back to article Global warming is actually good for rainforests, say boffins

OK, so let's take it that global warming is coming: that temperatures are set to rise by easily 3°C by the end of the century. Disaster, right? The tropical rainforests - lungs of the planet - will die, CO2 levels will thus rise even faster, a runaway process will set in and planet Earth will be transformed into a baking …

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  1. andy gibson
    Happy

    @ Pascal

    The treehuggers will probably take this fact "60 million years ago temperatures were up to 5°C higher than now " and claim that dinosaurs ignored global warning and look what happened to them....

  2. Adrian Challinor
    Coat

    self managing feedback

    CO2 goes up

    Therefore temperature goes up

    So more trees grow

    And trees take CO2 from the atmosphere

    FEEDBACK! The panet is selfsustaing.

    Provided, of course, we all stop using wood for paper and stop decimating the rain forest. Did I mean decimate or anhilate? oh, this is the wrong story for that debate, sorry I'll my coat. Its the paper one with Feedback for Fun and Profit in the pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Cause and effect

      I'm waiting for a peer-reviewed paper that proves CO2 attracts planet-killer asteroids. Or pirates. Or something.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        mosquitos?

        Q

  3. The Other Steve
    Boffin

    EVERYBODY STOP DOING SCIENCE!!!

    Dammit, boffins, if the plebs get wind that the sky might not falling they'll never let us opress them and we'll have to go back to being a bunch of bolshie nobodys !

  4. Jolyon

    Thie title brought to you by the letter T and the word adiós

    Is greenhouse damage to the rainforests something people have been all that concerned about?

    Or is this a bit like telling gullible mums how much milk they'd have to drink to get as much iron as there is in some lab-created substitute?

    I can't believe that many people would be surprised that tropical plants would be happy in a greenhouse.

    On the other hand chopping them down and growing cows in their place has been flagged as something we might want to avoid.

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Old news backwards

    Increased temperature alone was not expected to kill rain forests. It would increase the activity of fungi and parasites so that trees would spend more energy on there immune systems, and less converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. The effect of increasing CO2 is not obvious, and years ago it was sensible to decrease emissions as a precaution because the potential costs could be enormous.

    Somehow, words like 'precaution', 'potential' and 'could' have mysteriously been replaced by 'necessary', 'certain' and 'will', without clearly published data to back them up. I am all for reducing our dependence on oil and gas independent of whether global warming is real or not. Unfortunately the current fashion is to build an impractical amount of over priced wind turbines - which will not be an effective way to substantially decrease dependence on oil and gas or reduce CO2.

  6. Chewy

    One small problem

    is that we've been cutting down those rain-forests so what we've got left is a wheezing smoker's lung not working on the original capacity

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A title

      Because 'precaution', 'potential' and 'could' dont loosen government purse strings, or attract private investment as effectively as 'necessary', 'certain' and 'will'.

      Wind turbines and other 'green' technologies are not great, but you have to start somewhere and anything to shutdown fossil and wood fueled stations is a good start.

  7. CD001

    Ummm...

    Is this not just common sense?

    Trees "inhale" CO2 and "exhale" O2 throughout the day ... and they thrive in warmer climates. If you want certain plants to grow well in our chillier northern climes you put them in a greenhouse...

    "Global warming" and higher CO2 levels would create a very plant-friendly environment I'd have thought. If the Discovery Channel hasn't lied to me then there was a LOT of CO2 in the atmosphere when plants first colonised the land and with little to eat them they spread like wild-fir (sorry) eventually absorbing enough CO2 and emitting enough Oxygen to chill the planet somewhat and raise O2 levels to a point much higher than they are today - leading to bloody big insects (dragonflies with 2m wingspan and the like).

    In fact, on a geological timescale, global warming is something of a non-issue. The planet has been much warmer in the past and it will (probably) be much warmer in the future. It's only us fragile meatbags that might suffer.

  8. Ku...

    A sample of 1 is not statistically reliable

    Remember science is based on the evidence of a body of research. One paper does not mean universal truth. However, there is a definite trend in published research which says that the cataclysmic predictions of earlier researchers were overstating the case.

    This is one more block in that body of evidence.

    Interesting.

    But not a final answer all on its own.

    So while I welcome reporting on the continual research into climate change I hope we aren't falling into the tabloid trap of thinking that one published report changes everything.

    1. copsewood
      Grenade

      Sure is common sense

      Increasing humidity, C02 and warmth for plant growth is common sense, so long as you don't mind having to evacuate coastal cities and plains where most people live. Next time you buy a house make sure it's at least 100 meters above sea level and nowhere near to a big river. And keep a few AK47s, machine guns and grenades at hand to fight off the climate change refugees who will want what you've got when most of the cities flood.

