Carbon Dioxide is Good…….if you’re a plant!

Carbon dioxide is like gasoline on a fire for plants.

We saw this headline the other day and decided to take the bait. “Increases in carbon dioxide (CO2), and other pollutants……..

Let’s stop with the nonsense. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and it is gross for the writer to imply it. CO2 is a hugely beneficial gas that has been a natural part of Earth’s atmosphere almost from the beginning. You exhale it with every breath.

These days the title “Carbon Dioxide is Good!” might get a person cancelled, since it’s not fashionable to speak positively about it. However, the current understanding in the world of science regarding the history of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere tells a different story, or better yet, the rocks tell a different story. This post will briefly tell that story and also explain the wonderful effects CO2 has on plants. A rational study of our current understanding is that our planet is actually in a CO2 drought, and higher levels are the norm, not the other way around.

This post explains the benefits of higher CO2 levels from a plant’s point of view.

Understand that sophisticated life began approximately 550-600 million years ago with the Cambrian Explosion. From then to now is the time frame this discussion refers to. For most of this period, Earth has been a carbon-dioxide rich greenhouse, considerably warmer than it is now. Look at the blue line.Temperatures over the last 250 MY have commonly been 5-12C warmer than current. Not pleasant for us, but apparently the dinosaurs liked it.

There are any number of academic charts and various information sources on the internet illustrating what we will discuss. Here is one:

Simply put, much higher CO2 levels have been the norm for the past 600 million years, and the planet, plants, and animals did quite well during that time period. The dinosaurs enjoyed CO2 levels in the range of 800-2500ppm. Currently CO2 levels are in the 400ppm range.

Over the last 600MY average CO2 levels have been in the 1200-3000ppm range, with spikes over 6,000. Only one other time, around 300MY ago during the Carboniferous Period, was CO2 as low as it is now. In other words, our current low CO2 levels are equal to the lowest seen since higher life forms began, and are therefore an anomaly inconsistent with Earth’s atmospheric history. In fact, during 95% of the last 600MY Earth normally experienced CO2 levels 3,5, even 10 times higher than present levels. Plants and animal life flourished.  “Greenhouse Earth” was a very hospitable place for abundant life.

Without getting into an explanation of photosynthesis, suffice to say that CO2 is absorbed by plants from the atmosphere. The carbon is incorporated into plant matter and oxygen and water vapor are released. Elevated carbon, coupled with the correct environment and nutrients, allows plants to more successfully reach their genetic potential. You can almost say that CO2 is a fertilizer……..the more you give a plant, to a point, the faster and bigger it grows.

A supreme irony is that CO2 is used extensively by commercial growers to increase greenhouse crop production. It’s common practice to artificially raise CO2 levels in indoor, controlled environments to the 1200-1500ppm range. So, the very produce you eat might well have been produced in a greenhouse intentionally saturated with CO2.  The benefits are extraordinary: plants grow much faster, healthier, and yields are frequently increased 25-35%. One could credibly argue that higher CO2 levels are needed to grow the additional food that Earth’s increasing population requires.

Another irony: the cannabis you may be using is overwhelmingly grown indoors, hydroponically, and subjected to artificially elevated CO2 levels. Any pot grower worth his salt knows the advantages of CO2 enhancement…….more weight, faster growth, more resin, more yield, more money.

So, the next time you hear the mantra condemning CO2, turn off the noise and consider what has transpired before, historically. Consider what has been “normal” for our planet. Consider the greenhouse production that is increased by the use of CO2. It is not necessarily the doomsday scenario they would have you believe.

If you love your plants and you have a greenhouse, get a tank of CO2 (or a CO2 generator) and try it. You’ll be amazed! We speak not from just one experiment, but years of indoor, controlled- environment growing with CO2 saturation in the 1200-1500ppm range.

This post in no way argues against concern about our emissions and the rationale for reducing them. 

You can easily fact check this information. Just don’t get it from questionable, agenda-driven sources.

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