You may have been told by climate denialists that rising temperatures would be good for plants and help them grow better.
This is, of course, wrong.
Large-scale droughts have wiped out plants that would have otherwise absorbed an amount of carbon equivalent to Britain’s annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists measure the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by plants and turned into biomass as a quantity known as the net primary production. NPP increased from 1982 to 1999 as temperatures rose and there was more solar radiation.
But the period from 2000 to 2009 reverses that trend – surprising some scientists.
This had actually been suspected for a while, it being kind of inevitable due to the effects of unexpected heat stress and weird precipitation patterns. While some extra warmth can help plants, it also makes them perspire more. When plants perspire, they aren’t doing much in the way of turning carbon gases into carbon solids.
Plants are a good illustration in that way of why global warming is such a big deal, because of how they thrive in very narrow ranges of conditions. They need some nitrogen, but not too much. Some phosphorus, but not too much. Some water, but not too much. Some heat, but not too much. Humans have a wider range of tolerable conditions, but can’t escape our reliance on plants with a very narrow set of tolerances, indeed.
Though luckily, new studies on my personal favorite geoengineering fix, biochar production, show that it could tuck away a lot of carbon and improve plant growth without the use of chemicals like this. Anyway, that’s what I remind myself to ward off the despair.