Since agricultural scientists have announced earlier this week that carbon-dioxide increases crop productivity per acre while ultimately contributing to climate change, many respondents and commenters on social media have been expressing the “foolishness” of the scientific study, saying it goes contrary to the fundamentals of science.

For example, a reader on a news blog says “Ridiculous. Green plants capture CO2 to manufacture sugars using sunlight and water with Oxygen as the byproduct during the day, with a small CO2 output at night. Ancient Earth had concentrations of CO2 far higher than today, it is green plants that transformed the atmosphere and provide the Oxygen we breathe. CO2 is not a pollutant, it is plant food, any man-made increase of CO2 ppm is beneficial to plants”.

Another reader who disagrees with the latest published study says “There is no data provided to prove this refills hypothesis. Plants utilize CO² as a food source to create sugars the oxygen is then released back into the air. If crops are creating CO2 that would mean our atmosphere would be improved by killing of all plants and animals…Let’s set the crops on fire then set up firing squads the kills the billions of people on the planet who emit CO². What a crazy stupid thought”.

A reader sent a mail to this writer saying, “Interesting. If crops like corn, wheat, and soybean add CO2 to the earth when they die, what about cattail?”

But then, Mark Friedl, the lead author of the study from the Boston University maintains that “Over last 50 years, area of croplands in the Northern Hemisphere has been relatively stable, but production has intensified enormously. The fact that this land area can affect the composition of the atmosphere is an amazing fingerprint of human activity on the planet”.

And Liz Blood of the National Science Foundation adds that “This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide. It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems.”

The fact remains that while the scientists have published the results of a study conducted over time, they will continue to bring research conclusions and hypothesis to the attention of the public to enable them make informed decisions.

48 Responses

  1. congressive

    “For example, a reader on a news blog says “Ridiculous.'” Another reader on a news blog says “contrails are growing pubic hair on my bowling ball.”

  2. David Horn

    I would like to see a link to the original study.

    The statement:
    “agricultural scientists have announced earlier this week that carbon-dioxide increases crop productivity per acre while ultimately contributing to climate change,..” is ambiguous and bad writing. It depends on how you interpret it.
    Strictly speaking it does not say crops contribute to climate change. It says that Carbon Dioxide ultimately contributes to climate change. Which is correct.

    Crops convert CO2, water, and energy to HydroCarbons and O2. It stands to reason that a higher concentration will result in higher crop yields. If we allow the dead plants after harvesting to rot and oxidize, some of the CO2 will be released back into the atmosphere. If we burn the stalks for energy, we get Renewable Energy.

    Maybe the original article is comparing the effects of growing crops or trees on CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Trees have the advantage of keeping the CO2 locked up for a longer time.
    Notes to author and editor: 1) Please avoid ambiguous language. 2) When writing about another article or study, give a link to the article or study.

  3. Jim

    It’s obvious that their mistake is assuming there is a possibility that “the public [will] make informed decisions.” The posters here show that thought a fantasy. The willful ignorance on parade is stunning.

  4. saltydog77

    So ways to increase crop yields include more fertilizer; increase use of hybrid varieties; increased mechanization; and more water which in drought prone areas. Less rainfall means increased reliance on irrigation from ground water that contains an increase of dissolved salts. And we all realize that plants and their root systems do not like salt. Some plants remain fertile only within a narrow range of temperatuers, a couple of years of hotter or colder temps at polinitation time could result in decreased or no pollination at all. The problem and their solutions are much more complicated that we realize.

  5. saltydog77

    According to Chris Cullis, PhD at Case Western Reserve University, the Co2 that was stored by the plant in its tissues was released into the air when the plant was tilled under and decomposition began. An increase in human population (all exhaling Co2 ) tilling under of crops that fed all these people causing Co2 to be released, and likely the dozens of other causes that we have yet to discover.

    • Al_Packer

      But not all the CO2 is released when the plant is ploughed under; when proper tillage practices are followed, some carbon compounds remain in the soil. This in turn produces better soil quality that promotes better growth.

  6. TheTruthAsIKnowIt

    OMG. Everythign causes global warming even though they rig the dats

  7. Tim M

    The original study identified how crops effect the seasonal amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants absorb CO2 as they grow, the decomposition of those plants release CO2, this is not new news. What was new was applying that science to the huge amount of food crop production in this country. The authors correctly stated that this data should be incorporated into models which simulate CO2’s affects on climate change. Its amazing how this study has received criticism from global warming advocates. Last week NASA released a simulation of seasonal atmospheric CO2 and these same people applauded it as proof of CO2’s detrimental effects even though that simulation was based on extrapolations of “observations” and not scientifically measured levels of CO2. Bottom line is that if you really want to solve a problem then more data is good, even if it doesn’t fit your paradigm.

