A Free-Market Energy Blog

‘The Greening of Planet Earth’ (the 1992 video, updated in 1998, needs another update)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 25, 2013

“[M]any industry groups have maintained that putting carbon dioxide in the air would produce a general ‘greening’ of the planet. In fact, that’s the thesis of a famous 1992 video, “The Greening of Planet Earth,” which riled the environmental community more than just about anything else [because] … big-name scientists were willing to appear and argue that carbon dioxide will enhance global plant growth.”

- Patrick Michaels, Global Warming Produced a Greener, More Fruitful Planet, September 13, 2001.

Today, President Obama sounds the climate alarm and calls for more regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2). Throwing bad regulation after bad in the name of climate change is all about costs without commensurate benefits. Simple math shows that unilateral action by California or the U.S. or North American will not have a discernible influence on climate decades out.

With the “pause” of global warming, it is time to consider the non-temperature effects of higher, growing atmospheric concentrations of CO2.

Happy Plants!

Thousands of controlled experiments show that plant matter thrives from higher airborne carbon dioxide levels, the subject of The Greening of Planet Earth.

The continuing work of Craig D. Idso (founder and head), Sherwood B. Idso, and Keith E. Idso at CO2 Science produced a Greening update, titled The Greening of Planet Earth Continued. The good folks at CO2 Science are fact-and-study ready to update Greening one more time with everyone’s support!

The 29-minute video sequel (1998) is described as follows:

In The Greening of Planet Earth Continues, expert scientists assert that CO2 is not a pollutant, but a nutrient to life on earth. The video further explores issues addressed in our first video, The Greening of Planet Earth, which has been distributed to more than 30,000 people worldwide.

Learn the facts about climate history and the problems with computer simulations used to predict the impact of increasing CO2 levels. Discover what increasing CO2 levels really mean — faster plant growth, greater agricultural yields and improved water-use efficiency in plants. Evidence shows a picture of the ongoing industrial evolution of humankind as the greening of planet earth continues.

400 PPM: Way Station to  Betterment

The intersection of lower climate sensitivity and carbon fertilization makes the increase of atmospheric CO2 to 400 parts per million less an alarm than a milestone to a moderately warmer, greener, more productive planet earth. 

As Harrison Schmitt and William Happer wrote in “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide” in the Wall Street Journal:

Contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.

Nowadays, in an age of rising population and scarcities of food and water in some regions, it’s a wonder that humanitarians aren’t clamoring for more atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The subtitle of the above article? “The demonized chemical compound is a boon to plant life and has little correlation with global temperature.”

Drawing upon the science of carbon fertilization, Marc Morano told Alex Morales (“Greenhouse Gases Hit Threshold Unseen in 3 Million Years, 5/10/13) to relax:

“The Earth has had many-times-higher levels of CO2 in the past,” said Marc Morano, former spokesman for Republican Senator James Inhofe and executive editor of Climate Depot, a blog that posts articles skeptical of climate change. “Americans should welcome the 400 parts-per-million threshold. This means that plants are going to be happy, and this means that global-warming fearmongers are going to be proven wrong.”


It is appropriate to give the last word to Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger who have fought the good fight for the last quarter century against climate alarmism. Trumpeted the intrepid two at Cato@Liberty (emphasis added):

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has recently reached a “milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm). In some circles, this announcement has been met with consternation and gnashing of teeth. The proper reaction is celebration.

The growth in the atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past several centuries is primarily the result of mankind’s thirst for energy—largely in the form of fossil fuels. According to the World Bank, fossil fuel energy supplies about 80% of the world’s energy production—a value which has been pretty much constant for the past 40 years.

During that time, the global population increased by 75%, and global energy use doubled. Global per capita energy use increased, while global energy use per $1000 GDP declined. We are using more energy, but we are using it more efficiently. In the developed world, life expectancy has doubled since the dawn of the fossil fuel era.

Explaining the positive externality of CO2, Michaels and Knappenberger continue:

Of course, burning fossil fuels to produce energy results in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, tipping the natural balance of annual CO2 flux and leading to a gradual build-up.

There are two primary externalities that result from our emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—

1) an enhancement of the greenhouse effect, which results in an alteration of the energy flow in the earth’s climate and a general tendency to warm the global average surface temperature, and

2) an enhancement of the rate of photosynthesis in plants and a general tendency to result in more efficient growth and an overall healthier condition of vegetation (including crops). There’s incontrovertible evidence that the planet is both warmer and greener than it was 100 years ago.

They then discuss the falling estimates of global warming from anthropogenic forcing:

As we continually document (see here for our latest post), more and more science is suggesting that the rate (and thus magnitude at any point in time) of CO2-induced climate change is not as great as commonly portrayed. The lower the rate of change, the lower the resulting impact.

If the rate is low enough, carbon dioxide emissions confer a net benefit. We’d like to remind readers that “it’s not the heat, it’s the sensitivity,” when it comes to carbon dioxide, and the sensitivity appears to have been overestimated.

Don’t worry, they conclude:

As new science erodes the foundation of climate worry, new technologies are expanding recoverable fossil fuel resources. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have opened up vast expanses of fossil fuel resources—mainly natural gas—that were untouchable just a few years ago. The discovery that the world is awash in hundreds of years of recoverable fuels is a game-changer, given the strong correlation between energy use per capita and life expectancy.

