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ICECAP in the News
Oct 24, 2013
The Great American Wind Power Fraud

By Alan Caruba

In July the Fairhaven, Massachusetts Board of Health voted to shut down the town’s two wind turbines at night between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. after dozens of residents had filed more than 400 complaints. Testing had demonstrated that the turbines exceeded state noise regulations and those specified in their operating permits.

In July the Heartland Institute’s Environmental & Climate News reported on the announcement by Nordex USA, a manufacturer of wind turbines that had accepted millions of dollars in subsidies while promising to create 750 jobs that it had shut down its Jonesboro facility. In 2008, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) had given Nordex $8 million from the Governor’s Quick-Action Closing Fund and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority had given Nordex another $11 million. The decision, said the company, was its uncertainty about receiving federal subsidies. At the time, only fifty people were employed there.

In early October, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Healthcare, and Entitlements held a hearing on the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC). The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) was there to argue for an extension of the subsidy. According to lobbying disclosures, in 2012 the AWEA had spent more than $2.4 million to protect the subsidy which was set to expire, but which received a one-year extension as part of the deal struck to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

Arguing that wind energy is an important element of the mix of energy provided by coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric facilities, the facts are that in 2012 coal accounted for 37 percent of total generation, natural gas represented 30 percent, and nuclear contributed 19 percent. Wind power accounted for just 1.4 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2012 and only 3.5 percent of the nation’s electricity generation.

Since the PTC was first enacted two decades ago, it has cost taxpayers $20 billion dollars.

One of the primary arguments for wind energy is that it is “renewable” and does not contribute to the so-called “greenhouse gas emissions” that are the cause of a “global warming.” However, the latest warming cycle ended some fifteen years ago. Not one student in our nation’s schools has ever experienced “global warming.”

Wind energy is “green” say its supporters, but it is hardly “green” to kill an estimated 573,000 birds every year, including 83,000 birds of prey according to a study published in the March edition of the Wildlife Society Bulletin. It also kills countless bats, a species that reduces the vast number of insect pests that prey on crops and transmit diseases.

A permit is being sought by the Shiloh IV Wind Project in Solano County, California, that would grant it the right to kill up to five golden eagles over a five-year period despite their protected status under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

So wind energy is justified as reducing greenhouse gases that are not causing global warming which does not exist, is receiving millions in subsidies, and wants to kill protected species, an environmental objective. This is hypocrisy on a galactic scale.

Testifying before the congressional committee, Dr. Robert Michaels, a senior fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, noted that the subsidy which was supposed to end by now has been renewed five times. The wind industry is essentially non-competitive when it comes to energy generation from traditional sources and has also been around long enough to amply demonstrate that. In a market economy, such industries are allowed to fail.

The wind industry, however, doesn’t even need to be competitive because utilities in some thirty states are required by law to include it in their “renewable portfolio standards” that set quotes for its use. This mandate is expected to see the installation of more than 100,000 renewable megawatts over the next twenty years and wind, said Dr. Michaels, and “seems certain to get the lion’s share.”

Adding to the idiocy of wind energy is the need for such production facilities to have a back-up from traditional coal, natural gas, and nuclear facilities because wind is not available with any predictability. The consumer not only pays for the electricity these facilities provide to ensure that they will always have electricity, but pays in the form of the subsidies the wind industry continues to receive.

There is no need for renewable energy mandates. Both wind and solar are unreliable sources of energy and produce so little as to lack any justification for their existence.

The wind industry exists because it spends millions annually to convince legislators that it should not only be subsidized and because many states require its use. Take away the interference of government entities and the industry would have no real basis to exist. It is a fraud.

Oct 21, 2013
Another Nature and Oregonian fail

By Gordon Fulks

The Oregonian carried a sensational story in their Earthweek section last Friday claiming that “The world is barreling toward a relentless increase in global warming that, within just a few years, will be impossible to come back from."* This was, of course, the typical hyperbole on top of hyperbole that originated with someone who is not even a physical scientist (Camilo Mora, a biologist at the U of Hawaii).  Mora blindly used the climate models to predict disaster in as little as ten years.

