Written by on November 10, 2022

A claim going around on social media handles that CO2 is not bad since plants need it to survive is partly false.

“So stupid! Who came up with the idea CO2 is bad? Plants need CO2 to survive. No CO2, no life!” States the claim.

According to Yale Climate Connections, The basics of climate change are actually easy to understand. Human activities emit around 100 million tons of CO2 every day, mostly by burning fossil fuels, which causes the atmosphere to trap more heat. As a result of that heat-trapping pollution, the atmosphere, land, and oceans have all become warmer. The added heat triggers side effects like more intense rainstorms, floods, prolonged heat waves, and droughts. In turn, those unpleasant conditions lead to more frequent and severe wildfires, insect outbreaks, and crop failures. Sure, today’s plants have a bit more fertilizer from the extra CO2 in the air, but that additional CO2 causes many other problems, harming many plants and crops. Climate change is disrupting plant growth.

Scientists have performed many experiments to see what happens when plants and agricultural crops receive extra CO2. To conduct a more “real world” experiment, some studies have given plants extra CO2 plus an increase in temperature. In these conditions, many plants and crops grew poorly. In most cases, the boost from CO2 was overwhelmed by the hotter conditions. These experiments demonstrate that the myth of CO2 fertilization is false, and peer-reviewed reports find that major crops like wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans will become less productive as the world heats up.

Likewise, a landmark study in 2018 found that growing rice in high-CO2 conditions makes it less nutritious. As a basic grain, rice plays a critical role in feeding the world’s population. The extra CO2 caused an imbalance within the crop’s chemical makeup, which resulted in rice that had lower amounts of protein, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins. “The entire elemental balance is out of whack,” explained plant physiologist Lewis Ziska, an author of the study. This result is yet another example of how the recipe of nature is being disrupted by excess CO2.

We looked into this claim stating that CO2 is not bad since plants need it to survive and found it to be partly false. This information misleads the public.

This fact-check was produced by Sky 106.1 FM with support from Code for Africa’s PesaCheck, International Fact-Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance network.

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