In a new study, researchers from the University of Exeter contend warming could slow even as a rise in CO2 accelerates. Not only do current models mostly ignore this reality, study authors suggest they also fail to account for CO2’s myriad impacts on biology — on life.
Because current models use too narrow a range to describe future CO2 concentration, predictions tend to ignore the gas’ impact on plants and animals.
“Higher CO2 concentrations cause increased growth in many plant species,” Exeter researcher Richard Betts said in a news release. “This causes a general ‘greening’ of vegetation, but also changes the makeup of ecosystems — some species do better than others. Slower-growing large tree species can lose out to faster-growing competitors.”
Higher CO2 levels can also cause plants to use less water, which can diminish the impact of droughts on local ecosystems.
The new research doesn’t diminish the threat of global warming. Recent studies have suggested rising CO2 levels could pose a variety of serious threats even if warming rates plateau.