The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock

Posted on  

"The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock"

Our favorite climate de-crocker, Peter Sinclair has a new video that features someone who may be smarter than all the other anti-science disinformers [combined?]:


UPDATE:  Glenn Scherer emails to remind me of his Grist piece, “In a warmed world, even food won’t be as good for you.”

Related Posts:

Tags:

« »

25 Responses to The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock

  1. mike roddy says:

    Sinclair is really talented. His videos should be shown in our classrooms.

  2. Leif says:

    Global Warming Denial is what? Fossil industry profits!

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Put the Clowns on Trial.

  4. Bill W says:

    I’m a big fan of Mr. Sinclair’s videos, but I think he’s made a messaging error in this one. The heavy repetition of the Monckton-Shimkus interchange (“Carbon dioxide is what?”) is likely to result in “Carbon Dioxide is plant food” being the message that a skeptic would take away from this video, because nowhere does this video directly make the link between CO2 and warming.

  5. Idiocy is food for Congress.

  6. Aaron Lewis says:

    People also need CO2 (to control breathing rate). However, it is also know as “blackdamp” by coal miners, and is toxic. Let’s let the idiots try a good dose for a week or too.

    Nitrates are plant food also, but nitrates also kill people, so we do not douse ourselves with them, but they want us to put CO2 in our breathing zone? The “carbon dioxide as plant food argument” really proves that they are idiots.

  7. john atcheson says:

    While the MSM plays Moncton and Lomborg and fellow fools over and over again, things like this are marginalized. This should be a featured segment on every news show, and an above the fold story in every newspaper. Period.

  8. Raul M. says:

    As we have increased CO2, and the video says some
    weeds like it, I think back to a book entitled
    “Edible weeds”. Oh it’s past lunch time here.

  9. BBHY says:

    Plants need water too. The people of Pakistan received lots of water but I don’t think it’s helping their agriculture much.

    There is something about having the right proportions that is important.

  10. “The heavy repetition of the Monckton-Shimkus interchange (”Carbon dioxide is what?”) is likely to result in “Carbon Dioxide is plant food” being the message that a skeptic would take away from this video”

    Right, Bill, I considered that, and I’m normally pretty careful about that kind of trap. (I’ve read Lakoff)
    In this case the idea is irony, and juxtaposing a statement against facts that make its absurdity abundantly clear.
    I don’t know if anyone’s done a study on exactly this technique, but, judging by the reactions to the
    video, it seems to be working in this case.
    The Moncktonites are howling.

  11. Dean says:

    Another great video…thanks Peter.

  12. Michael W says:

    CO2 is plant food, and Monckton is correct. Not once does this video challenge the CO2=plant food fact, but suggests the harmful affects of CO2 outweigh the benefits. The video even suggests some life thrives (weeds & pests claimed) with increased CO2.

    The question that must be asked is: What is the optimal temperature for life on planet earth?

    Joe, this is a influential and well-read blog, and I think you have a responsibility to your readers. Why are all your posts narrating a very narrow viewpoint? The real world has costs vs benefits that come with every decision. I dare you to post something positive on some of your favorite villains.

    Peace,
    Michael

    [JR: Huh? My post are based on the climate science — the scientific literature, review studies by leading organizations, actual observations by credible scientists and scientific bodies, and interviews with top scientists. That is “narrow” in the sense that, say, if I kept posting 2+2=4 and refused to post that 2+2=4.1 or =3 or =22, I suppose that would be narrow.

    Your ” question that must be asked” is not a particularly important one: “What is the optimal temperature for life on planet earth? ” Human civilization evolved during a 10,000 year period of relatively stable climate and a narrow temperature window. Life is quite adaptable to slow variations in the temperature. We are driving much more rapid changes in the temperature than humanity has ever seen — and much faster than many if not most current species will be capable of adapting to.

    Billions of people have made choices about where to live based on current sea levels, locations of rivers, water availability from inland glaciers, water availability from current climate conditions, arable land, and the like. The question is what would a 9°F warming this century mean for the health and well-being of billions of people and countless future generations? That is a central focus of this blog — along with how we might go about avoiding the multiple catastrophes such a rapid change would necessarily entail.]

  13. Peter Bellin says:

    This is a good video; focusing on some of the impacts of climate change, pointing out that the impact of the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations must be considered in its entirety. I think the repetition of the Monckton sound bite points out the absurdity of the political debate, making clear Mr. Monckton’s perversion of the scientific process.