What ‘scientific journal’ would publish such nonsense?  Nature, of course.

If Mora et al are aware of the severe problems with the climate models that make such predictions ludicrous, they do not indicate any in the abstract provided by Nature.  Nor surprisingly do Mora et al include the important reference Santer et al PNAS, 2012 where many members of the National Academy of Sciences show (obliquely) the enormous failure of the CO2 based models.

And Mora et al would never include the comparisons of models v reality from meteorologist Dr. John Christy, where Christy shows a discrepancy of a factor or 3.5 in warming trends in the tropical mid-troposphere (see attached).  Mora et al instead maintain that “Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics.” Their use of the greatly overused political term “unprecedented’ is very amateurish.

Mora et al cannot even figure out which year was warmest over the last few decades.  That was easily 1998, with 2010 and even 2013 warmer than 2005 for at least a month:

Only amateurs use inferior land surface data, when this planet is 70 % covered by water.  Satellites provide the ONLY near global coverage.

It is sad to see the extent to which science has sunk in recent years.  Why would Nature publish a study from a wanna-a-be physical scientist who is really a biologist any more than they would publish an inept study in biology from a physical scientist?

This seems to be the new trend in science, where everyone is an expert in everything!  Does this mean that one’s professional specialty no longer has any meaning?  If you need open heart surgery, will a Dermatologist, a Biologist, an Engineer, an Attorney or a Journalist do just as well as a Heart Surgeon?

Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
Corbett, Oregon USA

*Like all such predictions, this one is designed to provide the authors a long professional career before the day of reckoning.  They wisely set doomsday far enough out that they will never need to account for a failed prediction but soon enough to feed the intended hysteria.  (Their “just a few years” is a teaser.) This is an improvement over the typical preacher hawking the end of the world, who foolishly sets doomsday too early.

Oct 07, 2013
Climate change is dominated by the water cycle, not carbon dioxide

Steve Goreham

Originally published in The Washington Times

Climate scientists are obsessed with carbon dioxide. The newly released Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that “radiative forcing” from human-emitted CO2 is the leading driver of climate change. Carbon dioxide is blamed for everything from causing more droughts, floods, and hurricanes, to endangering polar bears and acidifying the oceans. But Earth’s climate is dominated by water, not carbon dioxide.

Earth’s water cycle encompasses the salt water of the oceans, the fresh water of rivers and lakes, and frozen icecaps and glaciers. It includes water flows within and between the oceans, atmosphere, and land, in the form of evaporation, precipitation, storms and weather. The water cycle contains enormous energy flows that shape Earth’s climate, temperature trends, and surface features. Water effects are orders of magnitude larger than the feared effects of carbon dioxide.

Sunlight falls directly on the Tropics, where much energy is absorbed, and indirectly on the Polar Regions, where less energy is absorbed. All weather on Earth is driven by a redistribution of heat from the Tropics to the Polar Regions. Evaporation creates massive tropical storm systems, which move heat energy north to cooler latitudes. Upper level winds, along with the storm fronts, cyclones, and ocean currents of Earth’s water cycle, redistribute heat energy from the Tropics to the Polar Regions.

The Pacific Ocean is Earth’s largest surface feature, covering one-third of the globe and large enough to contain all of Earth’s land masses with area remaining. Oceans have 250 times the mass of the atmosphere and can hold over 1,000 times the heat energy. Oceans have a powerful, yet little understood effect on Earth’s climate.

Even the greenhouse effect itself is dominated by water. Between 75 percent and 90 percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect is caused by water vapor and clouds.

Yet, the IPCC and today’s climate modelers propose that the “flea” wags “the dog.” The flea, of course, is carbon dioxide, and the dog, is the water cycle. The theory of man-made warming assumes a positive feedback from water vapor, forced by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

The argument is that, since warmer air can hold more moisture, atmospheric water vapor will increase as Earth warms. Since water vapor is a greenhouse gas, additional water vapor is presumed to add additional warming to that caused by CO2. In effect, the theory assumes that the carbon cycle is controlling the more powerful water cycle.

