World Food Supplies and Carbon Emissions

We are constantly hearing reports that a new revolution in agriculture is necessary to feed the world. With hysterical propaganda the media are hectoring us that global warming/climate change is going to make matters worse and reduce crop yields. In the June issue of National Geographic there is a special report entitled The end of plenty: the global food crisis. The article pays homage to the eighteenth century cleric Thomas Malthus as though he were a prophet, such as in his saying that “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. That was absolute rot in his day, and it’s absolute rot now. There was a ‘power in the earth’ that he knew nothing about – fossil fuels – that supported the greatest increase in subsistence, population and living standards this world has ever known, and can continue to do so even when the fuels are exhausted (as we shall see below). This world is never going to run out of carbon, water, nitrogen, phosphorous, or any other substance needed to grow crops, and when we can no longer get at them easily by using fossil fuels there will be another ‘power in the earth’ called uranium, and from that plutonium, that will enable us to extract them and produce them in the forms we need from all the materials at our disposal.

But such deranged thinking as Malthus committed to writing has been embraced by the neo-Malthusians, who are intent on reducing the population of the world by two thirds by getting the developed world to buy into evil policies such as reduction in fossil fuel use, introducing wasteful carbon capture and storage, embracing hugely inefficient and silly ‘renewable’ energy schemes rather than cheaper modern nuclear power, and use of biofuels, which take land out of food production and massively increase food prices, all in the end causing poverty, starvation and death to those at the bottom of the ladder in the developing world.

But what if we could introduce a supply of nutrient into farming as a by-product of improved lifestyles that would cost nothing, was completely harmless to all life forms, would need no human labour to apply, and would be effective at improving crop yields on all foods crops in every part of the world? This nutrient would improve crop yields by 30-100%, would enable crops to grow in arid soils with poor nutrients and little water, would make crops resistant to frost and heat damage, would enable crops to grow in areas of high salination and high air pollution, would speed up and shorten the growing cycle, would require less light, would allow most of the world’s crops to out-compete native weeds, would reduce the need for pesticide and weedkiller, would reduce soil erosion, would improve nitrogen fixation, and would reduce food prices…would you be interested? Unlike so-called ‘organic farming’, which permanently poisons the soil with copper salts and makes agriculture extremely inefficient, and food more expensive, and so plays into the hands of the Malthusians, this nutrient has massive benefits across the range. This wonderful nutrient is called carbon dioxide, and an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has all these wonderful beneficial effects without a shadow of a doubt.

There is a conspiracy of silence on this. The weedkiller and pesticide manufacturers don’t want this known; neither do those who are doing genetic modification; there’s no money in this for them. The fervent believers in the new Eco-religion, whether they know it or not, are in the pocket of the Malthusians and doing their bidding, and certainly don’t want this inconvenient truth known. The very policies of trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (or, with carbon capture and storage, taking them out of the atmosphere completely so that they can never be of any use to anyone – a very wicked policy) are directed towards robbing the world of the very benefits it needs to feed more people and reduce food prices.

This truly is a conspiracy of gigantic and horrific proportions: the article in National Geographic has not a single word to say about the direct effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on crop growth, robustness and resource requirements – that in an article about the future of global food crops, which are all made of carbon compounds photosynthesized from carbon atoms sequestered from atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, unlike the global warming hypotheses, which are scientific fraud and have been falsified, the positive benefits of increasing atmospheric CO2 can be – and have been – tested in laboratories and field trials for decades. Anyone can read the results of painstaking research in the literature, and any test centre can reproduce all the beneficial effects described in the previous paragraph, and within weeks and months can confirm the truth of them – this is real reproducible hard science. There are literally thousands of published papers detailing hard scientific results, going back decades. So important is this, and so completely are we being duped to adopt exactly the opposite policy on carbon dioxide to the great detriment of the world’s poorest, that we are dedicating several posts over the coming months to set out the actual scientific evidence for all to see. We will prove all of the points made in favour of CO2 above, and many more. The evidence is incontrovertible.

The agronomist Dr Sylvan Wittwer, Director Emeritus of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Michigan State University and Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, former Chairman of the Board on Agriculture of the National Research Council, consultant for all International Agricultural Research Centers, and all U.S. federal agencies relating to agriculture and environment, and author of more than 750 peer-reviewed studies, in his excellent book Food, Climate, and Carbon Dioxide: The Global Environment and World Food Production (CRC Press, 1995) summarizes the situation as follows:

As far as food and agricultural crops are concerned with variables thus far imposed, most growth responses to elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 are favourable. They include increases in total dry weight, root growth, higher root/top ratios, leaf area, weight per unit area, leaf thickness, stem height, branching and seed, and fruit number and weight. Organ size may also increase along with root/top ratios…Important for agriculture is that there is an increase in the harvest index and the marketable product, and a shortening of the growing season with earlier maturity resulting in reductions in both water and pesticide requirement.

