Wood for Thought
Written by Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser
2,000+ years old and counting, the giant redwood trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in California are having a great time – they are growing faster than ever before. A new study by UC Berkeley and Humboldt State University researchers finds them in a growth spurt that began about 100 years ago and began to accelerate in recent decades.
California’s redwood trees are among the oldest living organisms on earth. Some are over 3,000 years old and still going strong. So what’s the cause of their recent growth spurt?
Apart from a beneficial climate, trees grow when they have an adequate supply of three vital nutrients: (i) water, (ii) soil minerals and – you may be surprised to learn – (iii) carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Without plenty of each of these any tree will wilt or die.
With sufficient supplies of the first two key ingredients, depending on its location on earth, any kind of tree will grow at a rate determined by its ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and convert the sun’s radiation via the photosynthesis process to wood. The higher the level of CO2 in the air, the faster it will grow.
The dependence of tree growth on CO2 is well known to commercial enterprises growing tree saplings for reforestation in old mine shafts and similar facilities. The operators typically boost the CO2-level in the air from the current 400 ppm (parts per million) to 1,000 ppm and above. That’s still only half the CO2 concentration commonly found in submarines.
There is plenty of scientific evidence that such an increase in atmospheric CO2 increases the rate of growth of tree saplings; P. Driessen recently called it the “gas of life.” Why should it be any different for old-growth California redwoods?
Contrast that knowledge with EPA’s (the Environmental Protection Agency’s) claim that CO2 is a “harmful” gas. Well, in excess, anything is “harmful.” Whether life-sustaining oxygen in the atmosphere or water flowing down the river – too much at a time is simply too much. Any certified diver or first-aid volunteer learns that breathing oxygen above its natural partial pressure in the atmosphere can cause “oxygen poisoning” and may be detrimental to your health. Too much water is no different, you can drown in it.
EPA’s problem is the political pressures put on it by the current administration. Its recently appointed administrator has been quite vocal about “carbon pollution.” Along the same vein, the Interior Secretary is quoted as recently saying “I hope there are no climate-change deniers in the Department of Interior.” It is obvious, scientific discussion is not in vogue these days, in fact is not tolerated. However, this sham will eventually come to an end. There are many scientists who recognize it, but they are afraid of losing their research grants or even their jobs if they were to speak up. The system is currently rigged in favor of alarmism but just give it some time and it will change.
In the meantime, enjoy California’s redwood forests. Its trees may well live for another 1,000+ years, especially now when they can grow more easily – due to the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the last 100 years.