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But for the last 15 years, Earth’s surface temperatures have failed to rise, despite rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. All climate models predicted a rapid rise in global temperatures, in conflict with actual measured data. Today’s models are often unable to predict weather conditions for a single season, let alone long-term climate trends.

An example is Atlantic hurricane prediction. In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its 2013 hurricane forecast, calling for an “active or extremely active” hurricane season. At that time, NOAA predicted 7 to 11 Atlantic hurricanes (storms with sustained wind speeds of 74 mph or higher). In August NOAA revised their forecast down to 6 to 9 hurricanes. We entered October with a count of only two hurricane-strength storms. Computer models are unable to accurately forecast one season of Earth’s water cycle in just one region.

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The IPCC and proponents of the theory of man-made warming are stumped by the 15-year halt in global surface temperature rise. Dr. Kevin Trenberth hypothesizes that the heat energy from greenhouse gas forcing has gone into the deep oceans. If so, score one for the power of the oceans on climate change.

Others have noted the prevalence of La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean since 1998. During 1975 to 1998, when global temperatures were rising, the Pacific experienced more frequent warm El Nino events than the cooler La Ninas. But the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a powerful temperature cycle in the North Pacific Ocean, moved into a cool phase about ten years ago. With the PDO in a cool phase, we now see more La Nina conditions. Maybe more La Ninas are the reason for the recent flat global temperatures. But if so, isn’t this evidence that ocean and water cycle effects are stronger than the effects of CO2?

ICECAP NOTE: Doesn’t the idea that the lack of warming is due to the cool phase of the PDO caused the current warming pause then cooling after 2002 also raise the question whether the warming 1979 to 1998 was due to the warm phase of the PDO and more El Ninos? BTW, the period from 1947 to 1978 was marked by cooling....and a cool PDO!”

Geologic evidence from past ice ages shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide increases follow, rather than precede, global temperature increases. As the oceans warm, they release CO2 into the atmosphere. Climate change is dominated by changes in the water cycle, driven by solar and gravitational forces, and carbon dioxide appears to play only a minor role.

Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the new book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism:  Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

Oct 07, 2013
Climate incentive, climate invective

Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill Blog

Clive James has made another of his intermittent forays into the climate debate. In the course of a review of Brian Cox’s Science Britannica programme he had this to say:

Fronting Science Britannica on BBC Two, Professor Cox visited the Royal Society and Bletchley Park in his quest for examples of the scientific method. Finally he dropped in on the Royal Institution, where he and the editor of Nature puzzled together, but not very hard, over how there has come to be an “overwhelming scientific consensus” favouring the concept of dangerous man-made global warming.

Neither of them asked what kind of scientific consensus it was if, say, Freeman Dyson of the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies declined to join it. Isn’t the overwhelming scientific consensus really just a consensus between climate scientists, and therefore no more impressive than the undoubted fact that one hundred percent of gymnasium attendants believe that regular exercise is vital to longevity?

I think James is mistaken actually. The overwhelming scientific consensus is, as shown by Cook et al, nothing more noteworthy than the everyday observations that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that increasing concentrations will make the planet warmer; the “dangerous” bit is unwarranted extrapolation. And as readers at BH are aware, the Royal Society heard a vigorous debate last week over the strength of aerosols’ influence on the climate, something that is critical to determining to what extent global warming is “dangerous”.

Nevertheless James’ remarks seem to have provoked the ire of the usual suspects:

Simon Singh: Sad to see Clive James buying into climate contrarians’ propaganda

Jim Al-Khalili: Shame his clever prose wasted on drivel

Tamsin (who I would not classify as a suspect, usual or otherwise) meanwhile seems to have done a bit of a reanalysis of the article and concluded that James has decided that climate scientists have ulterior motives. This looks as though it’s going to result in a letter of protest direct to James and possibly an open letter too.

