Will Greenhouse Gases Make Forests Grow Faster?


Increased carbon dioxide in the air is a result of our modern, high energy way of life. It is also the main reason global average temperatures are increasing. A little known side effect of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is that it can increase the growth of many plants, at least transiently. Apologists for the energy industry have seized on this to argue that increased carbon dioxide will benefit humanity by warming temperatures, and by increasing production from farms and forests. One envisions the entire biological world made over to conform to our way of life: industrialized, privatized, and finally made virtual, existing only on the Internet.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that young trees put on wood at a faster rate if they are exposed to carbon dioxide enriched air. The debate about the effects of increased carbon dioxide is being taken out of the hands of propagandists by scientists who are now conducting careful, long-term studies of the effects of elevated carbon dioxide on plants and on entire ecosystems. We spoke with Evan DeLucia of the University of Illinois about his study of the effects of carbon dioxide on forest growth.

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