Scientist CO2 Good for Planet
By Kristen Inbody

There’s good news on the global climate change front: All that carbon dioxide blamed for global warming is actually good for our planet, says Cody scientist and writer Leighton Steward.

“The earth’s atmosphere needs more carbon dioxide,” he said at a recent Rotary Club meeting. “That ought to get everyone’s attention.”

The CO2 level now is about 385 parts per million. It’s been as high as 7,000 during the earth’s history.

“Climate is always changing,” he said. “You should never expect climate at an equilibrium, and history shows it’s not.”

More CO2 means better crops and forests, Steward says, but not necessarily a warmer planet since other factors play a bigger role in heating the planet.

“This relates directly to the food supply,” he said. “Green is good, and CO2 is very green.”

CO2 boosts plant growth, making them larger, faster-growing and more drought tolerant with better roots. Steward calls that good news in a world with a growing population.

“When you’re deciding what ought to be done, think about what this could do for mankind,” he said.

Taking CO2 back to pre-industrial levels would degrade habitats and push people into starvation, Steward said.

“CO2 is not a pollutant. It’s the stuff of life. I can’t find anything that’s not beneficial,” he said. “This comes from thousands of studies – mainly from the agricultural community, and these are not casual observers.”

Spending billions and enacting draconian restrictions to fight a “pollutant” that’s not a pollutant isn’t helping anyone, he said.

“If we let our factories continue to manufacture, that’s not necessarily bad and might be good,” he said. “We (pro-CO2 groups) are greener than all the green organizations lobbying to reduce CO2.”

It’s a message scientists across the world are trying to promote, and Steward cited numerous studies.

When he started researching climate change four years ago, Steward found there are 18 “drivers” of climate change, including things like variation in the shape of the earth’s orbit, sunspots and the magnetic effect of the sun.

CO2’s ability to trap heat declines logarithmically, so a great deal of the gas makes a big difference, but as the level dips the difference it makes drops exponentially.

That means doubling the current concentration of CO2 would only make a .2 degree difference, he said.

If CO2 was a significant factor in global warming, temperatures would have risen – as modeling predicted – instead of declining since 2001.

“It’s hard to argue with that,” he said. “They did not predict in any of their models that it would be cooling.”

Since the Industrial Revolution, people have pumped CO2 into the atmosphere and temperature has generally risen, though not always.

“These are natural trends,” he said. “Look at the magnitude of climate variation. Huge swings of 10, 15, 20 degrees.”

Former vice president Al Gore got facts wrong in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Steward said.

“Clearly things were absolutely false in some cases and misleading in other cases,” he said.

For example, Gore said the earth was warming at an unprecedented rate. However, in the 1920s and ’30s, the temperature increase was more dramatic, Steward said.

Contrary to Gore’s findings, cyclone and tornado strength is actually down now, says Steward, a geologist and retired energy industry executive. He is a trustee at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and lives on the North Fork and in Texas.

Steward, the author of the best-seller “Sugar Busters,” recently published “Fire, Ice and Paradise” on climate change.

This summer, he organized a non-profit organization, “Plants Need CO2,” with the mission, “To educate the public on the positive effects of additional atmospheric CO2 and help prevent the inadvertent negative impact to human, plant and animal life if we reduce CO2.”

More than half the contributions to his group are from the coal industry, he said. CO2 is released during the burning of fossil fuels, among other sources.

“I’m not getting a penny for doing this,” he added. “It’s just something people of the earth ought to know.”