It’s all a bit absurd if you ask me. James has observed, not unreasonably, that there are eminent people who think that the global warming thing is overdone. In similarly uncontroversial terms he has drawn attention to the fact that people, including even scientists, respond to economic incentives. That scientists have an economic incentive to find evidence in favour of global warming being a problem is undeniable. Every single man jack of the climatological community is engaged in that field because they have weighed the financial and non-financial benefits against alternative employments and have decided that climate science is what they want to do. While Tamsin says that climate scientists could get better-paid employment elsewhere, we know in fact that every climate scientist thinks the non-financial benefits of their field outweigh the financial disadvantages.

This doesn’t mean that global warming is a scam or that climatologists are all crooks; just that they do have an incentive. This is why Clive James is right to apply at least some kind of a discount to their opinions and to take heed, at least to some extent, of the “contrarian voices”; the ones at which the Simon Singhs of this world hurl their invective and which others strive so hard to silence.

Oct 05, 2013
Fishermen Defeat Feds over no fishing zone fines

Two Santa Barbara brothers accused of violating federal laws related to a no-fishing zone off San Miguel Island beat the charges in late August when a federal judge determined that the government presented insufficient evidence to prove the crime. The decision highlighted deficiencies in the vessel monitoring system (VMS) used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to watch fishing boats and enforce the rules surrounding marine protected areas (MPAs), prompting an ongoing review of the system with changes likely on the way.

For longtime fishermen Jason and Shane Robinson, the decision saved them from paying more than $17,000 in fines, which is a relatively low amount compared to other penalties, in part because they were only charged with idling in an MPA too long, not for fishing there, which can bring fines of up to $140,000. But the case also revealed what they believe is an unfair culture of guilty until proved innocent when it comes to commercial fishing laws. “They threaten you based on the fact that it costs more to fight these than to accept a settlement,” said Jason. “That’s what they told me, and that’s how they did it. In my mind, this is their ATM machine.... It feels like extortion.”

The brothers were only able to fight the charges, which date back to a fishing trip they took on May 17, 2010, because attorney Rusty Brace of the Santa Barbara firm Hollister & Brace took on the case pro bono. Had he been tallying his time on this complicated matter, which he says the feds fought tooth and nail despite no hard evidence, the bill would have far exceeded the fines, costing perhaps as much as $80,000 when all was said and done.

Brace said that this was the first time he could find where the feds based their arguments solely on the VMS, which sends one signal per hour from every boat working the commercial ground fisheries of the West Coast to NOAA. Usually, said Brace, NOAA presents a witness or other evidence to bolster its charges. In this case, the Robinsons weren’t alerted to the fact that NOAA was going to charge them until 10 months after the alleged crime; at that point, they could not recall what they had been doing, but now believe they were probably crossing the MPA back and forth over the four to five hour period in question as they waited for their fishing gear to soak.

“It’s impossible to say what they did,” said Brace, which is basically what the judge determined, as well. Brace appreciates how difficult it must be for the government to watch the entire West Coast and the roughly 1,000 boats working the ground fisheries (the area close to the bottom where many fish swim), and he understands how VMS makes the monitoring somewhat possible, even if he finds the constant tracking somewhat oppressive. “It’s a great way to identify suspect behavior, but it’s not a viable way to prove a case,” said Brace. “You have to have other corroborating evidence.”

The government, meanwhile, is standing by its case. “NOAA believes it presented sufficient evidence to find by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent committed the violations charged, but accepts the Administrative Law Judge’s finding to the contrary,” explained John Thibodeau, a communications specialist in NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. “Neither NMFS [National Marine Fisheries Service] nor its enforcement partners have the resources to effectively monitor the various restricted fishing areas off the California coast, so we must rely on the data provided by VMS to determine the activity of fishing vessels at sea.”

