How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Multiple-Part Question Submitted by K. Estrada, with Our Answers Italicized in Brackets:

A few weeks ago, I sent an email asking if the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change is funded by the coal and power plant industry.  I received your newest email newsletter today, and noted your response to my question, posted on your website.  It was very unsatisfying.  If you really don't think it matters who funds you, why not tell everyone who asks?

[Some donors request that we do not identify them; and it is out of respect for their wishes that we do not divulge this information.  And to be evenhanded in this regard, we have chosen to treat all contributors to The Center in the same way.]

It's actually becoming a big part of your website's 'Question and Answer' section, mostly because no one ever gets a straight answer.

[Our straight answer is that we do not divulge the identity of any of the donors to The Center.  We feel we have made this fact clear from the beginning.  The reason this subject is becoming a big part of our website's 'Question and Answer' section is that people such as yourself do not seem willing to accept this straight answer.]

That affects your credibility.

[Sad to say, you are probably right, but only for people who are not willing to think for themselves.]

Think of it this way: If you began your study of excess CO2, and at the time believed that increased amounts would benefit mankind (a position at odds with mainstream, peer-reviewed science), do you think you would maintain your original stance in order to retain your source of funding, even if your later research led you to an opposite conclusion?

[Without equivocation, we forthrightly declare that if future research we or anyone else might conduct were to convince us that we were wrong on this matter, we would indeed change our stance on this issue, no matter what the consequences were.  Some, perhaps, would not, as is implied by your question; but we solemnly declare that we would.

Your question also has imbedded within it the statement that our view on this matter, i.e., the idea that increased amounts of CO2 would benefit mankind, is at odds with mainstream peer-reviewed science.  We take issue with this unsubstantiated claim.

With respect to the climatic side of the controversy, there are clearly two views expressed in the scientific literature.  Most of the published papers do indeed come from people expressing concern about perceived dangers of potential CO2-induced global warming.  As should be evident from the papers we review in our 'Climatological Reviews' section, however, many scientists report research results that do not support this 'doom and gloom' scenario.  All of the papers, on both sides of this issue, occupy a place in 'mainstream, peer-reviewed science.'

With respect to the biological side of the issue, nearly all research reports dealing with the subject of CO2 effects on plant growth and development reveal positive consequences.  In fact -- and this is no exaggeration -- there are thousands of experiments described in peer-reviewed papers that could be cited to support this statement.

To give but a single example, one of us (KEI) surveyed the scientific literature produced on this topic between 1983 and 1992, finding 342 peer-reviewed research reports produced by 484 scientists working at 124 universities, 30 U.S. government research centers and 88 institutions in other countries that contained 1,087 experimentally determined plant growth responses to atmospheric CO2 enrichment.  Of this number, 93% were positive, 5% were neutral and 2% were negative.]

If your funders were the producers of a tremendous amount of the manmade CO2 in the country, and your work lead you to believe that excess CO2 would have a negative effect, would you be willing to state that, assuming you would lose your funding?  I doubt that.

[Notwithstanding your doubts, we would indeed, as we always do, state what we believe to be the truth.]

Here is why I (K. Estrada) say this:

I think the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change is funded by Western Fuels Association.

[In spite of what you think, you could be wrong.  But as we do not divulge this information, you may also continue to think that you are right.  In either case, we are not inclined to confirm or deny your conclusion.  Also, don't you think your time would be better spent in trying to understand the issue than by trying to find out who funds us?  There is so much new work reported almost daily that we spend nearly all our waking moments studying the latest research on the subject of carbon dioxide and global change.  If you want to know how the world of nature functions, you will never discover the answer by wasting your time on trying to divine the sources of people's funding.]

And as the old German saying goes, "Who eats my bread dances to my tune."

[This is, indeed, a wise old adage; but it is not an infallible law of nature, which you would know if you spent more time studying nature.]


