Grass Science

by John Daly (from Still Waiting for Greenhouse) 15 Dec 2002
It is now widely understood that enhanced levels of atmospheric CO2 will have beneficial effects on all plants, enabling them to grow faster, with greater  vegetable mass, and use less water in doing so.

The last thing the `global warming' proponents want is for any perceived benefit arising from CO2 emissions to be admitted publicly.  Consequently, we see several "It's a benefit to plants, but..." type papers, where the authors dig up obscure and unlikely reasons why the benefit might be less than anticipated.

The latest published paper in that genre (Science, v.298, p.1987, 6 Dec 2002), titled `Grassland Responses to Global Environmental Changes Suppressed by Elevated CO2' by Shaw et al., engages in a series of speculations leaving the reader no wiser as to the point the authors are trying to make.

They even assert "Thousands of published papers describe plant or ecosystem responses to elevated CO2."  (p.1989). With that many papers on such an esoteric subject, (along with the massive funding spent in the preparation of those studies), one would be justified in wondering why yet another paper is even needed.  Clearly this issue has been the subject of scientific overkill - funded by the taxpayer who has had little or no value in return.

Indicative of the lack of clear reasoning in so many papers inspired by `global warming' is this verbose closing summary of the Shaw et al paper, a gem of modern `science-speak' - or how to avoid using two words when twenty will do.

"Ecosystem responses to realistic combinations of global changes are not necessarily simple combinations of the responses to the individual factors.  Accurate predictions of ecosystem responses to suites of global changes depend on successful integration across a range of processes and time scales.  Multifactor experiments on ecosystems that are easy to manipulate can provide a rich source of examples as well as test beds for exploring hypotheses with the potential to explain the responses of a wide range of ecosystems.  Future experiments should develop theoretical and empirical frameworks for integrating information from these model ecosystems with information from less easily studied ecosystems that play important roles in the carbon cycle." 

Where's George Orwell now that we need him?  

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