    Regarding the post (Michael) daring Joe to post something positive on a favorite villian: this is the perverse attitude of the mainstream media, a search for ‘both sides’ of an argument. I think Joe has posted positive comments of a villian, when they have something sensible to say. For example some weather forecasters have come out to acknowledge the threat of climate change, and its anthropogenic components.

  14. Michael W says:

    Joe, we are a personalities commenting on science (and its application), politics and the characters involved. Mostly out of concern for what kind of mess we leave behind for our kids. Very little of this is as formulaic as 2+2=4.

    Its not ridiculous to think that local climate (locations of rivers, water availability from inland glaciers, water availability from current climate conditions, arable land, and the like) has always been chaotic and prone to sudden changes.

    I think we can agree that we need to make sensible decisions. These can’t be made if you always assume the worst case scenario.

    [JR: I’m glad that you backed away from your original formulation to the much mellower “Its not ridiculous to think.” If you were a regular reader of this blog, you would know that I hardly ever assume the worst-case scenario but focus primarily on the business-as-usual case. Very little scientific literature exists about the worst-case scenario. I have done a few posts on what literature does exist — but the business-as-usual case now has such a high probability of multiple catastrophes that it is more than reason enough to quickly and dramatically reversed our emissions.

    If you want to keep commenting here, and especially if you want to make broad characterizations of what I write about, then you need to do me and my readers the courtesy of actually reading a significant fraction of my key posts. A good starting point are the ” most popular posts.” ]

  15. Leif says:

    Michael, @14: “I think we can agree that we need to make sensible decisions. These can’t be made if you always assume the worst case scenario.”

    All indications so far have pointed to high end troubles rather than low end troubles. Assuming low probability problems in the face of mounting evidence is not prudent and tipping points are by definition unknowable until after the fact. Rational thought would lead one to the side of caution would it not?

    What you are saying is, “I concede that there may be trouble ahead but let’s just do a little bit of mitigation because you believe things will not be so bad. When the evidence points to much worse than you are willing to admit to, and even science is surprised by. Knowing full well that you have been grossly wrong to date, and early mitigation is far more productive than late.

  16. Michael W says:

    Leif (16)

    If the situation is dire, we need to make huge sacrifices. Not just a few lifestyle changes here and there. Extreme sacrifices may be the sensible decision if it means saving the planet. Are extreme sacrifices required?
    This brings us back to the CO2=plant food question.
    Worst case affects of CO2 on crops is alluded to in the video. What is the best case? Are you really going to leave that commentary to anti-science blogs? Why?

  17. Jose says:

    “The question that must be asked is: What is the optimal temperature for life on planet earth? ”

    Most life is probably happy with liquid water, we’re talking abouot bacteria after all. Humans on the other hand are a bit fussier.

  18. Leif says:

    Michael, @ 16: If you are at all familiar with my comments here you will know that my opinion is indeed that the the situation is dire and extreme lifestyle changes are warranted. I do not use the term “sacrifices” as I do not feel that life style changes for long term survival need be a “sacrifice.” On the contrary, a slower paced life will do wonders for society. (Many years ago I made a commitment to “slow down” and give thanks every day for doing so.) It is you that assumes the present is good and any change bad, and thus a “sacrifice”. How can it be a “sacrifice” to guarantee a future livable planet for your progeny? For the lives of all the rest of humanity? For the millions of species of the land, sea and air? (Did you know that a new species of primate has just been discovered? Callicebus Capuctensis. Estimated 250 left in the world. See them while you can.)
    Current extinction is on a par with the dinosaur era. Thank man for that. That is no way to treat a planet.

    I have no idea why you brought up the CO2= Plant food but since you did. Some is good too much is bad. Water is also a plant requirement but Pakistan proves too much is not.

  19. Deborah Stark says:

    BBHY, Post #9 wrote:
    “…..Plants need water too. The people of Pakistan received lots of water but I don’t think it’s helping their agriculture much.

    There is something about having the right proportions that is important…..”

    ***
    This is a very important point.

    Earth systems (atmospheric, marine and terrestrial) operate in concert to sustain an equilibrium favorable to the health of all living organisms including plant, animal and human beings.

