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55 Positive Externalities: Hail to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment

By Chip Knappenberger -- March 10, 2011

In my last post, I suggested that the externalities from coal-fired electricity generation were probably not as negative as was being touted in a recent report by Paul Epstein and colleagues from the Center for Health and the Global Environment. As further support for my contention, I submit the contents of a new book by copious carbon dioxide researchers Drs. Sherwood and Craig Idso titled “The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment: How humanity and the rest of the biosphere will prosper from this amazing trace gas that so many have wrongfully characterized as a dangerous air pollutant!”

The father-son authors take the reader alphabetically through the many benefits from an atmosphere enriched with carbon dioxide that they have gleaned from the peer-reviewed scientific literature, as well as the results of their own experimentation (also documented in the literature). The Idsos’s 55 subject areas of CO2’s beneficial influence is backed by scientific references. The benefits by and large include only direct influences from higher CO2 levels, and don’t delve into indirect influences through, for example, climate change (with the exception of the inclusion of three or four categories dedicated to describing declines in human mortality and increases in human longevity).

I include below the list of those 55 ways that the Idsos have identified “in which the modern rise in atmospheric CO2 is benefiting earth’s biosphere.”

Hopefully, Paul Epstein and colleagues will pick up a copy of this book (available here), because I am certain that they did not include many of these considerations in their calculations.

In the list below, I give only the category name, but a synopsis of CO2’s impact in each of the categories is contained in a pamphlet that summarizes the book, and which is available from the Science and Public Policy Institute.

Okay, enough ado, here is the list of 55 ways in which increasing atmospheric CO2 produces direct benefits (and generate positive externalities from fossil fuel use):

1. Air Pollution Stress (Non–Ozone)
2. Air Pollution Stress (Ozone)
3. Avoiding Human Starvation and Plant and Animal Extinctions
4. Bacteria
5. Biodiversity
6. Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (BVOCs)
7. Biomass
8. C4 Plants
9. CAM Plants
10. Carbon Sequestration
11. Diseases of Plants
12. Early Growth
13. Earthworms
14. Evolution
15. Flowers
16. Fluctuating Asymmetry
17. Glomalin
18. Health-Promoting Substances
19. Herbivory
20. Hormones
21. Human Longevity
22. Human Mortality (All Causes)
23. Human Mortality (Cardiovascular)
24. Human Mortality (Respiratory)
25. Iodocompounds
26. Isoprene
27. Light Stress
28. Lipids
29. Medicinal Plants
30. Monoterpenes
31. Nectar
32. Net Primary Productivity
33. Nitrogen Fixation
34. Nutrient Acquisition
35. Phosphorus Acquisition
36. Photosynthesis
37. Progressive Nitrogen Limitation
38. Reactive Oxygen Species
39. Root Exudation
40. Root Production
41. Salinity Stress
42. Seeds
43. Soil Erosion
44. Soil Toxicity
45. Starch
46. Tannins
47. Temperature Stress
48. Thylakoid Membranes
49. Transpiration
50. UV-B Radiation Stress
51. Vegetative Storage Proteins
52. Water Stress
53. Water-Use Efficiency
54. Weeds
55. Wood Density

As the Idsos put it:

[This book] may not be everything you “always wanted to know” about the bright side of the issue; but it illuminates a number of significant aspects of earth’s biosphere and its workings, as well as mankind’s reliance on the biosphere for food and numerous other material necessities that are hardly ever mentioned by the mainstream media.


  1. rbradley  

    Are the above positives aside from the benefits of a moderately warmer and wetter world from higher atmospheric CO2 levels?


  2. Global Warming Hoax Weekly Round-Up, Mar. 10th 2011 « The Daily Bayonet  

    […] you know that global warming can be good for you?  55 positive externalities of more atmospheric CO2, because nothing sells a list like an odd number and economist pillow […]


  3. Noblesse Oblige  

    As a person who tends toward the view that enriched atmospheric CO2 is more beneficial than harmful, I wish there had been better referencing of the Idsos’ claims.


  4. cknappenberger  


    Yeah, as I mentioned in the article, the vast majority of the 55 categories of benefits are from direct stimulation from enhanced CO2 levels–and do not involve the indirect impacts acting through climate change.



  5. cknappenberger  

    Noblesse Oblige,

    As I mentioned, the book itself provides a list of supporting scientific references for each of the 55 benefits.

    Alternatively, you can work your way through the copious explanations and references contained at the Idso’s excellent website, CO2science.org.



  6. Tom Tanton  

    …and just think what happens to the net calculus when the huge positive externalties of having modern energy systems are considered. The choice of coal versus nuclear versus gas versus renewables pale in comparison to any choice limited to pick-up-sticks and dung and the vagaries of the weather.


  7. Kate  

    i’d appreciate any commenter here who can write to go over to judithcurry.com. The past two weeks have been open warfare between warmers and those who are trying to talk sense. Judith has a wide-open blog that is currently The Place to go to fight it out.


  8. Kate7  

    Particularly http://judithcurry.com/2011/03/06/climate-story-telling-angst/

    Search the page (Edit – find) for Steve McIntyre and the two posts following his.

    Also a great description of Socialism. http://tinyurl.com/4hhq94v


  9. Not bad for a “pollutant” « JunkScience Sidebar  

    […] 55 Positive Externalities: Hail to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment […]


  10. rbradley  

    Read about another positive externality at Cooler Heads Digest:


    Warming seas in Greenland have opened a vast portion of previously inaccessible areas for oil and natural gas exploration. Previously frozen land will also be mined for lead, zinc, and gold. Greenland’s oil minister, Ove Karl Berthelsen, heralded this as a ticket out of poverty for many and an opportunity for their economy to become less reliant on Denmark.


  11. lucia  

    Chip– Send me an email. I lost my address book. 🙂


  12. Cooler Heads Digest 11 March 2011  

    […] 55 Positive Externalities: Hail to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment! Chip Knappenberger, MasterResource.org, 10 March 2011 […]


  13. Global Savings: Billion-Dollar Weather Events Averted by Global Warming | Watts Up With That?  

    […] with ways that anthropogenic climate change has made things better. And I am not talking about the well-known improvement to the planet’s plant life (including food crops) from increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide, but rather direct effects […]


  14. Terry Collins  

    I’ve always wondered about claims that global warming will cause mass extinctions of species. I mean, obviously, we don’t have wooly mammoths, saber tooth cats or short faced bears after coming out of the last Ice Age. But wouldn’t you think that we have a greater volume and diversity of life now than we did during the last Ice Age? I think it’s good that this article focuses on the direct effects of increased atmospheric CO2, because that’s the one thing that is pretty well substantiated, i. e. that the parts per million of atmospheric CO2 increased by 22% in the last 50 years. I don’t think there’s as much certainty about the amount of warming that will occur.


  15. Global Greening in the New York Times (CO2 benefits contradict SCC) - Master Resource  

    […] CO2 Coalition: Time to Play Offense Goklany for COP21: The Wonders and Happy Data of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) CO2 Benefits Exceed Costs by … 50:1, more? Carbon Dioxide: The Green Greenhouse Gas of Life (and ‘miracle molecule’) U.S. Rejection of CO2 Emission Cuts: Just Do the Math (16% and falling ….) 55 Positive Externalities: Hail to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment […]


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