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A Tactic in Denial: Group Claims Co2 Is “Good” for the Environment

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.


“We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.”

--- Eric Hoffer

CO2 Is Not Green (& Why This Is a Common Tactic From Climate Change Denialists)

In the ongoing debate about climate change, deniers always seem to have a new tactic. Case in point: A commentator left disparaging messages on an article I wrote. The story was a critique of an infamous climate change denialist. The fact that the article pertained to climate change—despite being about the individual in question—was enough for this person to unleash his vitriol.

He ranted about how wrong I was, and posted a few links to a pseudoscience site to support his screed. In addition, he used the typical talking points that these exchanges tend to have.

These banters were:

  • The climate always changes;
  • Graphs and charts show years of steady temperatures;
  • The world is actually cooling;
  • It’s just a ploy to promote carbon tax;
  • It’s part of a conspiracy by climate scientists to get more funding; and
  • Al Gore is behind it.

To say the least, I’ve heard them all. And much of it has already been debunked by those who know a thing or two about climate science. Still, one line from his long, rambling comment got my attention.

“The increase of CO2 helps trees,” he wrote.

This wasn’t the first time, someone uttered this to me. A denialist on Twitter made the same type of comment on another article of mine. He claimed that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a natural gas that helps trees grow. I responded, but it was obvious he didn’t like it.

One of CO2 is Green Advertisements

One of CO2 is Green Advertisements

“I guess we need to stop cutting down the rain forest, then.” I wrote before he blocked me.

At the time, I took it for what it was: an overgeneralization of the role of CO2 in nature. Sure, CO2 is a naturally occurring gas, but it’s also the byproduct of industrial manufacturing. Too much of it can be a bad thing. These commentators, as far as I was concerned didn’t have a true understanding how it worked. Maybe, I thought this rhetoric from the two was coincidence.

Then, another an article from a climate-changer denier emerged. Then another from a known conservative commentator. Seemingly, blogs, vlogs, forums, social media, and other sites catering to the climate-change debate erupted into a “CO2 is good” mantra.

As a radio host once said, coincidence takes a lot of work. Somebody or something (a bot?) was spreading a false narrative that the denier were eating up and spitting out onto an unsuspecting audience.

The CO2 is Good movement is seemingly everywhere. However, its existence is no accident or a mere misunderstanding of science. For over a decade, a pressure group has been aggressively pumping out a campaign to reverse the designation of CO2 as a pollutant.

In addition, conservative pundits and deceptive “educational” organizations have used newspapers, the Internet, TV and radio to get their message to the masses. Although the information is easily debunked, it’s still reaching the hearts and mind of those that can influence public perception and policies on climate change.

How "CO2 Is Green" Was Born

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated CO2 as a pollutant that contributes to global warming. CO2 is considered a greenhouse gas. These gases prevent heat radiating from the Earth’s surface from escaping, thus trapping it and raising the temperature of the atmosphere. Although CO2 naturally occurs by means of decaying organisms and volcanic eruptions, it has been excessively produced by means of human activities.

The science was there to explain it; however, the need to label it a pollutant didn’t sit well with all. Immediately, a pressure group formed by two executive officers from the oil and energy industry came to fruition.

Leighton Steward and Corbin J. Robertson Jr. founded the organization and its entities. Steward was a retired vice chairperson of the oil and gas company, Burlington Resource. Robertson was a chief executive for Natural Resource Partners—a coal-resourcing corporation. The men and their pressure group are based in Houston, Texas. In addition, they established CO2 Is Green as a non-profit 501(c) (4); in other words, it is non tax-deductible and can engage in lobbying activities. Its sister site, Plants Needs CO2, is listed as 501 (c) (3), making them a charity with tax-deductible designation.

In addition, the site also promotes the concept of global cooling – a long debunked belief that the world was actually cooling rather than warming.

The new entity became CO2 Is Green. The name referred to the supposed message the group wanted to instill in the public: Carbon dioxide is actually good for the environment.

CO2 Is Green is a website, and its purpose is to be for advocacy. This particular site pushes its audience to contact their legislature (in particular, members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works) to remove CO2 from the EPA’s list of pollutants.

In addition, the site also promotes the concept of global cooling—a long debunked belief that the world was actually cooling rather than warming.

The organization promotes outside its website, too. In the past, they’ve launched aggressive ad campaigns by buying ad spaces in newspapers, radio and TV in several states.

"Plants Need CO2" Emerges

One site wasn’t enough. A sister website emerged. Plants Need CO2 is most likely where the slogan “carbon is good for trees” came from. Like CO2 Is Green, this site has a purpose—to focus on education. This includes slick video productions and glowing articles about the “scientific” benefits of CO2.

In addition, due to “education” designation, it appears that the site can get through filters that schools may have on its computers. Thus, this site may have more far-reaching impact on unsuspecting students searching for information on global warming and anything associated with it.

Plants Need CO2 has become a more accessible site for another reason. When trying to go directly to CO2 Is Green through Google, a warning popped up, stating that the site was not secure and that there may be someone trying to steal identities from those visiting the site.


