August 2, 2012

Earth’s Carbon Sink Still Strong and Growing

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

As is widespread and common knowledge, higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are beneficial to plants making them grow faster and larger, in addition to enhancing them in virtually every other way. For an immersion in the subject of plants and carbon dioxide, check out the website PlantsNeedCO2.org and revel in the good news concerning higher atmospheric CO2 levels.

This growth enhancement has led to the earth’s plants taking an increasing amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into biomass where carbon is stored for days to hundreds of years (this mechanism accounts for a significant portion of the earth’s land-based carbon sink). It seems the more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, the more CO2 that plants take out to enhance their growth.

The oceans also take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and can store it for long periods of time (thousands of years). And it appears that this ocean carbon sink is also expanding as we emit more CO2 into the atmosphere.

Together, the land and ocean carbon sinks have been pretty much keeping up with the increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Consequently, the percentage of CO2 injected into the atmosphere from human activities that remains in the atmosphere has remained pretty much constant for the last 50 years—according to just-published research in the journal Nature—despite ever increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

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July 26, 2012

Wild Speculation on Climate and Polar Bears

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Polar

Here is another big one from PNAS.

For those who don’t know, PNAS stands for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it has gained the unfortunate reputation for publishing scientific research articles that regularly get knocked out of the park within hours of their release. The lack of rigor stems from its rather unique “peer-review” process in which National Academy members can submit articles for publication that the authors themselves have had “peer-reviewed”—that is, they passed the article by a couple of friends of theirs for comments. It’s more like “pal review.”

It is hard to imagine many papers being rejected under this system, although it can happen. For example, a contributed article by National Academy member Dr. Richard Lindzen that argued that the climate sensitivity to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions isn’t as large as commonly thought was rejected by the PNAS editor in change, overruling the recommendations of the reviewers chosen by Lindzen. But such occurrences are quite rare.

Instead, papers with rather speculative conclusions can be regularly found in the pages of PNAS as we have documented on several occasions (see here and here for example).

A new paper has just appeared which should be added to this list in the form of a contribution by National Academy foreign associate and molecular biologist Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella on the subject of polar bears, evolution, and climate influences.

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April 20, 2012

For Wheat and Rice, CO2 is Nice

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

We have written about the biological benefits of elevated temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels hundreds of times, and we will never run out of new material! Evidence the results of two recent article showing how CO2 improves the yield of wheat and the competitiveness of rice.

A team of seven scientists from various agencies in China began their article noting “In the past 100 years, the mean surface temperature in China has increased by 0.4–0.6ºC, and it is expected that the average surface temperature in western China will rise by 1.7ºC in the next 30 years and by 2.2ºC over the next 50 years.” Furthermore, Xiao et al. report “The annual mean rainfall decreased by about 60 mm [~2.4 in.] from the 1950s to the 1990s in semiarid regions of China, and a loss of soil moisture through evaporation increased 35–45 mm [~1.5 in.] due to the temperature increase. The rainfall and available soil moisture throughout the entire growing stage of the crops was about 100 mm [~4 in.] lower in the 1990s than in the 1950s. As a result, concerns about the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change are increasing. For example, it is likely that evaporation will increase and soil moisture will decline in many regions as the temperature increases.” If that is not enough bad news, they state “There is now strong evidence that overall crop yields will decrease by 5–10% in China by 2030 as a result of climatic changes, and that the yields of wheat, rice and maize will be greatly reduced.”

But, then, quite importantly, they add “The impact of future climate change on crop production has been widely predicted by modeling the interaction between crops and climate change; however, few observations of the impacts of climate change on crop production have been reported.” [emphasis added]

Xiao and colleagues from the Institute of Arid Meteorology of the China Meteorological Administration set out to help remedy this deficiency.

And were they ever in for a surprise.

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April 9, 2012

Are EPA Regulations Killing Us?

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Over at the website Master Resource, WCR’s Chip Knappenberger takes in intriguing look into whether EPA regulations aimed at mitigating extreme weather outbreaks through limitations on greenhouse gas emissions are really such a good idea.

New research has just been published, adding to an existing set of findings, that shows declines in heat-related mortality in the face of rising temperature. A logical extension of these results is that the more people become familiar with high heat, the better they become at dealing with it. The net result is that the risks form heat waves decline and public health and welfare improves.

This real-world string of events runs contrary to the EPA’s insistence that human emissions of greenhouse endanger the public health and welfare citing “longer, more intense and more frequent heat waves” as one of the resulting threats.

In his Master Resource article, Knappenberger explores this concept in more depth, as well as touching upon recent results in the psychological literature that lend support to the concept that “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

The same adage is quite appropriate for climate change and extreme weather.

Be sure to see the entire artifcle “Is the EPA Endangering Public Health and Welfare by Attempting to Mitigate Extreme Weather?” which can be found here.




March 29, 2012

Acclimation to Ocean Acidification: Give It Some Time

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels lead to an increasing amount of CO2 being dissolved in the oceans which drives down the oceans’ pH level. This is often referred to as “ocean acidification” and included among the list of ills that energy production from fossil fuels imparts to the environment. Type “ocean acidification” into your Google search and you’ll quickly be confronted with a litany of potential impacts—all bad. The Center for Biological Diversity refers to it as global warming’s “evil twin.”

