Go Give a Tree a Hug. A Really Big Hug.
It turns out that plants consume carbon dioxide 25 percent faster than previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Nature and reported by Reuters. A team led by Lisa Welp-Smith of California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that plants may absorb 16 to 19 times mankind's total CO2 emissions.
Before the crowing begins from climate skeptics like billionaire David Koch and others from the global-warming-is-good-for-you camp (watch the hilariously awful video The Greening of Planet Earth sponsored by the Western Fuels Association in 1992 here and here, Welp-Smith warns that her team’s study does not mean that more carbon is being locked away by plants: "If we are right, and GPP [gross primary production] needs to be revised upward by about 25 percent, it means that our fundamental understanding of how land plants function on the global scale is still a bit fluid," Welp-Smith told Reuters. “It means more CO2 is passing through plants, not that it actually stays there very long." (She was even more direct to Agence France-Press: "The extra CO2 taken up as photosynthesis is most likely returned right back to the atmosphere via respiration.")
The good news, writes David Fogarty of Reuters, is that the study “could help refine efforts to fight global warming just at a time when U.N. talks are struggling to agree on a broader climate pact that will be the focus of a major meeting in December in South Africa.”
-- Reed McManus
Image: U.S. Forest Service