(1) There is one other organization that believes increased CO2 levels could benefit mankind -- the Greening Earth Society (GES).  As they state up front on their website, GES is the creation of Western Fuels Association (WFA), a co-op of coal producers that supply power plants.  Since dirty coal-burning power plants produce much more CO2 than modern natural gas-burning power plants, and since WFA is in the coal business, WFA created GES to appear to be a separate science-based organization that just happened to support a theory beneficial to WFA.  GES is funded by WFA, GES scientists are funded by WFA, and, last time I checked, GES' board members are all WFA members or staff.

[We fail to see how you conclude that WFA "created GES to appear to be a separate science-based organization that just happened to support a theory beneficial to WFA," when you yourself acknowledge that, "as they state up front on their website, GES is the creation of Western Fuels Association."  They do not appear to us to be hiding anything in this regard.  In fact, they appear to be more open about their funding than we are!]

In 1991, WFA produced a PR strategy paper that attempted to target "older, less educated men and young low income women in districts that get their electricity from coal and preferably have a member on the House energy committee."

[We know nothing about this statement, nor does it involve us in any way.]

In the 1980s, WFA, as an entity worth $400 million, recruited global warming skeptics to counter what the company called "what seemed generally accepted about the potential for climate change."

[It is always worth remembering that what seems generally accepted about a lot of things is not necessarily the truth.]

Western Fuels also spent $250,000 to produce a video, "The Greening of Planet Earth," which argued global warming could be good by extending the growing season.

[You should view the video again (or for the first time, if you have not seen it).  It deals with much more than global warming and that phenomenon's extending of the growing season.  You should also view their new video: "The Greening of Planet Earth Continues."  We applaud Western Fuels for their willingness to publicize a side of the story that we believe to be far more correct than what at one time was "generally accepted."  But does this mean that they fund The Center?  Maybe it means that we fund them!]

(2) Sherwood Idso plays a major role in the GES video; the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change is run by Keith and Craig Idso.

[Yes, Sherwood Idso is our father; and you did guess right on this one: we are indeed our father's sons.]

(3) This newest newsletter cites S. Fred Singer, who acknowledged on a 1994 "Nightline" appearance that he has received funding from Exxon, Shell, ARCO and Unocal.

[We have no knowledge related to the sources of Dr. Singer's funding, nor do we care, although, if they funded him, maybe we could entice them to fund us as well.  We cite his recent writing solely on the basis of its content.  If we adhered to your philosophy, however, we would probably have never even read what he had to say and thus not been forced to confront the data and reasoning he presents, which we must agree is a lot simpler than what we normally do, i.e., attempt to decide the issues on their merits.]

Singer has actually said "[global warming] depends on who you believe."  I believe the 2,000 international experts who concur that global warming is a real and manmade threat rather than a few industry-backed "skeptics" with a huge supply of smoke, mirrors and oil and coal industry dollars.

[We are appalled that you draw your conclusions on so weighty a matter merely on the basis of where people get their funding and how they fare in the polls.  We could challenge your statement with regard to the 2,000 international experts and offer up other larger lists of contrarian views; but this tactic would only divert us from the more important issues of real-world data and their logical interpretation.]

(4) Robert Balling, who collaborates on many of the Center's studies with Keith and Craig Idso, is a "Scientific Adviser" at GES.  Balling began work for Western Fuels in 1991, and had, by 1997, received about $300,000 from oil and coal interests, disclosing his industry funding under oath in administrative hearings in Minnesota in 1995.

[We might also volunteer that Dr. Balling was the major professor under whom one of us (CDI) obtained his Ph.D.  But what does any of this have to do with whether or not The Center is or is not funded by WFA?  And what does it have to do with how the world of nature really operates?]

(5) Western Fuels began using the skeptics as expert witnesses in state legislatures as well as in Washington D.C. years ago.  [So?] Keith Idso spoke in Washington as guest of the Cooler Heads Coalition earlier this year.  [So?] That group is mostly lead by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian think tank that receives industry funding as well. [So?]

(6) The May 7 GES press release cites the Center's Keith Idso repeatedly.

[So?  Did you never hear the old adage that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door? It's as least as good as the one you quoted.]

Care to answer?

[Not really; but we have anyway.  And, again, we suspect that you will still be unhappy with our refusal to reveal our funding sources.  Consequently, we will probably not spend any more of our time in rehashing questions of this nature in the future.]