Carbon Dioxide: The Good News

64 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2015

Date Written: October 11, 2015

Abstract

1. This paper addresses the question of whether, and how much, increased carbon dioxide concentrations have benefited the biosphere and humanity by stimulating plant growth, warming the planet and increasing rainfall.

2. Empirical data confirms that the biosphere’s productivity has increased by about 14% since 1982, in large part as a result of rising carbon dioxide levels.

3. Thousands of scientific experiments indicate that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have contributed to increases in crop yields.

4. These increases in yield are very likely to have reduced the appropriation of land for farming by 11–17% compared with what it would otherwise be, resulting in more land being left wild.

5. Satellite evidence confirms that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations have also resulted in greater productivity of wild terrestrial ecosystems in all vegetation types.

6. Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations have also increased the productivity of many marine ecosystems.

7. In recent decades, trends in climate-sensitive indicators of human and environmental wellbeing have improved and continue to do so despite claims that they would deteriorate because of global warming.

8. Compared with the benefits from carbon dioxide on crop and biosphere productivity, the adverse impacts of carbon dioxide – on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, on sea level, vector-borne disease prevalence and human health – have been too small to measure or have been swamped by other factors.

9. Models used to influence policy on climate change have overestimated the rate of warming, underestimated direct benefits of carbon dioxide, overestimated the harms from climate change and underestimated human capacity to adapt so as to capture the benefits while reducing the harms.

10. It is very likely that the impact of rising carbon dioxide concentrations is currently net beneficial for both humanity and the biosphere generally. These benefits are real, whereas the costs of warming are uncertain. Halting the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations abruptly would deprive people and the planet of the benefits of carbon dioxide much sooner than they would reduce any costs of warming.

Keywords: carbon dioxide, CO2 fertilisation effect, crop production, human health

Suggested Citation

Goklany, Indur M., Carbon Dioxide: The Good News (October 11, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2674685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2674685

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