NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Benefits Of A Greenhouse Gas

October 17, 1995

According to the results of hundreds of laboratory and field experiments, an increasing concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air is helping plants grow faster, bigger and more profusely.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has increased steadily over the past 200 years due to the burning of fossil fuels. The concentration was constant for several centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution at 280 parts per million (ppm), but since then has risen to more than 400 ppm.

There is evidence that the global warming effects of greenhouse gases such as CO2 have been drastically overstated. The beneficial effects of CO2 seem to be confirmed by observations that show:

  • There have been increases in the growth rates of nearly all of earth's plants.
  • There has been a worldwide invasion of grasslands by trees and shrubs beginning 200 years ago and increasing in recent decades, due to the competitive advantage woody plants have in utilizing CO2.
  • The growth rates of many forests around the globe have increased in recent decades.
  • And over the past 35 years, the seasonal variation in CO2 concentrations resulting from the growth cycle of plants is increasing, indicating an increasing abundance of life on earth.

According to some controlled experiments, even at much higher concentrations of CO2 than we experience today, these beneficial effects would increase.

Source: Sherwood B. Idso, "CO2 and the Biosphere: The Incredible Legacy of the Industrial Revolution," October 1995, Special Publication, Department of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.


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