  9. John Murgatroyd

    Everyone

    needs to calm down.

    No need for exaggeration, no need for hyperbole and definitely no need for hysteria.

    Yes, there will still be chocolate.

    But you need to get perspective here.

    It will not be MILK chocolate.

    For that you need milk.

    And cows.

    And grass.

    So the rain forests need to be limited so we can have fields for the cows, to get milk.

    Never mind global warming, never mind CO2, never mind the rain forests.

    As long as we have chocolate (and beer and music) things will work out.

  10. Mad Mike
    Thumb Up

    Nature is all powerful

    As a species we have an inbuilt need to feel all powerful and imporant. The idea that something might be more powerful or stronger than us is not allowed. Therefore, when global warming came along (or call it by its more common name these days, climate change), it had to be our fault as we're all powerful. It couldn't possibly also be the planet simply changing, much like it has done countless times in the past. We've had ice ages and periods of significant warming over history, even quite recent history. The middle ages were relatively warm compared to today. But, no, it had to be us as we're all powerful. So, using the same logic, if it was to be fixed (does it actually need fixing?), we had to do it. Hence, the entire climate change religion. The idea that nature might actually be able to keep it in balance is silly as obviously we're more powerful than nature.....aren't we. So, if CO2 levels rise, rain forest etc. gets bigger and keeps it in check!!

    Now inconvenient.

  11. Some Beggar
    FAIL

    Welcome to the Lewis Page Straw Clutching Society newsletter.

    I do hope nobody mentions the involvement of the following groups with this paper:

    Colombian Petroleum Institute

    Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.

    Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos, Bogota

    1. Yamal Dodgy Data
      Troll

      3.. 2.. 1... Here comes the Eco-Trolls

      @Some(Eco)Buggar:

      Have you been summoned by the eco-loons jungle telegraph to flame the El Reg Journos ?

      (although looking at your posting history you may just well be a general purpose troll)

      It's a pity your all so predictable with your logical fallacies

      Is a bog standard Type 1. Ad hominem the best you eco-loons can ever do ?

      There's a top twenty logical fallacies list available to choose from

      http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx

      You should hope no one ever mentions the involvement of the following groups funding the Carbon Cult scare:

      -Goldman Sachs (profit from a carbon credit derivatives trade)

      -Catlin Group (profit from eco insurance via climate-terror stories)

      -WWF (yep profit from carbon offsets buying third world forests and evicting the natives)

      1. 42
        WTF?

        Dodgy data

        Is mainly the preserve of the loopy denialists like yourself sir.

        The above poster at least provides the links to prove his claim, unlike your baseless accusations.

        Is that you Lewis, (Or Orlowski perhaps) I mean we know you wil print anything that might vaguley contradict AGW, and never mention the vast bulk of the evidence that indicates AGW is happening.

        Amusing that ELReg imitates Fox news in its approach to AGW eh?

      2. Some Beggar

        Dull poster is dull.

        If your strongest response is to label somebody a troll then you've already failed.

        (and you might want to look up the difference between "your" and "you're")

  12. Sapient Fridge
    Flame

    A fine example of AGW denier spin

    Spin is best when it's mostly truth and simply misses out a few inconvenient facts. The article is a great example of this.

    Yes, the planet has been hotter in the past. Yes, it has had more CO2. Yes, the jungles were lush, and yes, life will adapt. Everything in the article is true, the only thing missing is the amount of time it will take life to adapt to the new warmer conditions. It's millions of years.

    The problem is that evolution happens very s..l..o..w..l..y and the planet is warming far faster than nature can adapt. This is why the extinction rate is thousands of times higher than the background rate. The planet has *never* warmed up as fast as it is doing now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Furthermore

      There weren't that many dinosaur cities near the coast.

    2. Baskitcaise
      Boffin

      evolution happens very s..l..o..w..l..y...

      It sped itself up a bit when that fookin big rock hits us though, and look, we are still here.

      1. Sapient Fridge

        evolution happens very s..l..o..w..l..y

        And how many years ago was the "fookin big rock" and how long did it take for life on the planet to recover? I'll give you a clue, both answers are in the millions of years range.

    3. Yamal Dodgy Data
      Troll

      3.. 2.. 1... Here comes the Eco-Trolls (Part 2)

      @sapient fridge:

      At least your a bit more entertaining

      You've used the Type 16 "Special pleading, or ad-hoc reasoning" logical fallacy.

