Lord Monckton and Rep. John Shimkus Declare Global Warming Emissions "Plant Food"

Sun, 2009-03-29 19:43Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Lord Monckton and Rep. John Shimkus Declare Global Warming Emissions "Plant Food"

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) shared a moment of sheer absurdity with Britain’s stuffiest global warming denier Lord Christopher Monckton in last week’s Energy & Commerce hearing on climate change adaptation.

Shimkus encouraged Lord Monckton - who has absolutely no background in climate science whatsoever - to talk about how Earth is a “carbon starved” planet, making it seem as though we desperately need to seek out new sources of CO2 emissions if we have any hope for survival as a species.  After all, the pair agreed, “carbon dioxide is plant food,” so why on Earth would we want to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources?

As a journalist, one might hope Lord Monckton would know better, but you wouldn’t get that impression from listening to his zany answers to Shimkus’s questions.

For example, Monckton cites the Cambrian period as evidence that plants love carbon dioxide. 

As the National Wildlife Federation points out, the irony abounds. 

“A time when there were no land plants? That’s your shining example? Come on. Lord Monckton may be the darling of the denier crowd, but he wouldn’t stand a chance on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

Leading the horse to water, Shimkus asks, “If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”

“Yes indeed you are,” Monckton replied.

See. You’re killing Bugs Bunny’s carrots, you dirty hippies!  We need more CO2, not less!

Can’t you hear the RNC convention chants already?  “More pollution now! Burn, baby, burn!”

Republicans don’t want to hear from real scientists like the climatologists at NASA and the National Academy of Sciences.  They prefer to hear only from people who parrot the right wing’s forgone conclusions – what’s good for Big Business and polluting industries is best for America.

Fossil fuel pollution equals life, and anyone who says otherwise hates salad.

You can’t find reality TV this good.

Watch Monckton’s plant food remarks at NWF’s Wildlife Promise blog.

Previous Comments

I’m sorry, but that is one goofy-looking dude.  I know that has no bearing on the veracity of his claims, but it can’t help his case.  :P

Maybe they were doing a routine for red nose day, but I tend to think he really believes his own press.  Time to lock him up for his own safety.  Or charge him with reckless disregard for human survival. 

Lord Monckton is both very bright and right when it comes to the role of CO2 and plants.

Oxygen-producing photosynthesis evolved some 3.5 billion years ago when atmospheric CO2 level were probably in the region of 20% (200,000ppm). Over geological time photosynthesis removed CO2 from the atmosphere and replaced it with oxygen. The Earth’s CO2 level is at, or near an all time low (Rothman, D.H., (2002) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the last 500 million years

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  99 (7):  4167-4171,.). Needless to say this drastic fall in CO2 levels has caused plants some real problems, since when CO2 falls below about 1000ppm, the primary carboxylating enzyme (Ribulose 1,5 Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase (RUBISCO) starts acting as an oxygenase, rather than a carboxylase, particularly at high temperatures. This is why C4 photosynthesis evolved (relatively recently) to counteract the adverse effects of low CO2.

Raising CO2 levels promotes plant photosynthesis (Ainsworth, E.A. and Long, S.P.  2005.  What have we learned from 15 years of free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE)?  A meta-analytic review of the responses of photosynthesis, canopy properties and plant production to rising CO2.  New Phytologist 165: 351-372.),  raises water use efficiency (Wullschleger, S.D., Tschaplinski, T.J. and Norby, R.J.  2002.  Plant water relations at elevated CO2 - implications for water-limited environments.  Plant, Cell and Environment 25: 319-331) and shows no signs of down-regulation to long term exposure to elevated CO2 (Onoda, Y., Hirose, T. and Hikosaka, K. 2007. Effect of elevated CO2 levels on leaf starch, nitrogen and photosynthesis of plants growing at three natural CO2 springs in Japan. Ecological Research 22: 475-484.).

Finally elevated CO2 interacts positively with increased temperature (Usami, T., Lee, J. and Oikawa, T.  2001.  Interactive effects of increased temperature and CO2 on the growth of Quercus myrsinaefolia saplings.  Plant, Cell and Environment 24: 1007-1019.), so the future of plants in a (possibly) warmer, CO2-enriched world is rosy. And what is good for plants is good for us.

And what is good for plants is good for us.

…and pretty good for the dinosaurs too, I guess. Just before they became extinct.



Phlogiston, or whoever you are, you should realize that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. You quote papers on RUBISCO but I am sure you know nothing about the enzymes involved in photosynthesis apart from what you have cut and pasted from denier websites.

You should get a little bit more up to date on the biochemistry of photosynthesis. The older studies showed that the enzymatic activity of isolated RUBISCO (the enzyme responsible for the fixing of CO2 into organic metabolites) was increased at higher temperatures and higher CO2 concentrations. They argued that this would be good for agriculture since it would allow for higher yields (forget about water and available nitrogen for now). However, there were always problems in getting reproducible levels of RUBISCO activity (preparations had to be aged and/or treated to give maximum activity).

Later research has shown that there is another layer of regulation affecting RUBISCO activity (as is common with many enzyme system). A new enzyme, RUBISCO activase, was found to be responsible for converting “inactive” to “active” RUBISCO. And, surprise surprise, this new enzyme was found to be inhibited by higher temperatures and also inhibited by higher CO2 concentrations.