Due to the judgment, adjustments may be on the way. “NMFS is currently reviewing what changes, if any, will be required in light of the Initial Decision,” Thibodeau explained in an email. One idea, which will be discussed at the next Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in November in Costa Mesa, is to increase the frequency of the VMS signaling to every 15 minutes rather than once an hour. The increased costs would likely be passed down to fishermen, though, who already pay about $50 a month for the VMS and could see that cost multiplied with the additional signals. “That could go up to $150 or $200 a month,” said Jason, who plans to speak at the upcoming hearing. “That’s pretty significant for us.”

Though he’s happy to have prevailed, Jason described the whole situation as “disheartening” and believes he would have been “steamrolled by the government” if it weren’t for the unpaid efforts of Brace, who has known the brothers’ father for years. “My brother and I spend a great deal of time researching the ever-changing regulations and have no intention of violating any regulations made,” said Jason. “There is no one out there who wants a healthy viable resource more then the people who depend on it to feed their family.”

Sep 10, 2013
August UAH Update

Phil Gentry and John Christy

Global Temperature Report: August 2013

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Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.14 C per decade

August temperatures (preliminary)

Global composite temp.: +0.16 C (about 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for August.

Northern Hemisphere: +0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for August.

Southern Hemisphere: +0.21 C (about 0.39 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for August.

Tropics: +0.01 C (about 0.02 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for August.

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July temperatures (revised):

Global Composite: +0.17 C above 30-year average

Northern Hemisphere: +0.13 C above 30-year average

Southern Hemisphere: +0.21 C above 30-year average

Tropics: +0.07 C above 30-year average

(All temperature anomalies are based on a 30-year average (1981-2010) for the month reported.)

Notes on data released Sept. 10, 2013

Compared to seasonal norms, in August the coolest area on the globe was southern Greenland, where temperatures in the troposphere were about 1.97 C (about 3.55 degrees F) cooler than normal, said Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the EarthSystem Science Center (ESSC) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The warmest area was south of New Zealand in the South Pacific, where tropospheric temperatures were 2.82 C (about 5.1 degrees F) warmer than seasonal norms.

Archived color maps of local temperature anomalies are available on-line at: http://nsstc.uah.edu/climate/

As part of an ongoing joint project between UA Huntsville, NOAA andNASA, Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer, an ESSC principal scientist, use data gathered by advanced microwave sounding units on NOAA and NASA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the Earth. This includes remote desert, ocean and rain forest areas
where reliable climate data are not otherwise available.

The satellite-based instruments measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about eight kilometers above sea level. Once the monthly temperature data is collected and processed, it is placed in a “public” computer file for immediate access by atmospheric scientists in the U.S. and abroad.

Neither Christy nor Spencer receives any research support or funding from oil, coal or industrial companies or organizations, or from any private or special interest groups. All of their climate research funding comes from federal and state grants or contracts.

Sep 03, 2013
Global Warming Expedition Foiled by Ice

John Hindraker, Powerline Blog

If you want to tempt fate, organize an expedition to one of the polar regions to call attention to the perils of global warming. The outcome is foreordained:

Severe weather conditions hindered our early progress and now ice chokes the passage ahead.

Our ice router Victor has been very clear in what lies ahead. He writes, “Just to give you the danger of ice situation at the eastern Arctic, Eef Willems of “Tooluka” (NED) pulled out of the game and returning to Greenland. At many Eastern places of NWP locals have not seen this type ice conditions. Residents of Resolute say 20 years have not seen anything like. It’s, ice, ice and more ice. Larsen, Peel, Bellot, Regent and Barrow Strait are all choked. That is the only route to East. Already West Lancaster received -2C temperature expecting -7C on Tuesday with the snow.”

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Richard Weber, my teammate to the South Pole in 2009 and without doubt the most accomplished polar skier alive today, is owner and operator of Arctic Watch on Cunningham Inlet at the northern end of Somerset Island. Arctic Watch faces out onto our proposed eastern route. Richard dropped me a note the other day advising: “This has been the coldest season with the most ice since we started Arctic Watch in 2000. Almost no whales. The NWPassage is still blocked with ice. Some of the bays still have not melted!”