But Wittwer saw that, going back to the 1970s (when the neo-Malthusians hit upon the idea of scaring the world with global warming and pinning the cause on industrial development),

There has been, and still remains, a great reluctance on the part of many climatologists and ecologists, and especially environmentalists, to accept the concept that the rising level of CO2 could be more beneficial than harmful for plant growth, food production, and the overall biosphere (Rozema et al, 1993). Yet the scientific evidence is overwhelming.

Since scientists are supposed to deal with factual evidence, Wittwer thus could discern what he describes a ‘mystery’, and expresses surprise with a touch of irony about ‘an educated and enlightened generation’:

One of the remaining mysteries of modern science and technology, and presumably an educated and enlightened generation, is that in the majority of studies of global food security (FAO, 1981, 1984, 1986; Meadows et al., 1972; Crosson and Anderson, 1992) there is a failure to factor in any climate variables, even though climate is the most determinative factor in agricultural productivity (Oram, 1989

Since Witter wrote that there have been a whole raft of reports that have included aspects of climate – but only the hypothetical negative ones concocted by the climate alarmists of course, and with the neglect of all the positive aspects such as increased CO2, which are hard scientific facts, not discredited hypotheses. This makes it no longer merely a deficiency in the analysis, which is bad enough, but a premeditated unscientific and wholly irrational negative bias on the analysis bent on promoting the reduction of CO2 emissions because of their alleged effects on climate change (the convenient lie), but in realty because of their actual beneficial effects (the inconvenient truth). It is now too kind to describe this as a ‘mystery’.

Wittwer continues

Furthermore, seldom, if ever, in textbooks and other documentaries on agricultural food production, are the fertilizing effects of atmospheric CO2 acknowledged. This was true over 30 years ago (Norman, 1962). Now, after more than a century [of controlled experiments, and the evidence of the benefits over the whole twentieth century], and with the confirmation of thousands of scientific reports, CO2 gives the most remarkable response of all nutrients in plant bulk, is usually in short supply [note well!], and is nearly always limiting for photosynthesis [i.e. its shortage rather than other factors usually sets the limits on the rate of photosynthesis]. Moreover, in some of the latest reports and projections on world food production and security, the rising levels of atmospheric CO2 as a contributing plant growth factor do not receive mention (Crosson and Anderson, 1992; Edwards et al., 1990; Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 1994; World Food Council, 1992.)

Yes, there’s a conspiracy of silence, but this issue is going to receive more than a mention on this site.


3 Responses to “World Food Supplies and Carbon Emissions”

  1. 1 Dan Absher September 23, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    The first I heard about CO2 enrichment was many years ago and its use in indoor “grow rooms” for growing marijuana. I don’t grow it or use it, just read about it. I have learned since then that CO2 enrichment is sometimes used in commercial greenhouses. Based on these facts, it is inconceivable to me that the “scientists” that ignore the beneficial effects of increased atmospheric CO2 don’t know about this. They have their own agenda, and choose to ignore facts that don’t fit their agenda. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these “scientists” used CO2 enrichment in their own grow rooms.

  2. 2 Amal Wimalasena April 20, 2011 at 4:44 am

    Global warming, carbon dioxide and methane pollution are not subjects that can be analyzed in a simple manner.

    As regards carbon dioxide, it is eminently acceptable that plants will grow better in a carbon dioxide enriched atmosphere. But is it correct to say that increasing CO2 emissions pose no danger?

    There might be no adverse reactions if the plant population remains unchanged or increases, but with a projected doubling of the world population, the plant population will be drastically reduced, even decimated, for habitats, agriculture and energy. As a result, there will always be a net, much more rapid increase in atmospheric CO2. This in turn will give rise to more rapid changes in climatic conditions. Will the remaining plants be able to adapt themselves to the new conditions? Some may; with surely a drop in production for a few years; other will become extinct. If I remember right, it took about 300 years of hybridizing to double the yield of wheat. It is very unlikely that plants can adapt themselves any faster to rapid climate change. The result is a further rapid adverse change in climatic conditions. There can be a vicious cycle resulting in increasing global warming, shortages of food, energy – in everything in fact.

    As regards methane, it is not absorbed by anything. It remains in the atmosphere and is many times more lethal than CO2. With doubling of the population there will be increased dairy farming, increased decomposition of cellulosic matter, and so on, drastically increasing methane emissions. There will be added emissions of methane from warming seas too. The end result is more rapid and increasing global warming, making it worse for the survival of plants.

    When plants cannot survive, all animal life, including humankind, will be on the road to extinction.

    We humans cannot still understand our own biological processes. Many illnesses are still treated on educated guesses. Then how can we ever hope to understand natural processes? Some day far into the future we might succeed, but by then it might be too late for all of us.

    These see-saw arguments for and against global warming and atmospheric pollution will distract us from necessary action. The necessary action is practical action to at least maintain the current equilibrium in the ecosystems.

    ScientistForTruth replies

    I cannot agree with this pessimistic, neo-Malthusian, head-in-the-sand approach. Where to start? “how can we ever hope to understand natural processes?” That’s what science does.

