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Fact check: Are Low Levels of CO2 Dangerous?

Fact check: Are Low Levels of CO2 Dangerous?

A  link of an article was forwarded in a telegram group of over 1700 members. This was accompanied by a graphic saying less carbon means less oxygen, fewer plants, larger deserts, less food, higher food prices, more starvation, higher death rates and fewer people.

The article shared claims that any reduction in the CO2 content of the atmosphere will negatively impact the current state of nature.

According  to the article, humans and nature benefit more from higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.


In the period 2000 to 2019 when the CO2 levels were lower than the current levels, there were 7,348 major recorded disaster events claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people (many on more than one occasion) resulting in approximately US$2.97 trillion in global economic losses, according to the United Nation’s report

According to NASA, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is currently at nearly 412 parts per million (ppm) and rising. This represents a 47 percent increase since the beginning of the Industrial Age, when the concentration was near 280 ppm, and an 11 percent increase since 2000, when it was near 370 ppm.

Based on analysis from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Lab, global average atmospheric carbon dioxide was 414.72 parts per million (“ppm” for short) in 2021, setting a new record high.

“High concentration of CO2 leads to high productivity of plants but the more CO2 absorbed, this  affects other nutrients hence affecting the quality of plant residues,” NOAA states.

Plant scientists found out the higher levels of C02 causes plants to thicken their leaves which may worsen the effects of climate change because they would be less efficient in absorbing atmospheric carbon.

There are direct effects of increased CO2 to human health. These are related to the respiratory system since Carbon dioxide can linger in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Together with other greenhouse gases, They absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth’s surface, rather than letting it escape into space. Burning fossil fuels also depletes oxygen and lowers the ratio of oxygen to nitrogen in the atmosphere.


The claim is baseless, the context of the  article is based on findings of a study done to find out whether reduction in plant productivity and underground storage organ yields is related to much reduced CO2 concentrations typical of Pleistocene glacial periods. The findings in this study indicated that plants begin to die at CO2 concentrations lower than 120 or 130 ppm.

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

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