Sitting out on my deck with an old buddy on a hot August evening this year, enveloped by smoke from forest fires, the conversation quite naturally turned to climate change. Then I heard something I hadn’t heard before about carbon in the atmosphere and it quite astounded me.
Carbon in the atmosphere has risen about 80% in the last 50 years. That is a fact. Also a fact is the proven science that CO2 allows solar heat wavelengths (short) into the atmosphere but doesn’t let the thermal heat wavelengths (long) out to cool the earth. It traps the heat like a greenhouse does…..and they can get pretty hot. It’s good science and not to be ignored.
My buddy Terry is an old university friend. We shared an apartment together in our last year at the U of M in Winnipeg, shared lots of conversations and laughs…..and I was his Best Man at his wedding a year later. Today he is an Agricultural consultant. One of the things he does is test Alberta farmers’ soil and devise a proper fertilizer/nutrient formula for it. This is where it gets interesting. Terry tells me that they have had to adjust their formulae for the soil because of atmospheric changes. Now that there is more CO2 in the air, plants are more robust all by themselves. Then my mind started to grind. What about native plants? Are they more robust? Is there more ungulate wildlife due to that? What about third world countries who don’t fertilize much, are their yields higher due to more carbon? Is there more food in the world due to carbon emissions? The answer to all these questions is apparently “Yes”.
About three years ago I was researching how to utilize the energy from the ground to extend the season for a greenhouse in our climate and I called the director of the Tomato Growers’ Association near Vancouver. I was asking how they operated in the winter and after he told me about how they heat their greenhouses, he said that since they closed up the greenhouses to trap the heat, the tomatoes used up all the carbon to the extent that it hurt the yield. They actually had to pump CO2 into the greenhouse to maintain normal tomato yields.
The fact that the population of the world has only recently been growing by about 1 billion every 12 years indicates that life is teeming on the planet. We tend to focus on one aspect of the effect our living here and once it gets set into a paradigm…..or conventional wisdom…..it becomes difficult and unacceptable to consider other aspects of the matter. The truth is, the planet is significantly self regulated. That doesn’t mean that humans can be irresponsible in upsetting the self regulating process but we must understand the balance.
Anyway Terry, you have once again surprised me with your scientific knowledge grounded in practical experience!