This finding is probably responsible for the contradictory results found in experiments where varying temperatures and CO2 concentrations on plant growth have been conducted.




You are also wrong when you say that C4 plants evolved in higher CO2 concentrations. The additional enzyme involved in C4 metabolism is phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) carboxylase. The activity of this enzyme is reduced at higher CO2 concentrations. Thus C4 plants will be negatively affected by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.



Moreover, high CO2 down-regulated PEP carboxylase to a level as low as half of the activity observed in ambient air (Fig. 5)”.

If Monckton is so brilliant, the he should go conduct the research and publish his findings. That’s how science works. Anything else is just opinion. Are you saying you will ignore the decades of research by organizations like NASA and the US Academy of Science, because some guy with absolutely no scientific background says you have nothing to worry about?


How many modern species existed during the aforementioned times of much greater CO2 concentrations?

I don’t know, and I suspect you and that merde du jour Lord Bonkers of denialism doesn’t either. I’ suspect that the majority of modern species will struggle increasingly as CO2 concentrations grow.

The fact that we are already causing a mass extinction and that it has already been suggested that we can expect 10% loss of biodiversity for every degree Celsius increase in temperature.

Lord Bonkers of denialism can say what he likes, it’s all untrue!

Even if he said ‘night follows day’, I’d need independent confirmation.

There can be no doubt that Lord Bonkers of denialism is not as smart as he believes.

Unless, of course, you include prolonged levels as low as 180 ppm experienced during glacial staids, when, as far as we know, photosynthesis does not cease and green plants do not become extinct.

What you miss is that Discount Monckton’s point about CO2 being plant food is simply irrelevant.

I just Googled “Cambrian period plants” and it seems that life on earth “exploded” into being during the Cambrian period. So, yes, at the start of the Cambrian it was cold and there was no life but by the end, possibly helped by the increasing warmth and high CO2 levels, life had flourished.

just a wee bit of reading comprehension, since what your googled “Cambrian period plants” references say is that “there were no known land plants” at that start of the Cambrian.

However, there were definitely multicelular marine plants prior the Cambrian.

Try googling “Ediacaran.”

Silly me! And I thought it was an extraterrestrial impactor that did for the Dinosaurs.

Yes and C4 photosynthesis evolved within the last 20 million years or so, during the current sequence of Ice-Ages, when atmospheric CO2 was about 180ppm and the Earth’s Biomass was at an all time low.


Lucky me a topic finally I can call my own.  I have a masters degree in plant physiology, though my focus was environmental.  C4 photosynthesis is indeed a pathway which lets a plant fuel inject its photosynthetic process.  It accomplishes this by protecting rubisco spatially from oxygen so that the oxidase activity is reduced and the carboxylase activity is maximized therefore mitigating losses in the calvin cycle. 

C4 plants are tropical in nature, need proper environmental conditions and light levels in order to function at peak form.  Think of the C4 like a sports car of plants while the C3 the more conventional plant the geo metro.  This is also true for their internal photosynthetic economy, the C3 plant performs far better under unsuitable light and environmental conditions, being the more efficient model of photosynthetic process outside the perfect conditions, ie if it was cool, dark and or dry.  The evolution of C4 plants and their driving forces however is not entirely related to CO2 levels, with water balance and life history being equally important.  Water loss is also a constant plant battle and the cousin of C4 the CAM plant, a C4 with temporal photosynthetic separation, displays this water loss prevention mechanism.  Where stomata can remain open long enough for enough CO2 gain and close preventing water loss by way of reduced oxydase activity of RUBISCO……maximizing CO2 gains instead of wasting open stomatal time.

The other problem is that at higher temperatures typical of tropical regions, the oxidase function of RUBISCO is increased so plants in hot areas would be subject to increases losses in Calvin which is another problem on its own.  As a result the C4 pathway solves this problem to by removing the sites of O2 production from the sites of CO2 fixation.  Thus the complexity of C4 evolution is more than just a product of low CO2 levels in the atmosphere.  If that were true, you would have C4 plants developing far outside of the topics….which isn’t the case.  C4 also only makes up less than 5% of the total plant species in existence, so while successful in the topics, they suffer from a number of biochemical problems which prevents wider distribution and species success in most other habitats.


Smarter than a 5th grader.


The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the sudden appearence of multicellular life, after about 2 billion years of domination by unicellular species.


CO2 levels were in the region of 7000ppm. (Rothman, D.H. (2002)., Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the last 500 million years  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  99 (7):  4167-4171)


The “Cambrian Explosion” does not refer to the sudden appearence of multicellular life, since multi-celular life existed for some 40 million years prior to the Cambrian period.

You, too, get to google Ediacaran.

Wrong again.

I said “sudden appearance of multicellular life” not “absence of”.

I also said ” after about 2 billion years of domination by unicellular species.”  Again note I did not say that multicellular life was absent during this previous period.

what you wrote was “sudden appearence of multicellular life,” when multicellular life had in fact existed for some 40 million years already.

Perhaps you meant sudden proliferation of multicelluar life, but that is not in fact what you wrote.


That guy freaks me right the hell out. I don’t think I’ll get any sleep tonight.

rocket french premium

QUOTE: “If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?” Can’t fathom why such an utterance. Carbon dioxide is toxic in higher concentration. It will make people drowsy. Prolonged exposure will result to some adverse effects which in the end is harmful. I still battle for a toxic-free and preservative-free food. hampers


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