    By overloading them with our waste products we are interfering with the ability of our Earth systems to cleanse themselves. We are disrupting several well-established processes by which this cleansing occurs.

    The increasing frequency of extreme, unpredictable weather events could be thought of as our Earth systems puking our waste products back at us.

  20. “This brings us back to the CO2=plant food question.”
    A paper published at about the same moment as I was uploading this video further nails the case.

    A team from the University of Guelph has determined that trees are soaking up less carbon than expected given the increase in atmospheric CO2.  According to the press release, “Scientists and policy-makers hoping to use forests to naturally soak up increasing amounts of carbon dioxide may have overestimated the role of trees as carbon sink”.
    “Contrary to expectations, tree growth has declined over the past century despite rising amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, said Madhur Anand, a professor in Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences.”

    http://www.uoguelph.ca/news/2010/08/bbb.html

    link to article (free) in press release.

  21. quokka says:

    It seems that there are yet more undesirable consequences of high CO2 levels for plant life: increased production of toxins. Which may be just fine for the plants, but not for animal life including humans that feeds on them. This piece from the ABC popular science program Catalyst is interesting viewing:

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2891924.htm

  22. Rob Honeycutt says:

    People keep claiming that Peter didn’t really address the “CO2 is plant food” issue very well in this video. I think he actually did, but he did it in a much more effective way than you would expect. The technique he’s using is, IMHO, highly effective. We all agree that it’s a childish argument saying that CO2 is plant food. Right? Well, Peter’s quite adeptly reinforcing that message rather than getting lost in details about it.

    People need to remember, we live in a society of short attention spans. If you get bogged down in the statistical, technical, physiological explanation you totally lose 95% of your audience. You lost the opportunity to get your message across.

    What Peter’s done here is actually attracted people’s attention by appealing to a very base level response that, regardless of how smart you are, we all suffer from. People naturally are drawn to disaster. Cut back to Monckton, “CO2 is plant food.” Cut back to disaster. Cut to a snippet of Trenberth with a short explanation. Cut to disaster. Cut to Monckton. Etc.

    It’s brilliant. Keeps people’s attention. Drives the message that it’s a stupid argument that deniers use. And manages to impart enough science to maybe get some people to look deeper into the issue.

    Totally works! Good work Peter!

  23. Deborah Stark says:

    BBHY, Post # 9 wrote:
    “…..Plants need water too. The people of Pakistan received lots of water but I don’t think it’s helping their agriculture much.

    There is something about having the right proportions that is important…..”

    ***
    This is a very important point.

    Earth systems (atmospheric, marine and terrestrial) operate in concert to sustain an equilibrium favorable to the health of all living organisms including plant, animal and human beings.

    By overloading them with our waste products we are interfering with the ability of our Earth systems to cleanse themselves. We are disrupting several well-established processes by which this cleansing occurs.

    The increasing frequency of extreme, unpredictable weather events could be thought of as our Earth systems puking our waste products back at us.

    ***
    Peter Sinclair’s video is extremely well done. Very effective.

  24. Nick says:

    Michael W,I think,is missing the point in the use of repetition of the Monckton segment. Instead of the many observations Monckton could have usefully brought to the Committee about the complexity of the CO2 issue,he chose the choreographed stupidity that we see in Peter’s excellent piece. That is a measure of the Monckton’s intent: no intention to inform or illuminate whatsoever. The world really hasn’t got time for this sort of canard now,if indeed it ever did.

    @14,Michael states that ‘local climate has always been chaotic..and prone to sudden changes’. I assume that means extreme weather events. That should be reflected in the land-use choices demonstrated by local people. I’d ask him to look again at the footage from Pakistan. It is quite clear that the extent of damage is unprecedented-beyond the cumulative experience of the people who have lived in those valleys for many generations.It can be expected that those people know their environment when they make choices about where to locate infrastructure. This event’s scale has thrown all that on the scrap heap,judging by the extent of channel change and widening and the enormous sediment load,and destruction of houses and villages. There is now a new paradigm

    We see the same effects in the recent super-intense downpours in England’s Lake District and in southern Taiwan. Infrastructure layout and design reflects a long experienced and expected envelope of extremes. Suddenly,an event well outside many many hundreds of years frequency,turns all that sense into nonsense. And these extreme events are becoming more common.

  25. Gord says:

    Good work Peter!