      Which is "the arbitrary introduction of new elements into an argument in order to fix them so that they appear valid".

      But you lose your points by doing an Ad hominem on Lewis Page,

      I guess eco-loons just can't resist the type 1 logical fallacy.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    Great for rainforests...

    That is, if we haven't cut them all down by then. I believe something like an area the size of Wales is felled per day, so at that rate I doubt the boost in growth caused by all the extra CO2 will be enough to counteract our industrial-scale deforestation.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who cares?

    Unless all the CO2 reduces the stamina of the lumberjack or prevents his chainsaw from working then it's all pointless research ;)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Daily Mail style reporting

    The Register has set a new low for Daily Mail style reporting when it comes to the environment. I find it difficult to see how you can claim rain forests flourished 60 million years ago, when modern tree species only *began* to evolve and appear at that time. How can something that doesn't yet exist be flourishing?

    I suspect The Register has skim read a conclusion, not properly understood it, and reported it as suits.

    There's a big clue in the quoted text:

    "The boffins write:

    We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms"

    Go look up what an angiosperm is.

  16. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Stop

    The real problem for the trees is...

    Not the increasing C02 levels, but the shortsighted idiots that persist in cutting them down en masse.

    I'm sure that I could find a link between the two if I tried really hard.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    After the U.S./Canadian war...

    Global warming means that all that useless ice up there in North U.S. (formerly known as "Canada") will melt so the U.S. can use it to grow crops and build cities and find oil an' stuff - you know, to compensate for whatever lower-U.S. land might be lost because of climate changes an' ocean rising. Canadians complain, no prob, a minor technicality. The player with the best weapons, wins.

    ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a Canadian, I fully expect the above...

      message to be quite accurate.

  18. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Misleading headline

    Warmer temperatures might be good for rainforests, but the important bit is how long did it take for those temperatures to become established, and did rainfall patterns match those expected from the current warming?

    One thing we do know from pollen cores is that the Amazon has repeatedly dried out in the past and been replaced by savannah-like landscapes dominated by grasses. The climate models suggest the Amazon is going to become more dominated by a wet and dry season which would encourage the die-off of trees.

  19. BristolBachelor Gold badge
    Badgers

    Rainforrests not doing so well

    This is just a theory but in actual fact, the rain forrests are being cut down at a high rate to plant crops for "eco-diesel".

    Oh the irony that higher temperatures would be ok for the rain forrests, but some spanner throwing monkey means that they'll all be cut-down to "stop global warming". And then further irony that the Earth has been warming for many thousands of years before man burnt his first piece of wood or coal, and in fact is the reason that the galciers no longer meet at the equator!

  20. Stumpy Pepys
    Unhappy

    Sigh

    I like The Register, but the tiresome global warming denial reminds me of the MMR-autism rubbish that used to be at the back of Private Eye.

    You can make a case for everything being fine and dandy 60 million years ago, but you seem to ignore the fact that sea levels were hundreds of meters higher during that period.

    1. The Other Steve

      So ?

      "You can make a case for everything being fine and dandy 60 million years ago, but you seem to ignore the fact that sea levels were hundreds of meters higher during that period."

      Boats. That is all.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just one tanker-sized problem with El Reg's post...

    As per the El Reg modus operandi when it comes to climatology, take a paper that seemingly backs their skewed, denialist view and blow it out of proportion. Perhaps they could do us all the courtesy of reading the paper again and reporting WHAT IT ACTUALLY SAYS IN FULL. Global warming alone is not at all good for the rainforests as plants do not grow on increased temperatures or CO2 alone. Plants also need water. The current modelling and actual evidence for the threat to the rainforests of today from AGW is that there isn't a concomitant rise in the amount of WATER in the areas, to go along with the CO2 and heat. In fact, it is the opposite. There is less humidity, less rainfall and less water available to the fauna. Consequently, increasing temperatures are not good for the rainforest this time around and cannot be good.

    Relevant bit of text from the article for the idiots writing for El Reg:

    "Greenhouse experiments have shown that high levels of CO2 together with high levels of soil moisture improve the performance of plants under high temperatures (25), and it is possible that higher Paleogene CO2 levels (26) contributed to their success. ***Higher precipitation amounts could have been as important as high CO2. Precipitation reconstruction from a nearby Late Paleocene site, Cerrejon, indicate high precipitation regimes: about 3.2 m of rain per year.***"

    That is diametrically opposed to what is happening today.

    1. copsewood
      Boffin

      Please quote your sources

      "That is diametrically opposed to what is happening today."

