Carbon dioxide emissions are making the Earth greener and more fertile, a United Nations (UN) climate scientist has said.
In a paper for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Dr Indur Goklany, who has previously represented the United States on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that the rising level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere “is currently net beneficial for both humanity and the biosphere generally”.
The benefits are real, whereas the costs of warming are uncertain,” he adds.
“Carbon dioxide fertilises plants, and emissions from fossil fuels have already had a hugely beneficial effect on crops, increasing yields by at least 10-15 per cent,” Dr Golkany argues.
“This has not only been good for humankind but for the natural world too, because an acre of land that is not used for crops is an acre of land that is left for nature.”
Increasing crops yields has helped reduce hunger and improved human well being, as well as generating around $140 billion a year.
As well as crops, the “wild places of the Earth” have seen an improvement, becoming greener in recent decades. Dr Golkany attributes this to carbon dioxide, saying it can also increase their water-use efficiency, thus making them more resistant to drought.
“Unlike the claims of future global warming disasters,” Dr Golkany says, “These benefits are firmly established and are being felt now.
“Yet despite this the media overlook the good news and the public remain in the dark. My report should begin to restore a little balance.”
Professor Myles Allen of the University of Oxford admitted there were some benefits from increased levels of carbon dioxide, but nonetheless said Dr Golkany’s assertions had “Stalinist overtones”.
He told the Sunday Times: “… I worry about the Stalinist overtones of adding up the losses and benefits and deciding humanity as a whole will benefit from global warming. Drowning Bangladeshis might not be reassured by higher crop yields in Ukraine.”
However, in a foreword to the report, Professor Freeman Dyson, a world-renowned physicist, said Dr Golkany’s conclusions show how “a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts”, adding that “the thinking of politicians and scientists about controversial issues today is still tribal”.