...we’d require at least another 50-60 days to make it to Pond Inlet. Throw in the issues of less light, colder temperatures, harsher fall storms and lots of ice blocking the route and our decision is easy.

So the expedition is being abandoned. Did this experience cause any second thoughts on the global warming campaign? Of course not!

Our message remains unaffected though, bringing awareness to the pressing issues of climate change in the arctic.

Right. Some would say the Arctic could use a little climate change, but don’t hold your breath.

Aug 16, 2013
Carbon dioxide: The “gas of life”

Paul Driessen

Tiny amounts of this miracle molecule make life on Earth possible

It’s amazing that minuscule bacteria can cause life-threatening diseases and infections and miraculous that tiny doses of vaccines and antibiotics can safeguard us against these deadly scourges. It is equally incredible that, at the planetary level, carbon dioxide is a miracle molecule for plants and the “gas of life” for most living creatures on Earth.

In units of volume, CO2’s concentration is typically presented as 400 parts per million (400 ppm). Translated, that’s just 0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere, the equivalent of 40 cents out of one thousand dollars, or 1.4 inches on a football field. Even atmospheric argon is 23 times more abundant: 9,300 ppm. Moreover, the 400 ppm in 2013 is 120 ppm more than the 280 ppm carbon dioxide level of 1800, and that two-century increase is equivalent to a mere 12 cents out of $1,000, or one half-inch on a football field.

Eliminate carbon dioxide, and terrestrial plants would die, as would lake and ocean phytoplankton, grasses, kelp and other water plants. After that, animal and human life would disappear. Even reducing CO2 levels too much back to pre-industrial levels, for example would have terrible consequences.

Over the past two centuries, our planet finally began to emerge from the Little Ice Age that had cooled the Earth and driven Viking settlers out of Greenland. Warming oceans slowly released some of the carbon dioxide stored in their waters. Industrial Revolution factories and growing human populations burned more wood and fossil fuels, baked more bread, and brewed more beer, adding still more CO2 to the atmosphere. Much more of the miracle molecule came from volcanoes and subsea vents, forest fires, biofuel use, decaying plants and animals, and “exhaust” from living, breathing animals and humans.

What a difference that extra 120 ppm has made for plants, and for animals and humans that depend on them. The more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the more it is absorbed by plants of every description - and the faster and better they grow, even under adverse conditions like limited water, extremely hot air temperatures, or infestations of insects, weeds and other pests. As trees, grasses, algae and crops grow more rapidly and become healthier and more robust, animals and humans enjoy better nutrition on a planet that is greener and greener.

Efforts to feed seven billion people, and improve nutrition for more than a billion who are malnourished, are steadily increasing the tension between our need for land to feed humans and the need to keep land in its natural state to support plants and wildlife. How well we are able to increase crop production from the same or less acreage may mean the difference between global food sufficiency and rampant human starvation in coming decades and between the survival and extinction of many plant and animal species.

Modern agricultural methods steadily and dramatically improved crop yields per acre between 1930 and today. That is especially important if we continue to divert millions of acres of farmland from food crops, and convert millions of acres of rainforest and other wildlife habitat to cropland, for biofuel production to replace fossil fuels that we again have in abundance. Carbon dioxide will play a vital role in these efforts.

Increased CO2 levels in greenhouses dramatically improve plant growth, especially when temperatures are also elevated; rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have likewise had astounding positive impacts on outdoor plant growth and survival. Lentils and other legumes grown in hothouses with 700 ppm CO2 improved their total biomass by 91%, their edible parts yield by 150 % and their fodder yield by 67%, compared to similar crops grown at 370 ppm carbon dioxide, Indian researchers found.

Rice grown at 600 ppm CO2 increased its grain yield by 28% with low applications of nitrogen fertilizer, Chinese scientists calculated. U.S. researchers discovered that sugarcane grown in sunlit greenhouses at 720 ppm CO2 and 11 degrees F (6 degrees C) higher than outside ambient air produced stem juice an amazing 124% higher in volume than sugarcane grown at ambient temperature and 360 ppm carbon dioxide. Non-food crops like cotton also fare much better when carbon dioxide levels are higher.

