Human history includes many wrong paths in science that eventually were corrected. The current attempt to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere including Princeton’s goal to be carbon dioxide neutral and the Trustees’ announcement to divest the endowment from certain carbon dioxide producing industries (On the Campus, July/August issue) are the wrong path of today.
Carbon dioxide and water are converted by photosynthetic organisms, like plants, into sugar and atmospheric oxygen. All life either photosynthesizes sugar using carbon dioxide or consumes other organisms that do. Thus, carbon dioxide is vital, not a pollutant.
The Earth was never stable. The atmosphere now has about 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The air in the era of the dinosaurs was about ten times that amount and was warmer with extensive plant growth. If the level of carbon dioxide now would increase to double or about 800 parts per million of carbon dioxide, most crops would greatly increase production in this time of food shortage.
Conversely, lowering the level of carbon dioxide will reduce food production. At half the present level of carbon dioxide, photosynthetic organisms will die. Thereafter, all other life will cease. To preserve life on Earth, more carbon dioxide, not less, should be produced. The movement to reduce carbon dioxide is completely wrong. Fortunately, carbon dioxide production from volcanoes, wildfires, and India and China will save the world despite our negative vogue.