New research published over the weekend by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that plants are significantly slowing global warming far more than previously suspected.
Scientists found as carbon dioxide (CO2) levels increased worldwide, plants responded by sucking more CO2 out of the air than before. Researchers used satellite measurements of vegetation cover to determine that global rates of photosynthesis and respiration had sharply increased, largely due to the extra CO2.
“The scientists attribute the stalled CO2 growth rate to an uptick in land-based photosynthetic activity, fueled by rising CO2 levels from fossil fuel emissions,” states a summary of the research. “It’s a snowball effect: as CO2 levels rise in the atmosphere, photosynthetic activity flourishes and plants take in more carbon, sparking more plant growth, more photosynthesis, and more carbon uptake.”
Effectively, the DOE researchers found that plant growth caused by global warming ultimately reduced temperatures by significant margins.
“The growth in greenery is a consequence of climate change. As the planet heats up, places that were once too chilly for most plants to grow have become steadily more hospitable,” The Economist reported. “That extra vegetation, in turn, exerts its own effects on the climate.”
The research was separately funded by the Laboratory Directed Research Development Program of Berkeley Lab and the Energy Department’s Office of Science.