentration would be optimum for C3 plants, which are the vast majority of crops and essentially all trees.

  4. Researchers also discovered that the links between water, and greening trends have been confirmed by fossilized leaves from a 23 million-year-old forest.

    Researchers previously postulated that ancient increases in rain during the early Miocene allowed plants to perform photosynthesis more efficiently. But the latest research, published last Thursday in the journal Climate of the Past, is said to confirm the link between water and greening in the fossil record.

    Next up: Researchers “shocked” to discover that warming is generally beneficial to all living things.
    Aint “science” grand?

  5. Thanks, Anthony!
    Most informative and entertaining website EVAH!
    My tomatoes and jalapeños want to say thanks to everyone who contributes to their health and vigor; especially those who drive big, gas guzzling SUVs and V8 powered vehicles!
    I seriously doubt that our small addition to trace gas levels will prevent the next period of glaciation, but maybe it will ameliorate the drop in temperatures a bit.
    Here’s hoping we become a safer, stronger nuclear powered nation with CO2 in the 800-1,000ppm range! HCQ works!!

  6. The study uses a very simple CO2 = Temp-increase model and oxygen isotope ratios to conclude that the atmospheric CO2 during the Miocene was much higher than previously thought. The study also concluded that the leaf matter found in the deposit came from a very dense forest. I have never seen information on the amount of CO2 under the canopy of a dense forest versus the CO2 in the free air above, but it seems likely to me that there is/was more; it coming from rotting vegetation on the forest floor and CO2 being heavy, it might tend to stay under the canopy for a time. Anything growing under the canopy in the diffuse humid air would exhibit CO2-enrichment growth. It would depend on the amount of rotting stuff and its “rottability.” Anybody know?

    • During a windless day, CO2 levels in corn fields can drop to the point where photosynthesis has to stop.

      While CO2 is heavier than air, the difference is not that profound. It doesn’t prevent CO2 from mixing nearly completely.

  7. “This should give us more confidence about how temperatures will change with CO2 levels.”

    I have not read the study, so it may perhaps provide greater insight on this claim. However… it seems the study shows a correlation between a “greening” planet and carbon dioxide levels (which, based on actual greenhouses, we’ve known all along), but where is the correlation with a greening planet and CO2 levels and temperatures? I have yet to see any definitive evidence that increasing CO2 causes increasing temperatures. Again we find “scientists” grasping at straws to justify an anthropogenic effect on climate. It seems that this is just another example of good science being extrapolated to explain bad science.

    • “By comparing the fossilized leaf structures, including microscopic veins, stomata and pores, to those of modern leaves, researchers designed a model to more accurately predict CO2 levels.”

      There it is again, more models created…:)

    • What they meant to say was

      “This should give us more confidence about how CO2 levels will change with temperature.”

  8. A friend , a fearful young Thunbergite. who listened condescendingly to my mantra of “Go and look at the raw data before you pontificate” : I gave him web addresses for all the tidal gauges and all the GISS temperature stations in the world and urged him to look for the catastrophic roasting or cataclysmic inundation that is happening right now and let me know where they are. Alas he values the opinion of consensus science over raw data. A lost cause I’m afraid. “But you can not deny that phytoplankton is disappearing from the world oceans”he said “I’ve no idea about that but please show me the data and I will believe you” said I Not having a clue whether what he claimed was true or false.
    This study would appear to indicate that phytoplankton are doing just fine although we should be looking at rate of change of greeniness rather than greeniness itself.
    Interesting to note that terrestrial deserts occur at the same latitudes as Marine deserts
    Different cause though Terrestrial deserts starvation of fresh water
    Marine deserts starvation of nutrients? I suppose. But why the latitudinal coincidence?

    • “But why the latitudinal coincidence?”
      alastair,
      It’s no coincidence. What you are seeing is the effect of the atmospheric Hadley cell which because to the rapid daily rotation of the planet causes air to descend in the Horse latitudes. On land this forms the dry deserts, – little rain, little grass, few animals. Over the ocean the resulting wind driven surface water gyre leads to mineral depletion and a sea devoid of plankton -few plankton, few fish.
      Have a look at the wind pattern in this Ventusky synoptic of the Southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.
      https://www.ventusky.com/?p=-24.3;80.5;3&l=satellite

  9. The increase in CO2 levels will not result in the greening of the world on its own.

    Other completely benign and naturally occurring compounds must be present: available Nitrogen, NO, NO2 and NO3. These are all produced every time lightning flashes in earth’s atmosphere.

    And having classified NOx as a dangerous manmade pollutant, the boomers are of course moving on the trace gas, CO2. It’s merely their second act. It is not nearly as ridiculous and scientifically illiterate as the first.

  10. In addition, previous studies suggest increases in rates of photosynthesis can prevent staple crops from absorbing calcium, iron, zinc and other minerals important for human health.

