NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Rethinking Carbon Dioxide

December 28, 2001

Scientists attending a meeting of the American Geophysical Union came away uncertain about how much carbon dioxide (CO2) -- the agent in global warming scenarios -- given off naturally is reabsorbed into the North American ecosystem. Forests, farms and wetlands -- which the U.S. and Canada have in abundance -- absorb huge amounts of CO2 each year.

So it is possible that North America's wildernesses are taking up not only naturally occurring CO2, but also much of that which is man-made.

  • Some 140 billion tons of CO2 cycle through the atmosphere each year, scientists estimate.
  • Human activity in the U.S. and Canada emit about 1.7 billion tons a year.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has determined that plant growth in the U.S. and Canada may absorb one-fourth to one-third more carbon than the two countries emit.
  • So if we are recapturing our emissions through our own ecosystems, then small countries with little in the way of forests may turn out to be the main offenders in contributing to global warming.

Scientists have also determined that warmer and wetter weather -- possibly due to global warming -- has extended the growing season by about a week. An additional week would allow even more time for removal of carbon dioxide.

Thus nature may be taking care of whatever problem there may be without help from us.

Source: Dick Boland, "Global Warming on the Hot Seat," Washington Times, December 28, 2001.


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