Will global warming cancel itself out?

I have seen many, such as Jordan B Peterson point to statistics suggesting that increased CO2 is causing the amount of Green Vegetation to increase. Here is an article supporting these assertions:


I would like to ask, are these claims true? If they are, will it cause rising CO2 levels to cancel itself out, for the obvious reason that plants consume CO2?

Note, I am not saying that we should do nothing to prevent climate change. For one, before this equilibrium is achieved, many will die. We should also not be negating this greening effect by chopping down forests.

Good question … and one that ought to be discussed setting all agendas and alleged agendas aside. [other than pursuit of truth and justice, obviously - those agendas should always be front and center.]

One short critical answer to the “will this cancel itself out” question is: “well, then, why hasn’t it?” Ocean levels and CO2 levels are still rising and have been for some time. Those are the measured facts on the ground.

Everyone agrees that climate change is not some simple thing to model - which causes climate scientists to reach their conclusions with conservative caution (and so far it has generally proved very conservative compared to what’s actually happening) and gives an agenda-driven public plenty of uncertainty to try to pin various (non-conservative) hopes in if they don’t like climate change implications.

I don’t think anybody disputes that more CO2 generally promotes more photosynthesis and greenery. And as such that could be a mitigating factor as far as atmospheric carbon removal goes, but an insufficient one, apparently. For one thing, I would want to hear climate scientists weigh in (or research where they have weighed in) on what kind of plant matter is being added. Clearing of tropical jungles and such removes lots of greenery (especially trees) which is not in our favor - is the increased plant growth a sufficient offset for that? And is it the same kind of growth? I.e. trees vs. grasses. Is the latter only a more temporary kind of carbon sequestering that is “burned off”, seasonally returning more of its carbon to the atmosphere than trees would? Those are the sorts of questions that might affect whether this would end up being mitigation at all. And as such, it would join the ranks of a myriad of factors that models have been obliged to try to account for - no doubt a blend of endangering factors (positive feedback variables) as well as moderating (mitigating) factors as this discussed one might be. But all factors considered, in the end we are obliged to acknowledge the emerging data as it is revealed.

So I’m glad you add your caveat that you see that the concern remains and that these questions can be asked and answered legitimately - as we should. Hopefully others here can volunteer more data than I have time to round up today to either verify or correct some of what I’ve written here already just off the top of my head.

[edited to remove some of my own editorializing…]

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#1- go to the peer reviewed literature. Find what any news sources or blogs or other articles are citing and look it up yourself. I did that for a few minutes and eventually came to this:

Greening of the Earth and its drivers

That paper is interesting because a climate change ‘sceptic’ from the U.K. made a number of claims against one of the researchers claiming they were suppressing this information for some reason. Basically he misunderstood how science works in how hard it is to actually verify claims as there was a several year gap between when preliminary results were presented in a lecture and the actual landmark study on the greening. This exchange is outlined here:
http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/news/false-allegations-by-climate-change-sceptic/

#2- while individual studies are important, it is also very important to see how they fit into the bigger picture. This means how old are they being cited and the results discussed with in the broader community. Papers themselves do this a little bit where they talk about the significance of their work and the introduction and conclusion, but looking to other papers citations is important-
The paper has been cited over 350 times

That’s a good number of citations in three years and certainly while the general population might not be following such discussions and then be convinced by our ‘common sense’ that this effect could offset larger climate change, the scientific consensus and models have remained with similar trends. Why? Because this greening effect is only temporary and removes only the pollution caused by the equivalent of one country, China. A little interview with one of the researchers is here:

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I wonder if there is also an increase in phytoplankton, as they are more important in sequestering CO2 and producing O2 as I understand it.

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Basic answer: Not fast enough to mitigate the ongoing warming over the next few decades or centuries.

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Centuries! Until we learn how to fix carbon more efficiently at the global level, it will take centuries to re-capture the fossil carbon that has taken millions of years to create, and a fraction of that time to burn!

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If the world is on fire maybe we should stop dousing it with greenhouse gases and put away our matches even as we look at the possibility that the planet will know how to right itself … just in case. (Not that I think anyone here is advocating for fiddling instead.)

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@MarkD

I look forward to your personal appeal to the Koch Brothers … who are probably thinking about profiting on both sides of the equation:

A) Not allowing anyone to stop them from extracting the last pound of fossil carbon from the Earth.

B) Giant land deals for people desperate to find homes on the high ground …

I wouldn’t know where to begin. They definitely don’t seem to be motivated by the long term wellbeing of the planet or future generations.

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I liked this post of Laura’s as fitting commentary.

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