Harrison Schmitt and William Happer wrote an excellent op-ed last week in the Wall Street Journal titled, “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide.” In the op-ed, Schmitt and Happer build a solid case for the benefits, as opposed to costs, occurring from an increase in the much maligned carbon dioxide. Schmitt, who is an Adjunct Professor of Engineering at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a distinguished reputation as an Apollo 17 astronaut and was formerly a US Senator from New Mexico. Happer is a Professor of Physics at Princeton University and was also the former director of the office of energy research at the Deparment of Energy.
According to Schmitt and Happer, rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have not led to the dramatic temperature increases some models have anticipated. In fact, the increase in carbon dioxide has been beneficial. Schmitt and Happer explain:
The current levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, approaching 400 parts per million, are low by the standards of geological and plant evolutionary history. Levels were 3,000 ppm, or more, until the Paleogene period (beginning about 65 million years ago). For most plants, and for the animals and humans that use them, more carbon dioxide, far from being a “pollutant” in need of reduction, would be a benefit. This is already widely recognized by operators of commercial greenhouses, who artificially increase the carbon dioxide levels to 1,000 ppm or more to improve the growth and quality of their plants.
Despite the strong argument both authors have made, several climate change alarmists have excoriated Schmitt and Happer. In attempt to discredit the op-ed, these alarmists have resorted to using hackneyed arguments and insults to reaffirm their opposition to what they see as a flawed and misleading op-ed. Gavin Schmidt called the op-ed, “idiotic”, and Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, in a reference to the discredited “Hockey Stick Graph” claims the op-ed ignores the graph’s depiction of rising temperatures.
Contrary to the claims of these detractors, Schmitt and Happer’s op-ed is well-supported. According to numerous peer-reviewed studies, increases in carbon dioxide will lead to a “greening of the planet” as plants absorb the carbon dioxide allowing them to flourish well-beyond their current state.
Therefore, as Schmitt and Happer so ably demonstrate, it is imprudent for policymakers to continue to classify CO2 under the category of harmful “pollutants”. By implementing such policies, we are being steered towards a disastrous outcome for our economic future.