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Global warming: plant science worthy of a high school science fair?

The tend among scientists is to justify their expensive existence by attracting funding and support for their “projects” by linking them to “global warming.”

Unfortunately, it appears to also be producing research worthy of a high-school science project; often at great expense to the taxpayer.

Hypothesis: plants grow bigger and better when they are exposed to vital water, nutrients and the carbon dioxide from which they, in turn, produce life-giving oxygen.

An example ….

Noting that "among medicinal plants, the therapeutic uses of opiate alkaloids from poppy (Papaver spp.) have long been recognized," Ziska et al. (2008) write that the overall goal of their study was "to evaluate the growth and production of opiates for a broad range of recent and projected atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations using wild poppy (P. setigerum) as a surrogate for P. somniferum."

Specifically, Ziska et al. grew well watered and fertilized plants from seed (one plant per 2.6-liter pot filled with a 4:1:1 mixture of sphagnum, perlite and vermiculite) within growth chambers maintained at four different atmospheric CO2 concentrations - 300, 400, 500 and 600 ppm - for a period of 90 to 100 days, while quantifying plant growth and the production of secondary compounds including the alkaloids morphine, codeine, papaverine and noscapine, which were derived from latex obtained from capsules produced by the plants.

The three researchers' data indicate that relative to the plants grown at 300 ppm CO2, those grown at 400, 500 and 600 ppm produced approximately 200, 275 and 390% more aboveground biomass, respectively, as best as can be determined from their bar graphs. In addition, they report that "reproductively, increasing CO2 from 300 to 600 ppm increased the number of capsules, capsule weight and latex production by 3.6, 3.0 and 3.7 times, respectively, on a per plant basis," with the ultimate result that "all alkaloids increased significantly on a per plant basis." Based on these findings, Ziska et al. conclude that "as atmospheric CO2 continues to increase, significant effects on the production of secondary plant compounds of pharmacological interest (i.e. opiates) could be expected," which effects, in their words, "are commonly accepted as having both negative (e.g. heroin) and positive (e.g. codeine) interactions with respect to public health."

Ziska, L.H., Panicker, S. and Wojno, H.L. 2008. Recent and projected increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the potential impacts on growth and alkaloid production in wild poppy (Papaver setigerum DC.). Climatic Change 91: 395-403. <Source>

Let’s see: the conclusions are that higher CO2 concentrations could have a beneficial effect on plant life – but there are potential impacts on public health if that plant can be used to make street-level and pharmaceutical narcotics. It should be noted that the researchers did not use the “real plant,” but only a proxy; and that the growing cycle was extremely short. I have another two questions: how many people remained employed doing the research and what was the “research yield” in terms of scientific papers per growth cycle.

Now to high school …

High School Science Fair Projects

Below are ideas to get you started developing a project of your own. Choose something that sounds interesting, then start doing research and build your project's hypothesis from there!

All high school projects require a high level of original thought and development, so these ideas are just springboards for you to develop your own project.To participate in upper-level competition, a project should be relevant to current science and technology, and should present a benefit to society.

Life Science

Investigate the effects of increased oxygen or carbon dioxide concentration on plant germination.


Perhaps we should have outsourced the project to an eighth grader?

Ryan: Grade 8


The main goal of this project was to see how high levels of carbon dioxide affect the stomata in an ice plant. The hypothesis was that the plant exposed to 400 grams of carbon dioxide will have 75% of the stomata closed compared to the plant exposed to 200 grams and the controlled not exposed to the solid Carbon dioxide. This is because the more carbon dioxide is added the more the stomata will die and close up. <Source>

A good career …

If you’re looking for a good conversation about science, history or life – talk to Bert Drake. He’s a plant physiologist and renaissance man who’s been with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center for nearly four decades. Drake retired in January, but will continue his investigations as an emeritus

Much of your work has focused on understanding how plants will respond to rising levels of atmospheric CO2. In 1987 you began a field experiment at a marsh on the Chesapeake Bay that continues to this day. What are you trying to figure out?

The big question has always been whether or not plants and our land ecosystems would remain carbon sinks as atmospheric CO2 increases and the climate warms. We wanted to know if plants exposed to high CO2 in the field would keep growing and or if they would simply acclimate to higher CO2. Earlier studies had focused on greenhouse plants. Most concluded that the photosynthetic capacity of plants would decline after being exposed to elevated CO2. I thought that critical experiments had not been done. I wanted to get out into the field and study how an entire wetland would respond to higher levels of CO2.

Immediately after we began the study in 1987 we found the plants were taking up more CO2. After 5-10 years the extra CO2 had big effects. We took this to mean that plants and wetland ecosystems could remain a carbon sink, even in a high CO2 world. After 20 years though, the plants’ response to more CO2 has become erratic. This makes interpretation of the results much more difficult. In science you almost always get an approximation of an answer because an experiment is only an approximation of reality. <Source>

20 years and counting … sounds like a well-paid, satisfying career And the results almost always suggest that more research needs to be done and that the principal investigator who performed the experiment is the ideal person for the task.

The one comment that “In science you almost always get an approximation of an answer because an experiment is only an approximation of reality” is worth it’s weight in gold.

Bottom line …

There is no doubt that science is crucial to understanding our environment, to assist in planning for the future and to allow us to protect ourselves from the deleterious effects of man-made pollution. But trying to correlate everything to global warming and making outrageous “projections” which support a toxic political philosophy are not only wasteful of research money, but have an adverse effect on our freedoms.

Perhaps one should study the effects of the increased plant life in the proximity of research institutions to quantify plant growth that has been affected by the outpouring of carbon dioxide from researchers as they continue to bloviate on global warming; the dire predictions of which exist only in the silicon minds of computers. Especially since they appear to continually confuse statistical correlation with causation.

It can be proven that 100% of drug addicts ingest dihydrogen oxide (dihydrogen oxide is used extensively in industry for the dilution of waste streams for treatment by the waste treatment system. It is also known to cause incredible erosion into igneous formations) – but does that mean the substances causes them to be prone to drug addiction?

Man will always need to deal with nature, unfortunately mostly on nature’s terms. Here are a few of the questions that are not being answered.

Our planet appears to be warming slightly as we leave the little ice age; will this warming continue or will the planet start to cool as we regress towards an unknown global mean temperature?

Will we even be able to adequately measure these changes against the background of nature’s variability?

Why do the politicians and special interests need to promote political change based on global warming when so much of the planet lacks clean water, sanitary facilities and stable food sources?

And why do the computer models which predict catastrophe, fail to predict what we are currently experiencing in the “real world?”

While science is important to expanding our knowledge base, we can improve our chances of survival as a people by preparing for weather events, rather than implementing economy-changing political schemes tore-distribute wealth from the producers to the entitlement culture -- with the Wall Street Wizards and other middlemen taking their outrageous share for producing nothing of lasting or tangible benefit.

-- steve

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS