According to new research, the Earth is getting greener due to the higher carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that build up in the atmosphere.
Over the last 33 years, NASA satellites have observed a steady increase in leaves on plants and trees, which scientists think is the work of the higher CO2 levels. Any third grader knows that CO2 is absorbed by the leaves as it combines with water to produce food for the plants.
The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change was conducted by an international team of 32 scientists from 24 institutions in 8 countries. Talk about international.
Co-author Prof Ranga Myneni of Boston University, U.S., explained they used several computer models to link the greening to “the fertilizing effect of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration.”
These models were used to mimic the plant growth transmitted by the satellite data. Since the beginning of the industrial age, a lot of CO2 has been released into the air through burning oil, gas, coal and wood for energy purposes.
The current CO2 levels are through the roof, and experts are blaming it as the chief culprit of climate change.
Vegetation covers about 85 percent of the Earth’s ice-free lands; the area of all green leaves on Earth is equal to 32 percent of the Earth’s total surface area – including lands, oceans, and permanent ice sheets.
According to lead author Dr. Zaichun Zhu of the Peking University, China, “the greening over the past 33 years reported in this study is equivalent to adding a green continent about two-times the size of mainland USA (18 million km2)” This can fundamentally alter the cycling of Earth’s water and carbon system.
Roughly one-half of the 10 billion tons of carbon that are annually emitted in the atmosphere from human activities remains temporarily stored in plants and oceans.
At the same time, studies reported that since the 1980s, the increasing carbon sink on land has been connected to more greening.
Does this mean that the Earth benefits from high emissions? Although many would like to believe so, the study authors warn that this is not the case.
First, the study did not account for the many negative aspects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, global warming, severe tropical storms, melting glaciers and sea ice, and more.
Second, studies have shown that plants adjust to increasing CO2 levels, which means the fertilization effect diminishes over time.
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