  8. Guest

    Their results show increased crop yield causes increased CO2 emissions. Where does the extra CO2 come from? The crops are not nuclear reactors. The extra carbon must come from somewhere. Fertilizer is made from phosphate and nitrate, so that’s not it. It would have to be pulling carbon out of the ground, so over the years the soil would be depleted of carbon. The mass doesn’t balance. The chemical engineer in me says that something is fundamentally flawed with this study.

    • Woodwind

      All the study is saying is that in spring and summer crops pull CO2 out of the air (CO2 is the primary plant food after all), then when the crops are harvested and the stalks rot, CO2 is released back into the air. Anyone who knows anything about plant physiology already knew this, of course. What is somewhat new is putting numbers to the magnitude of this seasonal cycle. This study informs us that nearly 25% of the annual variation in atmospheric CO2 is this cycling of carbon by crops.

  9. whentimeisscarce1

    I guess blogger comments are all the Koch brothers have left to support their asinine arguments.

  10. fnugget

    Wow. Everyone read the initial report wrong. Do your research. It doesn’t refute basic science. It discusses a very narrow topic. Read it again carefully.

  11. whentimeisscarce1

    I guess the “respondents” are the experts Koch industries is referring to when they claim there are many who disagree with climate change.

  12. Peter Carrol

    Josh wake up. There is not a non bias scientist out there. I have a degree in environmental biology from the University of Colorado. When I think back about the professors I was indoctrinated by, they were all biased …and 99% liberal! It took me years in the dreaded private sector to see the plain truth.

  13. bosapinhead

    “The fact remains that while the scientists have published the results of a study conducted over time, they will continue to bring research conclusions and hypothesis to the attention of the public to enable them make informed decisions.”

    I’m continually amazed at how some perceived as “learned” people use commentary to try and direct our attitudes, and that sentence is a perfect example.
    The fact is that the author and the principals involved in this study have both attempted to reinforce a conclusion whose premise can be no more than a small corallary to the research. As always, the original reason for the research study is not given so it must be assumed the outcome met the objective.

    To drive public opinion.

    This then, is not earth science, it is psychological abuse of the populace.
    It is propaganda.
    Pure and simple.
    Chances are it was funded by the government too. WAKE UP!

  14. Mike Rudmin

    It looks to me like what they are saying, is: if you take a carbon fixing plant (like a tree), that then falls to the ground and becomes dirt, and replace it with a carbon fixing plant (like corn), that gets eaten and then exhaled as CO2, then you have just eliminated a major element of carbon sequestration.

    So cropland usage of land *is* a source of CO2 footprint when viewed on that balance sheet.

    The solution to that would be to move to compost-heavy biointensive gardening, and reduce meat consumption. If you are improving the carbon content of your soil, then you are sequestering carbon.

    • Borderlord

      In the study, it points out that cropland area has remained fairly stable, and the effects studied are the result of higher crop yields.
      Unfortunately, journalists are promoting this research as meaning that crops contribute to global warming, which is not true, except very indirectly, as they allow more people to live.
      The carbon cycle for annual plants, including crops, is just a shorter period cycle of all plants. They absorb CO2 while growing, to produce biomass. At the end of the growing season, they begin to decompose, which releases some of the carbon as carbon dioxide. A tree does the same thing, but over a longer period of time.

  15. jokinjo

    The “signifigcant contribution” is to the seasonal variation in CO2 levels – absorbed in spring and summer – released in winter and fall.

    • Westmiller

      Correct. The media thinks “seasonal variability” is too complex for their stupid readers, so they cherry-picked the decomposition as adding CO2 and – *scary story* – contributing to global warming. All the study says it that crops grow and die faster than trees.

  16. Jerry Fischer

    Global warming is bunk which proponents continually need to make up things they call “science” trying to scare people into paying higher taxes.

      • sjames


        Does he need a degree? Al Gore doesn’t have a degree on climatology, neither do any of these /Hollywood climate change nuts. Is there opinion now disqualified because they don’t have a piece of paper?
        Fact is, if these people truly believed what they were saying, then they would stop traveling in private jets with massive motorcades and sell their outlandish homes. They don’t care, they just want what comes with it.

  17. whentimeisscarce1

    The research makes perfect sense to me. The green revolution of the 1950’s and 60’s was mostly about producing fertilizers from fossil fuels. Crop plants are just another way of consuming oil and natural gas.

  18. Pete

    The extremists are offended, so we should disregard the facts again and blame people and corporations, what a joke liberals are.

    • whentimeisscarce1

      The joke is that someone actually wrote an article about the asinine opinions of you ignorant teabilly flunk outs.

  19. petetruth

    Does anyone realize that our plants in our world NATURALLY consume CO2 and then there is this thing called photosynthesis that converts that into OXYGEN!!! I mean.. CROPS EMIT OXYGEN NOT CO2!!! How could this study be right!!! Sure we know COWS emit CO2, but then plants take it in and convert to oxygen. This is HOW the WORLD WORKS!!!!