    A moderate increase in CO2 poses no danger to plants. It enables them to produce higher yields, and, for the same yield, to use less water, and enables them to withstand heat, frost and salinity better. So we will be able to bring marginal land into productive use, and get better yields from existing land. So, as to how we will feed double the population, increasing CO2 has a really beneficial part to play.

    A good look at history pays dividends. Once upon a time there was no fertilizer other than manure, and there was not much manure because there was insufficient feed for both humans and livestock. There was a fallow system where 33 -50% of land was out of use at any given time. Population was limited by agriculture. Once crop rotation and nitrogen fixation by planting legumes was adopted during the eighteenth century then 100% of land came into production and there was then a legume crop for the livestock, which could be expanded, producing more manure. Yields increased tremendously. Population expanded until it hit another limit as to what could be done with legumes and manure. Throughout the nineteenth century new fertilizers were discovered, mined and used – guano, potassium nitrate etc. Then an industrial process (Haber-Bosch) for fixing atmospheric nitrogen was invented at the begginning of the twentieth century, producing ammonia and thus ammonium nitrate, and using newly-invented hydroelectric power was able to turn out vast quantities of artificial fertilizer. So then we had the twentieth century ‘green revolution’ in agriculture. Of course, there is only so much that can be done with artificial fertilizer, but progress doesn’t stop. The twenty-first century will see huge strides as have previous centuries. Cultivars are being developed that will be able to leverage the increasing concentrations of CO2; marginal land will become productive; genetically-modified crops will increase yields. What we need to do is stop producing biofuels, which are wasting huge tracts of agricultural land, pushing up food prices and creating poverty and famine. We should be using the land to grow food and getting our fuels out of the ground, which will become additional CO2, which will fertilize the crops, improve yields and bring more marginal land into use.

    Science and engineering go on apace and always prove the Malthusians wrong, because necessity is the mother of invention, and the Malthusians are just too blinkered to be able to see that technology solves problems.

    Plants don’t have to ‘adapt’ to higher levels of CO2 because CO2 is a limiting factor. C3 plants have, until recent years, been growing at suffocation levels of CO2. Do plants subject to drought have to ‘adapt’ to better irrigation? Do plants subject to insufficient nitrogen or minerals have to ‘adapt’ to improved levels? Of course not; likewise, plants that are barely above suffocation limits of CO2 will thrive as CO2 increases until some other factor becomes limiting.

    “As regards methane, it is not absorbed by anything. It remains in the atmosphere and is many times more lethal than CO2.” Rubbish. Methane is not ‘lethal’, neither is CO2. They are neither poisonous nor toxic. It doesn’t have to be absorbed to disappear from the atmosphere – methane is naturally decomposed in the atmosphere by sunlight (into harmless CO2 and water) – its residence time is around 12 years, the shortest of all so-called ‘greenhouse gasses’ other than water vapour.

    “When plants cannot survive, all animal life, including humankind, will be on the road to extinction.” Whilst this is a true statement insofar as animals and humans are dependent on plants in the food chain, it is completely implausible to suggest that such a condition could occur. The statement is only true hypothetically and bears no relationship to reality.

    “The necessary action is practical action to at least maintain the current equilibrium in the ecosystems.” Oh, yes, let’s just leave things exactly as they are. Well, I’m very grateful that my forebears eliminated lots of diseases, lots of pests, lots of predators, and lots of scrubland, so that I for one could exist. I’m also grateful that they did all the mining, and concreted over parts of the country so that I could get about, live in decent housing, and use electricity etc, so that we can look forward to a reasonably productive life rather than the ‘poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ life of man that Hobbes wrote about in the seventeenth century. This talk of ‘maintaining the current equilibrium in the ecosystems’ is nothing other than a man-hating, self-loathing doctrine that will lead to grotesque poverty and death. No, we need to continue to move the equilibrium in the direction of being better able to support mankind, not making human population self limiting through widespread death, as used to be the case in centuries past.

  3. 3 kimbal April 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I believe that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere may comprise approximately 350 PPM, which is a terrifically tiny number. I also believe from reading Watt’s Up With That and The Cornwall Alliance and other sources that we know that plants do grow better if more CO2 is available so by increasing the amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, we then see plant growth which then absorbs much of the extra CO2. Furthermore, even if the amount of CO2 were to DOUBLE, the tiny fraction of that gas in the atmosphere could not cause the world-wide temperatures to rise by any perceivable amount.

    Furthermore, looking back at what we know of world history, the Medieval Warming Period was a time of plenty for the world’s population. There were no “evil” factories producing emissions to cause the warming. This was information the IPCC and the CRU and the UN tried to ignore when presenting their deliberately flawed and faked graphs and predictions predicting doom from greenhouse gas production! Obviously the warming and cooling periods of the past had nothing to do with human activity whatever.

    The irony of calling them “greenhouse gasses” is clear. Carbon emissions are beneficial to plants and therefore the food supply of humanity. We should be encouraging such emissions rather than seeking to tax them and stop them.

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