Scrutiny on Goals

Generally, the overall goal of this organization is to provide a more positive view of CO2. Specifically, on the other hand, the site Rationalwiki.org offered a page on the topic. It listed two main goals. They are:

  • That CO2 is not a pollutant
  • More CO2 will benefit the world.

The goal, it appears, is based on the fact that plants need CO2 to convert them into food. In addition, they are pushing the concept that more of it is actually good for the ecosystem, and that there’s “no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant.”

Upon scrutiny, their tactics appear to be flawed. The mistakes are as follow:

  • They’re trying to clump natural occurring CO2 with those created industrial byproducts and automobile exhausts;
  • They don’t realize that plants need more than just CO2 to survive;
  • More CO2 doesn’t mean it will make things better; and
  • There is plenty of scientific evidence to support CO2 as being a culprit in global warming.

Speculation suggests that those behind CO2 is Green are well aware that the definition of a pollutant is complex and can be easily misunderstood by the public. They’ve used deception to get their propaganda out there to sway as many people to their side.

Bostrum states that claims made by sites such as CO2 is Green “fail to take into account that increasing the availability of one substance that plants need requires other supply changes for benefits to accrue.”

What the Evidence States About Excessive CO2?

Skeptical Science.com contributor Doug Bostrum, wrote a lengthy rebuttal to the myth perpetuated by CO2 Is Green/Plants Needs CO2. In it, he mentioned that under controlled conditions (such as greenhouses) extra CO2 helped boost growth among some plants. However, the key words – "controlled conditions" and "some" – doesn’t translate to the natural world.

Bostrum states that claims made by sites such as CO2 is Green “fail to take into account that increasing the availability of one substance that plants need requires other supply changes for benefits to accrue.” The supplies he refers to are increases in water, fertilizer and protection against insects to name a few things.

Submitted by Claudie Giguère-Croteau

Submitted by Claudie Giguère-Croteau

The increase of CO2 – Bostrum pointed out -- open a whole new set of problems which include:

  • The extra water needed would have to be used to maintain growth and compensate for “greater moisture evaporation as heat increases.” This will be difficult due to continuing drying up of aquifers and decreased rainwater in some areas. Even excessive rain from intense storms will not help, considering that the diminished rate for the water to soak into the ground caused by it flooding into rivers and streams, which wash away much of the top soil and fertilizer.
  • Fertilizing production will be greatly affected, and not just the naturally occurring ones. The manufacturing of artificial fertilizers will need to be increased to the point the ingredients needed to create them will be depleted. As a result, it may increase the price of food.
  • It can cause a reduction of photosynthesis for certain plants. This includes the “nutritional quality of some staple” food such as wheat.
  • Some plants may experience effects such as the “nitrogen plateau
  • It may change a plant’s chemistry, making them vulnerable to insects.
  • CO2 will increase temperatures throughout the Earth, creating more deserts or increasing the existing ones while transporting other ecosystems such as tropical forests into region that may not be able to support them. Thus, shrinking the range that plants with particular ecosystems can grow.

In other studies, the increase in CO2 may reduce the health benefits of fruits. It is believed that more carbon would increase the sugar within the fruits, making them extremely sweet and potentially harmful to those with diabetes.

In addition, some plants – ones that are not beneficial to agriculture – will increase with the rise of CO2. Weeds thrive on CO2, meaning that home gardens and lawns in the suburbs will be inundated with them. Additionally, the intrusive plants will push out or kill other plant species.

Final Thought

CO2 is Green and its sister site, Plants Need CO2 are unique when compared to other climate change denial groups. They focus on one issue. Also, they tend to blend optimism of global warming with fear tactics pertaining to economics to get their message out to the public (“this will cost us jobs,” as they state will be the cause of keeping CO2 on the list of pollutants). However, like many of these groups, they use misinformation, bad science, the gullibility of like-minded deniers and the false narrative that “more of something is good.”

While CO2 in modest amounts benefits plants, the excessive amounts created by humans can have damaging effects in the atmosphere. Sites such as CO2 is Green/Plants Need CO2 only send the wrong message and place the world at danger through its misinformation campaigns.

An Example of CO2 is Green Ad Campaign

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Dean Traylor


Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

Jack, now youre just going down a rabbit hole. I dont know where to begin of the exaggerations and misinformation.

Climate change has already caused global gropolitical crisis. Droughts are actually behind civil wars and mass migration of both humans and animals

In california, fire season has expanded into mid to late fall. And some low laying island in the south eastern are vanishing. At least several island nation face the threat, too. To say that all the predictions are wrong because its not having in you neck of the woods is pemature and naive.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

Brad, since when have ever dealt with "facts"?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on April 05, 2019:

What is your definition of a lot?

It means nothing.

The experts all told us just a few years ago that we were faced with “peak oil”...

That is we will exhaust most of the oil deposits in the ground...

The price of a barrel of oil went through the roof...

A few years later, we discovered fracking technology...

The rest is history.

The price of oil is now $60 per barrel.

Back in 1970s, experts told us we are heading for over population..and will run out of food...

