New research published over the weekend by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that plants are significantly slowing global warming far more than previously suspected.
Scientists found as carbon dioxide (CO2) levels increased worldwide, plants responded by sucking more CO2 out of the air than before. Researchers used satellite measurements of vegetation cover to determine that global rates of photosynthesis and respiration had sharply increased, largely due to the extra CO2.
“The scientists attribute the stalled CO2 growth rate to an uptick in land-based photosynthetic activity, fueled by rising CO2 levels from fossil fuel emissions,” states a summary of the research. “It’s a snowball effect: as CO2 levels rise in the atmosphere, photosynthetic activity flourishes and plants take in more carbon, sparking more plant growth, more photosynthesis, and more carbon uptake.”
Effectively, the DOE researchers found that plant growth caused by global warming ultimately reduced temperatures by significant margins.
“The growth in greenery is a consequence of climate change. As the planet heats up, places that were once too chilly for most plants to grow have become steadily more hospitable,” The Economist reported. “That extra vegetation, in turn, exerts its own effects on the climate.”
The research was separately funded by the Laboratory Directed Research Development Program of Berkeley Lab and the Energy Department’s Office of Science.
Independent researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine previously found plants use water more efficiently when exposed to higher concentrations of CO2, meaning that any droughts caused by global warming would be much less severe than previous estimates. Rising CO2 emissions will not cause global agriculture to collapse and could even boost agricultural yields, the study suggests.
Previous studies suggest global warming is causing roughly half of Earth’s land-mass to demonstrate “significant greening,” and only 4 percent of the world is observing a decrease in plant life. The increased vegetation growth caused by warmer temperatures is likely slowing global warming as well, since more trees and plants equates to more sequestered CO2.
Other research rebukes persistent claims that global warming could cause the total collapse of American and global agriculture. Nature is considerably more resilient to global warming than scientists suspected, if new findings are accurate. Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now believes that the evidence linking global warming to extinctions is sparse.
Global warming has a generally positive impact on U.S. farming, including fewer frosts, longer growing seasons and possibly an earlier start of ﬁeld operations by the end of the century, concludes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Davis, mirroring the findings of other new scientific research.
Despite an apparent consensus, environmental groups still believe that plants and animals aren’t capable of adapting to changing temperatures, leading to mass extinctions and agricultural disruptions attributed to global warming.
“One-fourth of the Earth’s species could be headed for extinction by 2050 due to climate change,” The Nature Conservancy claims. “Rising temperatures are changing weather and vegetation patterns across the globe, forcing animal species to migrate to new, cooler areas in order to survive.”
Scientists suspect that global warming will likely have many positive environmental impacts such as helping Canadian trees recover from a devastating insect infestation, creating more food for fish in the ocean, making life easier for Alaskan moose, improving the environment for bees and literally causing deserts to bloom with foliage.
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