One of the most common “talking points” used by the denial movement to argue CO2 is not a pollutant is that it helps “plants grow”. Most of us know that, no real argument about that.
And yet for the deniers it’s an argument against the science of climate change. It goes like this:
CO2 helps plants grow. Therefore it is a good. So what’s wrong with lots more it it on the atmosphere?
Jo Nova recently posted a version of this argument, (title: Co2 is the magic gas that makes plants grow) with some “experiments” which prove higher concentrations of CO2 help stimulate plant growth:
The team at CO2science grew seedlings for 42 days in chambers of 450ppm (high) and 1270 ppm (very high) CO2 concentrations. They documented the growth of cowpea plants (Vigna unguiculata) via time-lapse photography, and showed what most market gardeners knew: More CO2 in the air makes for taller, stronger, faster-growing plants. Indeed, CO2 is one of the essential nutrients for plants, and is often the thing that limits their growth. Pretty much all the plants on Earth grow faster when CO2 levels are higher.
Many deniers don’t disagree there is more CO2 atmosphere: the deny a link to global warming. Still, it’s an easy argument to shoot down, and Skeptical Science covers it very well here:
A broader definition of pollutant is a substance that causes instability or discomfort to an ecosystem. Over the past 10,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has remained at relatively stable levels. However, human CO2 emissions over the past few centuries have upset this balance. The increase in CO2 has some direct effects on the environment. For example, as the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, it leads to acidification that affects many marine ecosystems. However, the chief impact from rising CO2 is warmer temperatures.
CO2 is magic. Really.
But that’s not the interesting part.
Nova’s source for her article came from a group called Co2Science. Who are they you may ask?
A group that has received funding from ExxonMobil. This is how the local denial movement “imports” propoganda from industry funded think tanks. According to SourceWatch CO2Science received the following funds from ExxonMobil:
- 1998: $10,000
- 2000: $15,000
- 2003: $40,000
- 2005: $25,000
CO2Science is running a campaign to make CO2 seem friendly, and remove any stigma that may be attached to it as a greenhouse gas. Their argument: this stuff is great! We need more!
For the denial movement, money really can grow on trees.