      Not so sure either of us have a very good _global_ understanding of precipitation trends. Over the last 20 years or so, following previous decades of desertification, the Sahel has been getting greener:

      http://www.eoearth.org/article/Greening_of_the_Sahel

      The problem is dominant memories of those old enough to have seen the very many news reports prior to this greening of the advancing desertification there. But the subsequent greening of the Sahel hasn't been reported in the same way at all, just one or 2 academic papers such as the one above based upon satellite imagery, and a few field observations I've seen which substantiate the above paper, which have received virtually zero media coverage.

    2. The Other Steve
      Badgers

      Thermogeddon

      "There is less humidity, less rainfall and less water available to the fauna."

      And yet, that is not at all what yet another bit of research being widely screamed about by the chicken-littlers shows, suggesting that in fact the concomitant rise in humidity (hint: water evaporates more in the hot) will surely be what kills us all as parts of the planet become uninhabitable - because humans don't shift heat efficiently in high humidity* and eventually they die from heat stress.

      And yet people keep talking about this shit as though all the data, models, theories and predictions broadly agree.

      Funny that.

      *Personally, most places south of Rome already fall into this category for me, so this scenario is unlikely to affect my habits, YMMV.

      1. Tim Parker

        Straw man

        ..i'm sure you're familiar the concept.

  22. chrisjw37
    Megaphone

    Open University covered this in 1996

    This was in my degree, Open University covered this in 1996.

    ie all the clever buggers already knew this;

    plus So2 benefits to the ozone layer and even

    Polar ice cap melting is a myth, at least for the next 1000,000 years.

    You wanna know sumut? Just ask.

  23. Stuart Halliday

    It's Ok USA will come to the rescue

    As South America cuts back the Rainforest, the USA will have to come to the trees rescue as 30% of water supplied to the USA is supplied via rain via the Rainforest.

    And America can't let Las Vegas or its huge crop fields dry up now can it?

    Did this scientist not read any of the GAIA books by James Lovelock??

  24. Steven Knox Silver badge
    FAIL

    Cart, Horse

    "OK, so let's take it that global warming is coming: that temperatures are set to rise by easily 3°C by the end of the century. Disaster, right? The tropical rainforests - lungs of the planet - will die, CO2 levels will thus rise even faster, a runaway process will set in and planet Earth will be transformed into a baking lifeless hell."

    Ummm, no. You've got cause and effect all screwed up. The loss of rainforests is one of the causes, not effects, of GW (reduction of vegetation reduces carbon absorbed, etc.) The cause of rainforest loss is not GW, but massive active deforestation efforts.

    Sure, thriving rainforests could help mitigate GW, but 1) they take time to grow, and 2) we as a species appear to have this irrational aversion to land that is not flat and, ideally, paved.

    If any of this is news to you, I'd suggest you head to the adolescent section of your local library to further your research, as that is the level of information you appear to be missing.

  25. Bucky 2
    Pint

    Oh, pshaw

    We must take as axiomatic the twin principles:

    1) Change is bad

    2) The more complicated/poorly understood a process is, the more dangerous it is

    Climate change is bad because it's change. Also, it's complicated, and therefore dangerous.

    We don't need scientists telling us anything about this. We already know. And if they contradict these principles, then they are up to no good.

    (This is why we call them "boffin'-ses"--they all want our Precious)

  26. Richard 126

    None

    We are busy talking about tropical rainforest and how it will cope and if it will continue to pump out oxygen but miss the point that approximately 70% of the worlds oxygen comes from plankton and cynobacteria in the ocean. Why no discussion of the effect or lack of it that global warming is having on ocean plants?

  27. Triggerfish

    The worst thing about all this global warming lark.

    Is the fact that it completly overides the other consideration we should be having.

    Forest getting more CO2 and temp thrive yeah so what thought that was reasonably obvious in fact have a chat with people who grow planted fish tanks they have been adding CO2 to their tanks for years to boost rates.

    The problem is though everyone is so busy arguing about wether the climate change is happening or wether it is caused by us, that its overiding the fact that it would be nice to ave some environment left to worry about its said effects on.

    There does seem to be proof that the earth has gone through global warming and cooling periods before and that organisms have survived, but I would also guess that a lot of the same organisms died luckily at the time they probably had large enough populations to act as buffer zones to take the losses, the biggest problem we face is that we are constantly encroanching upon thise buffer zones.

    Course a lot of this is getting ignored as we argue over wether having more cows/ 4WD is a cause of climate change or not, personally for me thats the biggest problem with climate change.