Research into natural forest and crop growth during recent periods of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, between 1900 and 2010, found significant improvements under “real world” conditions, as well.

An analysis of Scots pines in Catalonia, Spain showed that tree diameter and cross-sectional area expanded by 84% between 1900 and 2000, in response to rising CO2 levels. The growth of young Wisconsin trees increased by 60%, and tree ring width expanded by almost 53%, as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increased from 316 ppm in 1958 to 376 ppm in 2003, researchers calculated.

University of Minnesota scientists compared the growth of trees and other plants during the first half of the twentieth century (which included the terrible Dust Bowl years), when CO2 levels rose only 10 ppm to the period 1950-2000, when CO2 increased by 57 ppm. They found that carbon dioxide lowered plant sensitivity to severe drought and improved their survival rates by almost 50%. Swiss researchers concluded that, because of rising carbon dioxide levels, “alpine plant life is proliferating, biodiversity is on the rise, and the mountain world appears more productive and inviting than ever.”

Other researchers used historical (real world) data for land use, atmospheric CO2 concentration, nitrogen deposition, fertilization, ozone levels, rainfall and climate, to develop a computer model that simulates plant growth responses for southern US habitats from 1895 to 2007.  They determined that “net primary productivity” improved by an average of 27% during this 112-year period, with most of the increased growth occurring after 1950, when CO2 levels rose the most, from 310 ppm in 1950 to 395 ppm in 2007.

How does all this happen? Plants use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide from the air, and water and minerals from the soil, into the carbohydrates and other molecules that form plant biomass. More CO2 means more and larger flowers; higher seed mass and germination success; and improved plant resistance to droughts, diseases, viruses, pathogenic infections, air pollutants, and salt or nitrogen accumulation in soils. Higher CO2 levels also improve plantS’ water use efficiency ensuring faster and greater carbon uptake by plant tissues, with less water lost through transpiration.

More airborne CO2 lets plants reduce the size of their stomata, little holes in leaves that plants use to inhale carbon dioxide building blocks. When CO2 is scarce, the openings increase in size, to capture sufficient supplies of this “gas of life.” But increasing stomata size means more water molecules escape, and the water loss places increasing stress on the plants, eventually threatening their growth and survival.

When the air’s carbon dioxide levels rises to 400, 600 or 800 ppm the stomata shrink in size, causing them to lose less water from transpiration, while still absorbing ample CO2 molecules. That enables them to survive extended dry spells much better.

(The 2009 and 2011 volumes of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change report, Climate Change Reconsidered, especially this section, and Dr. Craig Idso’s www.CO2science.org website summarize hundreds of similar studies of crops, forests, grasslands, alpine areas and deserts enriched by carbon dioxide. CO2 Science’s Plant Growth Database lets people search for more studies.)

One of the worst things that could happen to our planet and its people, animals and plants would be for carbon dioxide levels to plunge back to levels last seen before the Industrial Revolution. Decreasing CO2 levels would be especially problematical if Earth cools, in response to the sun entering another ‘quiet phase,’ as happened during the Little Ice Age. If Earth cools again, growing seasons would shorten and arable cropland would decrease in the northern temperate zones. We would then need every possible molecule of carbon dioxide just to keep agricultural production high enough to stave off mass human starvation… and save wildlife habitats from being plowed under to replace that lost cropland.

However, even under current Modern Warm Era conditions, crops, other plants, animals and people will benefit from more carbon dioxide. The “gas of life” is a miracle plant fertilizer that helps plants grow and prosper - greening the planet, nourishing wildlife habitats, feeding people who crave larger amounts of more nutritious food, preventing species loss, and even warming the Earth a little.

That is an amazing fete for a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that comprises just 0.04 percent of our atmosphere! We should praise carbon dioxide not vilify, ban or bury it.

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Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. His full report on the magic and mystery of carbon dioxide can be found at www.CFACT.org. 8/14/13

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