Year 2, Month 8, Day 25: Cockroaches and Grasses?

More on the “Prairie grasses will do okay” story, this time from the August 7 Colorodoan, and featuring the researcher in charge describing his methodology. It’s pretty interesting:

CHEYENNE — On the plains west of here Thursday, plant physiologist Jack Morgan inspected some grasses growing on a plot surrounded by a hollow hoop beneath an array of small heaters suspended from metal rods.

“Can you hear the hissing sound?” he said. “That’s the sound of the CO2 being emitted. It does it at a controlled rate, and we measure it in the middle of that ring.”

What Morgan, a rangeland scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Fort Collins, really is measuring is how rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as a result of climate change might alter how grasses and weeds grow in the western Great Plains – critical information for ranchers and cattle owners who could see their businesses reshaped by climate change.

There are, alas, negative consequences to positive consequences. Hence this letter, sent August 7:

Jack Morgan and his research team are offering something rare: a positive side-effect of climate change. While their findings of plant resilience are very welcome, it’s important to keep a sense of the larger picture. Increased drought resistance is crucial on a climatically altered planet, because there’ll be more droughts — along with more extreme weather of all sorts. The prognosis for Earth’s environment over the next millennia is pretty grim; extreme losses of biodiversity are probably inevitable, even if prairie grasses do better than expected.

Powerful forces in our media and politics have been actively denying the scientific basis of climate change predictions for many years. As the evidence keeps mounting, we’ll start hearing a “global warming is good for us” message instead, in which studies like Dr. Morgan’s will be misapplied to advocate against meaningful action on climate and energy issues. This must not be allowed to happen.

Warren Senders

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