    Stop just looking at the climate debate, try to think of what else is happening

  28. Philip Lewis
    FAIL

    F*** AGW

    I predict with a very high degree of certainty that there will be another iceage. Iceages are bad for mammels without fur. Adapt or perish.

    The AGW is a storm in a teacup created by the religious zealots of our time. "Move along, nothing to see here..."

    The sad part is the the AGW thing is taking "our eye" off of the "ball" so to speak. I think we need another "mini ice-age" to refocus our attention, before the "big one" arrives.

  29. Flybert
    Happy

    Warm Earth is good

    1. We are at a natural peak of interglacial warmth ( means between major ice age coldest period )

    and have been for about 8000 years .. this cycle is about 120,000 years and has been repeating for about 2,000,000 years .. during this 8000 years , there have been several relatively minor fluctuations .. the one that we can document as warmer than now, was the medieval warming period ...

    2. We can not accurately measure CO2 levels from ice cores, because the best resolution is 300 years, and it takes 4000-6000 years to form solid ice cores, and to some degree or another, the atmosphere during those 4000-6000 years mixes with the snow / ice .. in other words, there could have been a spike of CO2 higher than today for 50 years, and you would not see it in the ice core, provided the CO2 level was lower, on average, over 300-6000 years

    3. Plants .. including trees, are carbon neutral .. virtually all the CO2 plants bind up, is released back into the atmosphere over time .. either because the plant burns, or is eaten by animals, bugs, fungus, bacteria ..etc in the decay process

    4. The CO2 is higher because the ocean water is warmer and cannot absorb as much CO2 .. but please note the warming is first, causing the rise in CO2, not visa versa .. please look up "Carbon Cycle of Earth"

    5. It cracks me up that the "consensus" says CO2 increase is 9%-23% of global warming, and that water vapor is 50%-70% of the warming effect .. first it's funny because the range is so wide .. meaning it's very inaccurate 9 and therefore poor science ), and secondly funny because relative humidity has gone up in the same linear fashion as CO2 since 1951, yet no one is calling for water vapor reduction, or claiming said water vapor is excess man made water vapor

    6. this is important .. the UN did a study covering 1990-2000 to see the effect of increased CO2 on biosphere .. and they comcluded that over those 10 years there was 7% MORE Biomass ..

    .. it may very well be that we have not had massive famine any where in the world for decades, because of the CO2 increase .. because it is plant food ..and warmer land equals more crop land overall .. the CO2 and warming over the last 150 years, has been almost all a positive thing .. you can come to no other conclusion ..

    more water vapor = more rain and snow .. more snow is what will cool things down and lead us into the next ice age ( we are due for it as well in the natural cycle ) .. yet the oceans take 100s of years to cool down, so the tropics will keep evaporating water vapor into the air even as snowpack and glaciers rebuild, covering what is now valuable crop land and making growing seasons shorter elsewhere ..

    cold is the greater enemy of man .. 3 days of below freezing nights kills most food crops, heat, by itself does not .. remember .. colder air holds less moisture, cooler oceans evaporate less water vapor ( and absorb more CO2 ) .. so you have less rain over the remaining open land for crops and rivers, and the plant life grow less robustly with the lower CO2 levels .. which, BTW, helps it tolerate less water ..

    Nature in balance :-o

  30. gardener21
    Thumb Down

    Klaus Winter

    The article quotes Klaus Winter as saying, "It is remarkable that there is so much concern about the effects of greenhouse conditions on tropical forests". However, the full original quote went on a bit further:

    "It is remarkable that there is so much concern about the effects of greenhouse conditions on tropical forests. However, these horror scenarios probably have some validity if increased temperatures lead to more frequent or more severe drought as some of the current predictions for similar scenarios suggest."

  31. David 141

    Bleeding obvious

    So there were plenty of plants that thrived on a planet 5 degrees hotter and wetter. No real surprise there. But most of the tropical plants that thrived in the Cretaceous are extinct, so we'd have to wait a few million years for the new jungles to evolve. Maybe some of the existing species would like a change, but you know what they say about hothouse flowers

    Have you ever been to a jungle? Very pretty, but I wouldn't want to live in one. Call me a slave of my evolutionary background, but I like cooler, dryer, more open climates thank you.

  32. Washington Irving
    Badgers

    i generally like lewis page

    but strongly suspect his AGW posts are done entirely for the lulz, though they might just be for the cash.

    either way, the CO2 he emits seems to be just the kind of forcing required to create hot and stormy environments.

  33. Toastan Buttar
    WTF?

    Defrost

    I had to defrost the car this morning. How does that fit in with these so-called "Global Warming" theories?

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