Translated from “Der „Klimakiller“ macht die Erde grüner” by Fritz Vahrenholt
Anyone who has not skipped and paid attention to chemistry lessons still knows the catchy reaction equation: CO2 + H2O = sugar or cellulose. This is the central equation of life – carbon dioxide and water produce sugar, wood, plants and food under the influence of sunlight. Equally important to us is the reverse equation: we convert sugar to CO2 and water and create energy that keeps us alive.
The vital CO2 is now declared killer gas, because carbon dioxide can store heat in the atmosphere. As more and more plant carbon remnants of millions of years are released by the combustion of gas, coal and oil, the carbon dioxide content of the air increases. From 280 ppm (“parts per million”, ie 0.028 percent share in the air) to around 400 ppm (0.04 percent), the concentration has risen since the beginning of industrialization. How dangerous is that? For us humans, CO2 is completely harmless. When we get up in the morning in our bedroom, the CO2 concentration has risen from 400 ppm to up to 1,200 ppm. For plants, CO2 is even necessary for survival; 90 percent of all plants are so-called C3 plants, which stop photosynthesis below 150 ppm CO2 and die off. Our trees, but also wheat, rye, rice grow better with increasing CO2 content in the air. C4 plants such as grasses and corn are not quite as sensitive. From pre-industrial times to today, the photosynthetic performance of most plants has increased by 65 percent. With a further increase in CO2 in the air from the present 410 ppm to 600 ppm, the plants will increase again by 35 percent. Some greenhouse owners are taking advantage of this by increasing the greenhouses to 600 ppm of CO2 in order to achieve a correspondingly better food yield.
The earth is getting greener. Satellite images clearly show that. Around a quarter to half of the overgrown areas of the earth, the greening has spread. Even the Sahel has stabilized; More rainfall and more CO2 has led to sub-Saharan vegetation cover increasing by eight percent over the past two decades.
The more CO2, the higher the crops
The increase in green biomass is equivalent to a new green continent, twice the size of the US. About 70 percent of this is due to the increased photosynthesis by CO2. Naturally, the warming also helped to increase the humidity in the air. Crop yields have risen, not only, but also because of the “climate killer” CO2.The magnitude of CO2’s contribution to warming the past 150 years remains highly controversial. The longer the climate change model predicts a lack of warming, the more scientists gain in weight, which at most allocate CO2 to a 50 percent share of global warming. This is shown not least by the warming of the past 30 years, which has risen by no more than 0.13 to 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade (depending on the measuring program). At the end of the century, that would only bring about the two-degree goal of the Paris Agreement.
But it gets even better. Year by year, humanity emits more CO2 than before. While in 1959 it was 8.5 billion tons, today it is already about 37 billion tons. And no matter how high the emissions were, half of the emissions were absorbed by the oceans and increased plant growth.
The future of man-made CO2 emissions will continue to be absorbed by nature. We emit an additional 4.5 ppm annually and only 50 percent of the emissions remain in the air, the rest is absorbed, shipped to the deep seas for hundreds of years, or taken up in growing forests, roughly in equal parts.
So far, the IPCC has suggested that natural intake would become more difficult as CO2 levels rise, and the carbon dioxide in the air would therefore be harder for us to deal with. Several hundred years of residence were still to be read in the first World Climate Reports. In the most recent report of 2013, there was already a small stalking to the reality, and estimated the duration of the CO2 in the air on 30 to 100 years. There is no saturation in sight, either in vegetation or in the shift of CO2 into the deeper layers of the oceans. Only at 1500 ppm, the uptake of CO2 by the plants remains almost constant. But we never reach 1500 ppm, rather we run out of coal, oil or natural gas.
And now comes the most surprising: If mankind decides not to increase further emissions in the next few years, so to speak to freeze the total emissions at 37 billion tons, a new equilibrium between the annual emissions and the oceans would settle after some time and plants. Then one can calculate, with which CO2 level one landed: If one assumes a mean cooldown of the CO2 of 50 years, then according to the calculations of several scientists a level of 500 to 520 ppm would not be exceeded.
The reverse conclusion is astounding: it would therefore not be necessary to reduce emissions to zero. We could use fossil fuels until they are used up. We should not be emitting much more than 37 billion tonnes of CO2. Freezing CO2 emissions would not even double the concentration from pre-industrial 280 ppm to 560 ppm. With a doubling to 560 ppm, a warming of 1.8 degrees Celsius would be expected, based on the latest empirical climate sensitivity calculations. Therefore, the already decided step of the Federal Government to reduce CO emissions to 80 percent is superfluous, and the announcement by the Chancellor to raise the target to 100 percent, more than questionable.
Panic is completely unnecessary. Mother Earth limits the CO2 problem for us. We should help her with that. The more plants and trees grow, the more CO2 can be absorbed.
In any case, this makes much more sense than adventurous concepts of electromobility to the plucking of beautiful landscapes with wind turbines.
However, one should discuss how much developed countries need to cut back to allow emerging nations to catch up in terms of CO2 emissions. That has something to do with justice.
This article appeared on the website at EN24News website at https://www.en24.news/2019/08/the-climate-killer-makes-the-earth-greener.html