Earth Is Getting Greener, Thanks To CO2 Emissions

New research suggests that the "green" part of "greenhouse effect" is really working. While having more plants may sound good, it's still not clear how or whether desert areas will be affected.

Earth Is Getting Greener, Thanks To CO2 Emissions

What's the Latest Development?


Although recent satellite images show visual proof of the Earth's getting greener, the exact cause of that increase hasn't been pinned down. Randall Donohue of Australia's CSIRO research institute studied vegetation growth at the edges of deserts in several continents and found the the amount per unit of rainfall rose 11 percent between 1982 and 2010, mirroring the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. In the absence of rainfall changes, Donohue says that this is evidence of a "CO2 fertilization effect" that may be the reason for the increase in vegetation.

What's the Big Idea?

The idea of a greener world coming as a result of climate change may sound like a positive, and if Donohue's research is correct, it may be the case that deserts won't grow and get drier as has been predicted by experts. However, another researcher, Beth Newingham of the University of Idaho-Moscow, has recently published her findings involving a 10-year experiment with a greenhouse set up in the Mojave Desert. When extra CO2 was pumped in, she didn't see a corresponding increase in vegetation. She says, "You cannot assume that all these deserts respond the same. Enough water needs to be present for the plants to respond at all."

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