    • William R. Mosby

      Destruction of organic matter in soil can release CO2, but only to a certain extent, and then only once. So I don’t see how agriculture can be an ongoing source of CO2 directly, except of course for fossil fueled machinery used in agriculture.

    • fnugget

      Read the initial report. It’s a narrow scope. It discusses CO2 emission when crop waste rots. It doesn’t all go into the dirt. Compare corn to other crops. We take the ears of corn but where does the leaves, husks, and stalk go?

    • whentimeisscarce1

      Typical teabilly ignorance, and you morons want to be taken seriously?

      • Jeremy D. Pike

        I don’t think going around accusing people of being “teabillies” is a good way to be taken seriously, either.

      • saltydog77

        Please, don’t scold him. Can’t you tell he obviously suffers from low self-esteem and uses name calling to boost his impression of himself..

      • congressive

        One scientist states the moon is rock and another says it’s God’s cheeseball. They should both be taken equally serious, right? Liberals should embrace all words coming out of imbecile’s mouths or risk being perceived as intolerant.

  20. PAT RIOT

    “The fact remains that while the scientists have published the results of a study conducted over time, they will continue to bring research conclusions and hypothesis to the attention of the public to enable them make informed decisions.” HAHAHAHAHAHA (informed decisions) HAHAHAHAHA

  21. petetruth

    Can you imagine that the CLIMATE GURUS are now saying that we must limit crops and let the poor starve and die to save the planet??? This is DOWNRIGHT SCARY!!!! These people will go to ANY length to prove (falsely) they are right. DISGUSTING!

    • wonderingstevie

      You have to admit that limiting crops and letting the poor starve would cut CO2 production and thus global warming. If you going to do it, do it right.

  22. Josh Weinstein

    I am not a scientific expert in any of this, so I don’t know how valid the original story is. If it is true, then we must accept it as science. However, if the report was put out by climate change deniers looking to discredit the idea of doing something about climate change by using questionable scientific methods and cherry-picking data, then that is a problem. I’m not saying that the study is invalid – like I said, I am not a science expert in this area. I would wait to hear from the more well known and respected groups like the National Academy of Sciences. We need to listen to actual scientists, not groups pushing a liberal or conservative agenda.

    • spencer60

      Just look at the things scientists believed were true 100 years ago. Even 50 years ago.

      Many of them weren’t ‘true’ at all.

      What people need to understand is that Science is a process of inching towards answers to the questions you are asking without ever truly arriving at an ultimate ‘truth’.

      In fact Science is incapable of ‘proving’ a right answer… it simple can point out the ‘least wrong’ ones. It can be used to disprove something, but that is NOT the same as ‘proving that thing.

      And of course you have your biases, conscious and unconscious.

      There is no way these ‘results’ stand on there own, there are simply too many variables in the various climate models to say ‘increase in food crops cause X percent increase in CO2’.

      And even if it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, so what? Are we going to let people starve to fend off a nebulous menace 100 years from now?

      A study like this is simply an attempt to grab headlines, because that gets them funding, and that is the true result of most ‘science’ today.

    • Louis_Hooffstetter

      Josh, reproducible experiments have provided great insight into the process of photosynthesis. Real scientists (researchers who follow the scientific method) have a very good understanding of how it works. Most climatologists do not follow the scientific method. Their research is based on preconceived ideas and they refuse to release their data for replication. They may have doctorate degrees, but they do not qualify as scientists simply because they refuse to follow the scientific method. That makes them witch doctors and/or snake oil salesmen. This ‘research’ was done by witch doctors to mislead uniformed people into believing that growing crops contributes to climate change. They are committing fraud.

  23. Morgan

    I thought it was already established that plants in general, consume CO2? When did crops not classify as plants? This seems like another attempt at blaming humans for everything being bad for this world and how humans are oh so so powerful that they can alter the ultimate climate forces this planet has had established for eons.

    My farts are far deadlier to this planet’s ecosystem than expulsions of CO2 from my mouth ever were and the most my farts seem able to do is clear one room, in one house and relieve my sphincter of building pressure. I just don’t buy this study.

  24. Mystick

    Realize that the term “hypothesis” indicates a scientific assertion still in the early stages of development that still requires a lot of modelling, experimentation, and review. It’s in no way a truly indicative representation of a real aspect of the universe.

    • Tyler

      That is correct, Mystick. The problem isn’t scientists doing their job. It’s journalists eager for a sensationalist headline who write articles about unfinished studies and inconclusive experiments still under peer review. We see this happen all the time. The amount of misinformation out there is irritating.

      • Al_Packer

        Not to mention the numbers of readers of articles like this who do not understand what the article actually said.

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