One of the big questions in the ongoing debate over the effects of man-made global warming is what will happen to forests? Burning fossil fuels pumps extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which, all other things being equal, plants treat as a fertilizer that boosts their growth. A new study by Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory finds that the net primary productivity (the amount of organic matter produced) in forests grown in atmosphere of heightened CO2 grew by 23 percent. Such a response will not halt the increasing level of CO2 in the atmosphere, but it will slow it down. In fact, under the Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty, countries are trying to get credits for not cutting down their forests or for replanting forests.
The DOE result contradicts earlier research that found that extra CO2 actually retarded plant growth. Who knew? There may still be some important uncertainties about aspects of future climate change.