400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should remind us of our continuing success at expanding the global supply of energy to meet a growing demand. That success which ultimately leads to an improvement of the global standard of living and a reduction in vulnerability to the vagaries of weather and climate.

400 ppm is cause for celebration. “A world lit only by fire” is not.

MasterResource will continue to update readers on literature summaries on CO2 as the ultimate positive externality, an unpaid for byproduct of the industrial age.


  1. Eddie Devere  

    There are a couple of obvious problems with the logic in this article:

    (1) What’s important is not that there are positive externalities to global warming. There are many positive externalities, such as less severe winters for people living near the poles. The questions are: what is the net impact after summing up the positive and negative externalities? And is it fair that some people suffer (i.e. heat wave, floods or draught) while other see the positive benefits (warmer winters, open arctic access, and increased agricultural output in select locations.)

    (2) 400 ppm is not a cause for universal celebration. Remember that, while plants might like addition levels of CO2, the opposite is true for animals. CO2 is our waste product, and we are increasing the concentration of that waste product in the atmosphere (faster than plants are taking it out of the atmosphere.) Celebrating the fact that plants have more food while humans have more waste product in the atmosphere seem counter to the main goal of this blog…to increase human growth / knowledge / happiness through industrial progress.

    I suggest that the writers of this blog focus on calculating the net impact of higher CO2 concentrations (like the work being done by Richard Tol.) This is not easy work, and is incredibly difficult to do. But if you do not do this, you will likely just be seen as the “Mad Men” of the fossil fuel industry (i.e. you won’t be taken seriously by middle of the road Americans and you will end up just making the debate on this subject ever more polarizing.) In order to slow down this ever increasing polarization (due likely to the lack of common external enemies and threats in the US), I’d like to include the following quote by F. Nietzsche in his book “Beyond Good and Evil”:

    “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”


    • rbradley  

      Eddie: Just keep in mind that as the sensitivity estimates of enhanced GHG forcing fall at or below the IPCC range, whole new sets of calculations of ‘global lukewarming’ need to be made.

      Robert Mendelsolhn’s work at 2C for 2x needs to be redone for 1.5C, and it is there that the net externality sign goes positive big time.

      Has Tol done his analysis for 1.5C?


  2. Ed Reid  

    The only possible solution to the problems caused by the intrusive actions of big government is even more intrusive actions by even bigger government. (sarc off)


  3. Eddie Devere  

    Richard Tol did a meta-analysis in 2009 of all of the studied done up to 2009 that estimated the net economic impact of higher temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions. The paper can be found here:

    The conclusion is that there is net economic benefit in the short term, and then economic damage above a roughly 2 deg C rise in temperatures above 2009 average temperatures. The individual analyses include effects such as sea level rise, warmer winters, hotter summers, and plant fertilization. I don’t think that it includes effects such as ocean acidification or health effects due solely to higher CO2 concentrations (i.e. as CO2 levels increase, it becomes harder for animals to exhaust CO2 into the atmosphere because the driving force for diffusion decreases. The driving force for diffusion should be proportional to the logarithm of the ratio of the partial pressure of CO2 in the lungs to the partial pressure in the atmosphere. As the partial pressure of CO2 in the environment increases, the driving force decreases and all animals will have to expend more work in order remove CO2 from our bodies. This is basically why CO2 levels are monitored in my office building so that they don’t go over 1000 ppm.)

    This paper by Tol is the best analysis so far of the economic impact of warmer temperatures; however, I’m sure that there’s still a lot of positive and negative factors not included in each of the individual analyses. There needs to be significantly more research into the “net” impact of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. My point in writing most of my comments to Master Resource is that all of the articles I see on this blog related to climate change are only focus on the positives. This is how polarization of begins, and it is unhealthy for the community at large because it focuses attention away from solving the real problem: how best to grow in a global, carbon-constrained world. If you want to attract people to your arguments, I would not celebrate the fact the CO2 concentrations are increasing.
    Celebrations are for win-win situations. You shouldn’t be celebrating the fact that plants will grow faster and that winters will be warmer…while ignoring the fact that sea levels will rise, summers will be hotter, oceans will be more acidic, and it’s now harder for all animal species to breathe out CO2 from their lungs.

    By the way, my opinion of the President’s speech today was that it was over-the-top and overly grandiose. Unfortunately, we have a President who has no problem escalating the already-polarized debate on the subject. It would have been nice if he just stuck to facts. But two wrongs don’t make a right. The best things to do about over-the-top and overly grandiose speeches is just to ignore them, move on, and vote in elections.


  4. kuhnkat  

    Eddie Devere,

    Another view:

    There is no empirical science showing that ANY of the IPCC prognostications are possible much less probable. The models that show 2c+ warming all have the HotSpot with cooling strat and raised tropopause. None of these are evident after 30 years of measurements. As the upper troposphere is supposed to be warming at a rate of at least twice the surface, according to these models, there is NO room for ambiguity in their total

    Model Fail


  5. Neil Craig  

    Eddie you points are (1) that CO2 must be having some effects worse than the benefits but yo9u give no evidence that they are and in any case they would have to be not just worse but enormously worse to justify the 10s of trillions of $ the alarmists are spending to marginally ameliorate it & (2) since Obama’s redefinition of CO2 as pollution is obviously fraudulent you are redefing it as waste which is pretty much the same.


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