New book outlines high stakes of rising CO2 levels for life on Earth

Can you provide examples from the book showing how increasing carbon dioxide levels will negatively affect plants, people and ecosystems?

A few highlights: First, not all factories are responding in the same way to the recent wave of projected increases in CO2. For example, in crop/weed competition, the weeds are the winners, and the herbicides used to control weed growth become less effective, with implications for plants and people who may suffer adverse effects. on health with greater exposure to herbicides (e.g., Roundup weedkillers). Second, at the ecosystem level, plants that show a strong response to CO2, such as kudzu or cheat grass, can come to dominate entire ecosystems, with subsequent reductions in biodiversity and plant function. the ecosystem.

How is the long-running conservative talking point – “CO2 is plant food” –while not false, very misleading?

“CO2 is plant food” is misleading because it is directly linked to the idea that all plants are beneficial and good for the environment; but plants harmful to humans, from poison ivy to hemlock, also react to CO2. The topic of discussion is also misleading because it assumes that all plants will react to carbon dioxide to the same degree. Yet, as we have seen time and time again, weeds react more than crops and invasive plants react more than native plants. The consequences are just as dire for ecological function as rising sea levels and drowning polar bears.

What have you read recently that you would recommend, and why?

What would nature do? by university professor Ruth DeFries, who teaches in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. The book provides interesting insight into how natural systems deal with environmental stress.

What’s next on your reading list?

The flag, the cross and the station wagon by Bill McKibben, a kind of memoir about growing up in America.

What is the best book you have ever received as a gift, and why?

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. I was blown away by the insight and poetic quality of Pollan’s view of life from a plant’s perspective.

What are you teaching this academic year?

In the spring, I will be teaching a course on climate change and plant biology with a focus on food systems.

You are hosting a dinner party. Which three scientists, dead or alive, would you invite, and why?

Carl Sagan, a childhood hero; Bill Nye, for his ability to communicate science in a way that people understand; and Richard Feynman, for his unique perception of the world.