Columnist Katharine Fletcher responds


Thank-you for your letter.

C02, you posit, is plant food and is helping to green planet Earth, but the story isn’t

Thank-you for your letter.

C02, you posit, is plant food and is helping to green planet Earth, but the story isn’t
that simple. Although plants grow more abundantly with increased CO2, they also require other inputs – water, nitrogen, and other nutrients. Increase one of these without increasing the others and there’s a limit to the plants’ benefit. Some don’t grow at all. Others, like wheat, grow bigger but produce less nitrogen.
 In her 2018 Scientific American article, “Does Rising CO2 Benefit Plants?”, Annie Sneed notes climate change skeptics don’t look at the whole picture, quoting a research fellow in Oak Ridge National Laboratory: “It’s not appropriate to look at the CO2 fertilization effect in isolation. You can have positive and negative things going at once; it’s the net balance that matters.”
Regarding net-zero emissions by 2050, my current column quotes Teck Resources commitment to this very target (also PM Trudeau’s target). This isn’t fear mongering.  It’s a responsible goal towards sustainable energy production, not to mention a commitment in the Paris Agreement.
Re C02 being only .04%. Consider the science. In response to the question “If CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere, how does it drive global warming?”, Yochanan Kushnir, a research professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, wrote, “CO2 makes up only about 0.04% of the atmosphere, and water vapour from 0 to 4%. Water vapour is our dominant greenhouse gas, but has ‘windows’ that allow some infrared energy to escape the atmosphere. Also, water vapour is concentrated lower in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 mixes well to 50 kilometres up. The higher the gas, the more effectively it traps heat from the Earth’s surface.
Before the industrial revolution, CO2 was about 288 ppm. Now it’s about 414 ppm, so we’ll be doubling the CO2 in the atmosphere by the end of this century.”
Regarding Teck’s project, Teck’s president announced his company’s decision to stop work on this project on February 23. In December 2019, the company
purchased SunMine Solar Energy in Kimberley, AB. All to say, the oil industry is aware of the decline in oil prices, and is calling for a Canadian political strategy to balance resource development and environmental sustainability.
You are correct that all of us need to do more personally to combat climate change. However, citizens require strong political, multinational and agricultural leadership in reducing greenhouse gases and building renewable, sustainable systems.
 I agree we are heavily dependent upon oil products. What matters is that we are aware of our dependencies – and that we can change them. Today, electric cars are increasingly viable and industries are developing alternative, sustainable
packaging and products. Humanity is at a cusp. It’s exhilarating to be creating a more sustainable future for our children.

Katharine Fletcher, columnist