    Most soils do not contain enough of these minerals in the first place. These are provided by using chemical fertilizers. As these are outlawed by the environmentalists and complicit governments, there will be a reduction in the absorption of calcium, iron, zinc and other minerals important for human health in crops.

    It is amazing how environmentalist policies and economics more often than not cause the very problems they are falsely prophesying in the first place.

    • ”there will be a reduction in the absorption of calcium, iron, zinc and other minerals important for human health in crops.”
      Unlikely. Most soils with even small amounts of clay have plenty of calcium and iron.

      • “Zinc deficiency occurs when plant growth is limited because the plant cannot take up sufficient quantities of this essential micronutrient from its growing medium. It is one of the most widespread macronutrient deficiencies in crops and pastures worldwide and causes large losses in crop production and crop quality.[1]

        Almost half of the world’s cereal crops are grown on zinc-deficient soils; as a result, zinc deficiency in humans is a widespread problem.[1]”

        For calcium the soil is conditioned with lime and/or a topical form with nitrogen can be used.

        But these environmentalists are in full cry against every single chemical that meets the micronutrient needs of plants, animals, and humans. And they love anything that blocks these micronutrients and makes them unavailable. That is why you find soy in 60% of your food. Because it is a zinc blocker.

  11. Does anyone have clue what a 3 to 7 C increase to present global average surface temperature of 15 C would be like?
    Let’s pick upper number of 7 C, so that is global average surface air temperature of 22 C.
    So if global air temperature was 22 C what would be the average temperature of our ocean?
    What is our current average temperature of our ocean?

    Some say, “More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. ”

    And they don’t mean the surface of the ocean.
    The average surface temperature of ocean is currently about 17 C so less than 1″ of the top of surface water of our ocean averages around 17 C.
    The sun mostly warms waters in our ocean, and warmer water rises and is at highest temperature at the surface of the ocean. But when say in your ocean they talking about thousands meter down in the deeper parts of the ocean, and deep waters warming is suppose to be 90% of all global warming.
    And our entire ocean average temperature is about 3.5 C or in last 50 year most warming increasing this temperature of 3.5 C.
    What would world be like if this average 3.5 C were increase by 7 C, so the entire ocean average temperature was about 10.5 C?
    That’s not impossible, in rather 23 million years ago the entire ocean average temperature was around 10 C.
    23 million ago, we were not in an Ice Age.
    We have been in Ice Age for last few million years ago, because our ocean is cold, and when Earth is not in Ice Age the ocean is about 10 C or warmer.
    But question has to do, what it be like if global average air temperature was 3 to 7 C warmer, and I picking the highest number of 7 C warmer air temperature.
    So 70% of Earth is oceans and it has average global surface air temperature of about 17 C. And 30% of the area is land, and it’s average global air temperature is about 10 C.
    So you have 7 C to add and would it add equally to ocean and land average temperature? Ie, 17 + 7 = 24 C and land of 10 C + 7 = 17 C ??

    Let’s look ocean average surface temperature of 17 C, the tropical ocean which about 40% of global ocean is about 26 C, and average of 60% of the rest of the ocean surface water is about 11 C.
    If going to add to ocean average surface temperature of 17 C + 7 C, you could think most of the warming will increasing the average temperature of 60% of the ocean with average of 11 C. So might imagine +9 C is added to 11 C, and giving the 60% of the ocean temperature having average surface temperature of 20 C. And having a lot less of 7 C being added to present tropical ocean of 26 C.

    Before going further, what effect would there be upon land temperatures if 60% of ocean was 20 C rather than 11 C.
    Europe currently has average temperature of about 9 C and Canada’s average is about -4 C. And the reason Europe is currently as warm as it is, is because it’s warmed by about 10 C from the ocean. Or Gulf Stream adds about 10 C to Europe’s average temperature of about 9 C. And if gulf stream was even warmer than it is now, it should warm Europe even more than 10 C.
    And since gulf stream is warmer ocean would be otherwise, if 60% of ocean became warmer, it acts like the Gulf Stream and warm regions on west coast of North America. For example the Oregon has currently average temperature of about 9 C, by having warmer ocean it increase more than 15 C due to gulf stream type effect. And further south in California, the state California could become tropical. Or average of California is currently is just over 15 C, and warmer ocean
    could cause it to over 20 C. And Japan would become warmer just from the ocean surface water being warmer. And so on other land regions.
    But anyhow, which would prefer entire ocean increasing it’s global air temperature by 7 C OR increase entire ocean from 3.5 C to 10 C.

    It’s trick question, it’s the same thing.

  12. The “Green” movement is an oxymoron: they oppose the two things required for a green planet, warm temperatures and a sufficient amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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  14. Are we absolutely sure that increased vegetation due to warming isn’t the cause of the increased atmospheric CO2? The CO2 mapping from the new CO2 measuring satellite shows higher CO2 levels corresponding to the locations of higher levels of vegetation.

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