Guess what, we are now 7 billion and still growing. Plenty of food to go around. We just have very poor distribution problem to some third world nations due mainly to corruption.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

Its not hubris. Its reality. We share the 0lanet, but theres a lot of us and we use a lot of resources.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on April 05, 2019:

No, just that the size of the planet is huge. We are such a small creature that we are like a nat in the bigger scheme of things.

To think we can affect the climate in a big way is just hubris. There are many natural effects and cycles that have impact on climate, some of which we don’t understand to this day.

We are much better at adaptation than mitigation. Especially when many of our people depend on fossil fuel for our survival and standard of living.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

Yes jack, i'm aware of that but they dont blow their tops all of the time and consisrently pump out co2 as humans do. If you are so concerned about the benefits of co2, then go down to Brazil and save the rain forests...they need that co2, right?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on April 05, 2019:

What is much?

Do you know volcanos produces tons of CO2 on a regular basis for millions of years...

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

Much of the excess co2 is artifically produced. We know the sources, too.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on April 05, 2019:

Whi determines what is acceptable level? What about oxygen? It is necessary for human and animal life. Too much of it will kill us all.

Is oxygen a pollutant?

Why change the meaning of words?

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

In moderate doses, but not in over abundance. Not only that it will stress out respurces, cause problems with agriculture possibly killing some vital food source. Its even possible that they can expand the concentration of sugar in fruits to be unhealthy for diabetics. Think if it this way: it can wipe out a way of life and revenue thats far more important than coal.The belief that too much of a good thing is a bad thing rings true in this case.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on April 05, 2019:

I read your article but CO2 is necessary for plant life. The carbon cycle... more CO2 will lead to a greener planet. The name Greenland was named because at one time, in the distant past, it was lush with green plants.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 05, 2019:

Btw Jack, did you bother to read the article? The " co2 is green" is just a PR stunt.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on April 04, 2019:

Youre right about one thing: The current epa is wrong and is a shell of what they once were when it competent leadership.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on April 04, 2019:

The EPA is wrong. CO2 should not be classified as a pollutant gas.

It was politicized under Obama and they wanted to shut down the coal industry. Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, just like water vapor and methane... by classifying it as a pollutant, they allowed the EPA to regulate it. Don’t you see?

I am not a climate denier by a climate skeptic. The difference being, I am skeptical of the dire predictions about global warming that have not materialized.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on March 19, 2019:

Jo - unfortunately, it's going to take a lot of convincing. Most of the denialists (especially on this site) will dig in their heels and stubbornly hold on to their falsehoods.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on March 19, 2019:

Very informative and well-written article but I doubt it will change anyone's opinion. People seem to be locked in to opinions on this subject, denying the obvious.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on March 18, 2019:

Food Triangle? False analogy, Brad.

Brad on March 18, 2019:

How many times did the US government get the basic food triangle wrong? Consensus if not the same as truth.

They were wrong about eggs, and coconuts as well as many other things. In CA some years ago they put a known carcinogen, MTBE in our gasoline, and it was destructive to our gas lines, and leaked into the environment.

What is the plan and when will it lessen or reverse the so called problem of CO2 and climate change.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on March 17, 2019:

Val, nobody is arguing that CO2 is more dangerous than Carbon Monoxide or that it's not already created by nature. I mentioned that; however, an issue at hand is that there is too much being created and there's not enough to plants to clean it out of the atmosphere. Much of the added CO2 comes from industry, car exhaust, and a growing population with overburdened demand on agriculture and cattle raising (to name a few). As many sites I came across state is the old saying: "Too much of a good thing is a bad thing."

With that in mind, keep in mind, there's a lot of disinformation out there.and that was my general focus. The group behind this mantra has gone out their way to misinform the public...in part because the designation of CO2 as a pollutant will affect the industry that gave them their "bread and butter."

A B Williams from Central Florida on March 17, 2019:

Vlad, in explaining the role of man, mammals, plants...you've pointed out the perfect balance in nature and the wonderment of God's design.

Val Karas from Canada on March 17, 2019:

Dean --- I admit I don't know whom to believe after all, and there is just one thing that bothers me in all this. Namely, since we, humans, and all other mammals, are known to exhale CO2 as we breathe, should we stop breathing? Seven billion people must produce quite some of that stuff by breathing days and nights. Plants are known to do the opposite in their breathing -- they inhale CO2 and exhale oxygen.

From as little chemistry as I know, it's the carbon monoxide, not dioxide that's harmful, and it's produced by fossil-run vehicles, and of course, by factories.

That's where my knowledge stops, and from that point on I just start playing smart like the rest of believers and non-believers. To me, it's all pretty much like cherry picking based on personal intellectual preferences - just like in politics. We, the lay people, don't "know", and it's logically so, because we don't have the scientific equipment to measure things and make some final conclusions.

As a matter of fact, no one seems to "know", because the explanation of CO2 affecting climate is just as believable as the explanation of the sun periodically emitting stronger flares. Allegedly, that was happening in the past, when there was no industry at all.

And looking at the weather records from hundred or so years back, there were similar "highs" in temperatures happening.

You see, now I am talking just like I mentioned ---just playing smart like the rest of us lay people.

But I certainly like your article, it's quite educational and above all, well written, with some very convincing points.

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