“We mean it this time” our greener friends are saying about this current apocalypse. But is ocean acidification any different than the population bomb, global starvation, acid rain, ozone depletion, global cooling, and global warming—all forecast to cause the end of the world as we know it, and all falling a bit short?
It’s beginning to look like the same old same old. In what will come as no surprise to World Climate Report regulars, alarmists are overdoing things just a little. Their biggest mistake comes in assuming that the oceans’ denizens cannot deal either with the pace or the magnitude of the projected changes to the oceans’ chemistry.

The more researchers look into this, the more they report findings to the contrary.

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March 22, 2012

Tropical Forests Rejoice!

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

When was the last time you heard good news about our tropical forests? Well, that’s just too long.

All we ever seem to hear about the tropical forests is that they are being destroyed, their destruction will exacerbate global warming, and on and on. You will even discover that some scientists think global warming destroyed the first tropical forests that evolved on our planet bringing rise to the dinosaurs! So it’s high time for some good news and World Climate Report is at your service!

A recent article in Landscape Ecology caught our eye with the title “Has global environmental change caused monsoon rainforests to expand in the Australian monsoon tropics?” Is someone really suggesting that global environmental change is causing rainforests to expand? We knew we would really like this one!

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February 15, 2012

Flowers Love CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

As this time of the years reminds us, flowers never go out of style. Whether it is to celebrate a holiday or make up for some bad behavior, flowers just get it done every time. This has been the case for generations and will be the case from now until eternity. There is a good reason why we have flower shops on every other street corner.

According to AboutFlowers.com, “the U.S. floral industry includes fresh cut flowers, cut cultivated greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants and bedding/garden plants, making floriculture the third largest U.S. agricultural crop. The U.S. floral industry consists of more than 60,000 small businesses, such as growers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors and importers.” Total revenue for these businesses is over $35 billion annually with 67% of fresh flowers being imported largely from Colombia and Ecuador. Can you name the state leading fresh flower production? California dominates the market with 77% of the US production; Washington produces 6%, Hawaii is at 4%, and Florida, Oregon, and New Jersey each produce 3% of our fresh flowers.

Commercial flower growers are fully aware that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 produce great results in indoor greenhouses, and the industry has dreamed up many creative ways to cheaply produce the magic gas. There is no doubt the CO2 creates better flowers, but maintaining higher levels of CO2 can be expensive and in some cases, not cost effective. Flowers in the real world don’t have to worry about the financial cost of higher levels of atmospheric CO2 – it is coming to them absolutely free given emissions from fossil fuel consumption throughout the world. Flowers today are growing in a world of ever-increasing CO2 levels, and research continues to show us that the flowers are thrilled with the situation.

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November 21, 2011

The Future of Grapes

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

A team of six scientists from Portugal began their article noting “According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the concentration of carbon dioxide [CO2] in the atmosphere has been increasing since pre-industrial times and is expected to exceed 550 ppm by the middle of the twenty-first century as a direct result of human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, cement production and modified land-use patterns. More frequent extreme weather is therefore predicted by most models, along with a significant increase of the summer air temperature and water stress, namely for regions with a Mediterranean-type environment. Expected changes in the climate of viticultural regions may alter significantly both the spectrum and the distribution of grape varieties currently used. In particular, shifts in precipitation patterns will affect most European regions, with increased risk of drought and, given this scenario, the consequences would be most dramatic for the Iberian Peninsula”.

We could and have addressed their concerns about climate change many times, but we found ourselves interested in their focus on how elevated CO2 concentrations will impact grapes growing in the Douro Region of Portugal. Moutinho-Pereira et al. state “Red wine produced in Demarcated Douro Region (Oporto wine region) is one of the most important products for the Portuguese economy.”

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October 3, 2011

Malaria Declines Despite Local Warming

Filed under: Adaptation

“Spreading tropical disease” is high on the list of bad things that are going to happen as the world warms—if you believe the doomsayers. And topping their list of spreading tropical diseases is malaria.

But, as we have on many past occasions pointed out, malaria is neither “tropical” nor is it “spreading.”

In fact, back in the late 19th century, malaria was thought to be endemic in most regions east of the Rocky Mountains—brought to the U.S. in the 16th and 17th century by European colonists and African slaves and spreading across the country with the migration of those populations (Zucker, 1996).


Figure 1. Region of the U.S. where malaria was thought to be endemic in 1882 (source: Zucher, 1996).

Malaria transmission was still a problem in some parts of the U.S. into the mid-20th century, and, in 1946, when the CDC was established (back then it was known as the Communicable Disease Center) its primary goal was to eradicate malaria from the U.S.—which it successful achieved within a few years (with the help of DDT).

All the while, the average temperature in the U.S. was on the rise, increasing by some 1 to 2 degrees between 1882 and the early 1950s.

Clearly, a warming climate did not leading to an expansion of malaria in the U.S.

Nor does it appear to be doing so elsewhere.

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September 23, 2011

Corn (i.e., CO2RN) v. Drought

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Let’s think about the future of corn in the United States; no one would ever doubt the importance of this major agricultural crop throughout the world. Corn is used for everything from a food staple for humans and animals to a substitute for fossil-fuel based energy (well, not a very good substitute as things have worked out). The global warming crusade insists that droughts in the future will become more frequent and/or more severe thereby crushing corn production in the central United States. They eagerly point to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) where they conclude that “areas affected by droughts” have increased and will increase and that it is “likely” that there has been a human contribution to the observed pattern. We have covered this topic repeatedly here at World Climate Report, and we certainly encourage you to explore what we found on this highly controversial subject.

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