Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball is writing on behalf of the plants.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that global monthly CO2 levels reached 400 ppm. They present this as threatening news, but it is good news for plants and animals. I was involved in a brief to the US Supreme Court opposing the EPA actions on CO2. I proposed we seek Power of Attorney (POA) for the plants. We would vote on behalf of the plants against any attempts to reduce atmospheric CO2 from the current claimed 400 ppm and for any increase, at least to a level of 1200 ppm.
Seeking POA sounds like an environmental stunt for the Sierra Club, or all those who claim to care about plants and animals. Why aren’t they doing it? Why aren’t they proclaiming the good news for the plants and animals they say they care about? The answer is because the facts they have selected for their political agenda on the environment and climate puts them in a completely contradictory position. They know CO2 is critical for plant growth, but only promote planting more trees to reduce atmospheric levels because they have chosen to label CO2 a pollutant. It doesn’t occur to them that increasing the CO2 level enhances plant growth. It creates a moral and philosophical conflict, as they want plants to succeed, but want to reduce the input that makes them successful. They can’t see the forest for the trees.
All life on Earth exists because of CO2. It is essential to flora, which then produce oxygen essential to fauna. Gore and others claim current levels are the highest ever. Others modify that claim arguing it is the highest in 650,000 years. That figure is convenient because it sounds like a long time. The levels are based Antarctic ice core data, which are clearly created artificially low to achieve the slope necessary for the political agenda against post-industrial CO2.
The longer geologic record produced by Scotese and Bernier (Figure 1) shows that for most of Earth’s history the level was well above the current level. The only time when levels were commensurate with today was from 315 million years ago (mya) to 270 mya, yet for over half of that period temperature was similar to today.
Most plants, especially the complex vascular plants evolved in the last 300 million years. The average level of atmospheric CO2 over that period was approximately 1200 ppm.
This suggests that most plants evolved with an optimum level of 1200 ppm.
The work of Sherwood and Craig Idso supports this value as reported extensively in their research at their web site. Commercial greenhouse operators also use this information as they pump in CO2 to enhance yields. Figure 2 shows a commercial CO2 generator advertised as follows:
Normally there are approximately 300 parts per million (PPM) of CO2 in the atmosphere; when this level is increased to over 1000 PPM, it results in higher production and better plant quality. The Johnson Generator provides up to 1500 PPM per unit in a 4800 square foot (446 square meter) greenhouse. By adding CO2, especially during the winter months when greenhouse ventilators are closed and when low CO2 concentration becomes a limiting factor in growth, growers are obtaining yield and bloom quality similar to that which is normally associated with spring and summer conditions.
Commercial CO2 Generator
It’s possible the company is promoting a product merely to enhance sales but consider the benefits set out by the Ontario government
During particular times of the year in new greenhouses, and especially in double-glazed structures that have reduced air exchange rates, the carbon dioxide levels can easily drop below 340 ppm which has a significant negative effect on the crop. Ventilation during the day can raise the CO2 levels closer to ambient but never back to ambient levels of 340 ppm. Supplementation of CO2 is seen as the only method to overcome this deficiency and increasing the level above 340 ppm is beneficial for most crops. The level to which the CO2 concentration should be raised depends on the crop, light intensity, temperature, ventilation, stage of the crop growth and the economics of the crop. For most crops the saturation point will be reached at about 1,000–1,300 ppm under ideal circumstances. A lower level (800–1,000 ppm) is recommended for raising seedlings (tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers) as well as for lettuce production. Even lower levels (500–800 ppm) are recommended for African violets and some Gerbera varieties. Increased CO2 levels will shorten the growing period (5%–10%), improve crop quality and yield, as well as, increase leaf size and leaf thickness. The increase in yield of tomato, cucumber and pepper crops is a result of increased numbers and faster flowering per plant.
“set a limit on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that can be emitted.”
The phrase “greenhouse gas pollution” is false. CO2 is not a pollutant. However, once that assumption is made emotion rather than facts produce policy that contradicts reality.
If someone had POA for the plants, they could speak against the insane claim of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that CO2 is a “harmful substance”. EPA even convinced the US Supreme Court, supposedly the wisest people in the land, of this falsity.
Plants are delighted that CO2 levels are now 400 ppm and rising. They would also vote, with numbers well in excess of the human vote of approximately 6.5 billion, to oppose any legislation or attempts to reduce those levels. They also hope you enjoy the oxygen they provide for a life, not just a better life.