The latest dose of “fake news” about global warming comes from two forecasts of famine due to human activity. Both drew on estimates of extremely high temperatures predicted by the same flawed climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to predict other climate calamities. The climate models used in the studies are estimated to overpredict temperature by 2.5 to 3 times as compared to actually measured temperatures, and both rely on the highest estimates of maximum temperature increase.
The first of the reports warned that future production of vegetables and legumes would decrease by more than 30 percent with an expected rise of 4oC. Even the alarmist IPCC says that the most likely case is a rise of about half that.
The primary reason for the prediction of famine is a sharp decrease in water availability, even though recent reports indicate that previously arid portions of the Earth are experiencing a significant net increase in soil moisture due to a combination of increasing precipitation and CO2 fertilization — both effects of our changing climate.
Buried in the report is an admission that contradicts the hysteria engendered by the headlines. According to the authors, a 250-ppm increase in CO2, without the exaggerated temperature increase, would boost crop production by an average of 22 percent! That’s correct, more food as a result of increasing CO2.
The second report projects decreases in corn (maize) production due to increasing heat waves. This increase in extreme heat was based on the same exaggerated 4oC increase in temperature as the first study.
According to the USDA, corn is the largest component of the global grain trade, and the United States is the world’s largest producer. Corn is thus one of the country’s most important agricultural products, processed as sweet corn, cornmeal, tortillas and, thankfully, bourbon. It also is the primary feedstock to fatten cattle, chickens and hogs.
Fortunately, despite a continuing rise in temperatures, the world and America have set new corn records on an annual basis. The world’s remarkable ability to increase food production year after year is attributable to mechanization, agricultural innovation, CO2 fertilization and warmer weather. World grain production figures show that crop and food production has steadily increased, with only positive effects from our changing climate.
Historically, crop growth has ballooned in times of high temperatures and declined drastically during cold periods. Over the last 4,000 years we find that previous periods of much warmer temperatures coincided with increasing food and prosperity leading to the rise of great civilizations that were relatively rich and well fed. Prosperous periods were interrupted by times of great despair as the Earth plunged into global cooling. With names like the Greek Dark Ages, the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age, intervening cool periods featured crop failure, famine and mass depopulation.
Corn production in the U.S. presents a conundrum for environmental activists. On the one hand, they engage in fearmongering with predictions of famine based on questionable climate models. On the other hand, as enemies of fossil fuels, the activists promote ethanol production to replace our oil-based transportation fuels. Every acre of corn diverted to ethanol production is an acre that is no longer feeding the world’s hungry. In 2008, Herr Jean Ziegler, the United Nations’ Rapporteur for the Right to Food, claimed that “to divert land from food production to biofuels is a crime against humanity.”
In 2000, the United States imposed the first ethanol mandate, dictating the level of ethanol that must be incorporated into American fuels. At that time, 90 percent of corn production was used for food. Today, only 60 percent of corn produced is used for food, driving up the cost of corn as food. The climate alarmists who claim to care about the world’s hungry could improve their lot overnight by simply canceling the ethanol mandate.
Rising temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide are leading to multiple benefits and perhaps the most important of those is increasing crop production. Sleep well users of fossil fuels; you aren’t causing famine.
Gregory Wrightstone is author of the new book, “Inconvenient Facts: The Science That Al Gore Doesn't Want You To Know.” Wrightstone is a geologist with more than 35 years of experience researching and studying various aspects of the Earth's processes. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America.