Introduction to the Greening Theory
The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing. This means
that the food available to the earth's plants is increasing.
What happens when food increases? It usually means that things
grow more and that more things grow. With animals it is typical
for populations to increase when food increases. Plants can also
adapt to improved conditions by growing larger, faster and more
The hypothesis that the number and/or size of plants has increased
and will continue to increase because of the increase in CO2
is called the Greening Theory. Detailed information about the
Greening Theory can be found at the Idso
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.
Sherwood Idso was one of the early proponents of the Greening
Theory and the center is run by his sons Keith and Craig, who
have carried on his work. Likewise, the Greening
Earth Society has several videos and numerous other resources
on the Greening Theory.
Much of the research on CO2 increase and plant growth is done
under the rubric of "sequestration" of carbon. Those
who view the CO2 increase as a threat due to climate change see
sequestration as a possible way to mitigate this threat by taking
CO2 out of the air. Sequestration assumes the truth of the Greening
One needs to keep in mind that as CO2 is only one molecule out
of 3000 or so, it is very hard work for plants to get those CO2
molecules. Yet 93% of all (dry) plant matter is derived from
CO2. The CO2 level has increased by about 30% in the last 150
years, most of that increase coming in the last 50 years, when
population growth has been greatest. Increasing the concentration
by 30% is a very big deal from an engineering point of view.
It means plants only have to find one molecule out of 3000 in
the air instead of one out of 4000. The response need not, probably
should not, be linear. So the plausible range of effects is probably
between 10% and 50%. We call this the greening effect.
The biggest confusion is that people talk of CO2 as fertilizer.
Fertilizer is to plants what vitamins are to people. CO2 is not
fertilizer, it is food, the principle food of plants. Each plant's
body, and therefore all bodies of living things, are built primarily
from CO2. Most people do not understand this. It is one thing
to say that CO2 is essential for life, which every biology book
does. It is quite another to actually get people to understand
that when they eat a steak they are eating processed CO2. That
when they watch the leaves come out, they are watching CO2 being
processed. That when they watch their child grow, they are watching
processed CO2 being further processed. Plus that CO2 is a rare
gas, therefore not to be blithely curtailed.
That CO2 is the basic food of all living things is important
because the basic hypothesis underlying the Greening Theory is
therefore that food is the principle limiting factor in plant
growth and population. This is the prima facie assumption of
ecology. Food is the usual limiting factor for any population,
not predation, disease, vitamin deficiencies, etc. The latter
are special cases.
The Greening Theory says that increasing CO2 should increase
plant growth. So does a huge body of experimental evidence --
thousands of experiments. So does observation, ranging from commercial
greenhouses using CO2, to the recent global carbon sink findings.
More information about the carbon dioxide increase can be found
at the Carbon Dioxide Information
Analysis Center (CDIAC) of the Oak
Ridge National Laboratory.
More information about greening effect research can be found
at these sites, with many links to others:
1. The National
Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
2. FACE - Free Air Carbon
Dioxide Enrichment web site.
Bibliography on CO2 Effects on Vegetation at ORNL.
4. GCTE Home Page.
Journals With Links to Publisher Web Sites.
6. NCAR/CGD Home Page.
7. C4: The Center for Clouds,
Chemistry, and Climate.
8. U.S. National Climatic
Data Center (NCDC).
9. AMS Journals Online.
10. Global Warming International
Table of Contents
-- The Miracle of Food.
Introduction to the Greening Theory.
The Green Revolution: feeding
the global population.
Technology and the Green Revolution.
Government Policy Toward Carbon Dioxide:
why is it negative?
A Huge Hole in the Climate Change
The USDA Should Lead Greening Research,
but it is doing nothing.
Outline of a Greening Effect Benefit and