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Food production in a warming world

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted March 29, 2010

 "Radical New Direction Needed in Food Production to Deal with Climate Change!" says the press release. Crop yields may fall 20-30 percent by 2100 because the earth will be too warm for optimum photosynthesis, warns a February 12, 2010 "Perspectives" article in the journal Science. ("Radically Rethinking Ag for the 21st Century").

Hunger is one of the scare-words always attached to global warming. But a warming world isn't likely to starve, even with the larger human population expected in 2100.

Start with our knowledge that the Medieval Warming was warmer than today. Ice core data show the Greenland ice sheet then was 2.5 degrees C warmer then, which means most of the world's current grain belts had significantly longer growing seasons and fewer untimely frosts. Also, lots of sunshine, in contract to the cloudy "little ice ages."

Most of Europe's famous castles and cathedrals were built during the Medieval Warming. So were the 10,000 temples at Angkor Watt in Cambodia. Meaning that the Medieval Warming's longer growing seasons produced enough extra food to pay hundreds of thousands of non-farm workers top wages to construct "luxury" buildings.

Second, we know that added CO2 in the atmosphere stimulates plant growth. Hundreds of agricultural test plots have demonstrated this, world-wide. CO2 acts like fertilizer, and also increases plants' water use efficiency. Thus, doubling the concentration of CO2 in the air raises the productivity of herbaceous plants by 30-50 percent. Fortunately, we're going to have lots of CO2 in the air.

A new Chinese report says that Chinese rice production is likely to rise 3–19 percent by 2100, because of CO2's fertilization effect—and because farmers will increase their northern crop production. The report says rice production would push further north, with lucrative double-cropping over the whole Yangtze Basin, not just the southern part. Other studies confirm that Chinese farmers would move corn and potato crops farther north into Manchuria with all the crop yields benefitting from higher CO2 levels.

Most of the world's recent 0.7 C temperature increase occurred before 1940. Thus, it must be 'blamed" on the moderate, solar-linked 1,500-year climate cycle that also produced the Medieval Warming. That natural warming pattern indicates that  tropical temperatures may not even rise much during the coming centuries.

The cycle implies a further temperature rise of 0.5 degree C over the next 300 years, rather than the 5–8 degrees C by 2100 claimed in the computerized models. Remember that we've never seen real-world evidence of the runaway warming. The Arctic ice is on a 70-year cycle, and the Antarctic has record amounts of ice and sea-ice. Even the man-made warming believers admit there's been no warming for 15 years.

We shouldn't even have to give up meat. Most of the fodder for our livestock comes from the natural grasslands, and from massive consumption of peanut hulls, citrus pulp, feather meal and other "wastes."  A pound of meat costs 1.4 pounds of human-edible protein—and delivers 1.4 pounds worth of human-edible protein.

The climate models deliberately claim famine and flooding—because you would not otherwise give up 87 percent of your current energy and go voluntarily back to the Stone Age. But the lack of any massive warming over recent decades; and, most of all, the declining heat in the world's oceans has proven the climate models wrong.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have pledged a billion dollars to help create a "second green revolution" for Africa and other marginal farming regions. Expect to eat well during our Modern Warming— unless governments are foolish enough to tax-away the energy sources needed for truly sustainable production. ESR

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He is an environmental economist and was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net.

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