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Climate-changing CO2 isn't all bad news, deserts are greening

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The science is conclusive, no matter what the pseudo-scientists and deniers say, CO2 is warming the atmosphere. Despite the warming caused by increased CO2 emissions, there does appear to be some benefit to the greenhouse gas, the greening of some desert areas.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Carbon dioxide gets a pretty bad rap for its role as a greenhouse gas, but it's also as essential to plants as oxygen is to humans. No CO2, no plants: no plants, no oxygen, no life.

So CO2 isn't all bad. And in fact, the gas is responsible for keeping the planet warm enough so that we don't have to live in permanent ice-age conditions. Now, there's another reason to be cool with CO2.

Scientists have long predicted that increased CO2 in the atmosphere would cause more plants to grow, possibly greening some areas of desert. Now they have the data to confirm their suspicions. Using satellite observations and evaluating global desert regions dating back 30 years, scientists found an 11 percent increase in foliage over parts of Africa, Australia, the Middle East, and North America.

Randall Donahue, one of the researchers said in a news release, "Our work was able to tease-out the CO2 fertilization effect by using mathematical modeling together with satellite data adjusted to take out the observed effects of other influences such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light and land-use changes. On the face of it, elevated CO2 boosting the foliage in dry country is good news and could assist forestry and agriculture in such areas; however there will be secondary effects that are likely to influence water availability, the carbon cycle, fire regimes and biodiversity, for example."

What Donahue is explaining is that there is an immediate benefit to the greening of some areas, although whether or not an area is greened has more to do with additional factors, such as rainfall.

What this means for the rest of the planet remains unclear. The myriad variables makes long-range predictions more difficult, so that it cannot be ruled conclusively that this greening is a substantial benefit. However, small changes in one area of the planet can impact the weather elsewhere, so the additional foliage could certainly have an impact of global weather patterns.

Naturally, more study is needed. But for people who live in greening areas, it will be difficult to persuade them that more trees and plants are somehow a bad thing.

Ultimately, the planet has its cycles and triggers, and given enough of any one variable, the environments tends to correct in some way.

"The Earth abideth forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

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