Right Opinion

Global Agricultural Boom: A Million Thanks to Climate Change!

Cornwall Alliance · Dec. 12, 2017

By Vijay Jayaraj

Global cereal (grain) production has reached record levels in 2017. Credit for the increase usually goes to agrochemicals and other advanced agricultural technology. However, there are two other key contributors — carbon dioxide and climate change.

World cereal production for 2017 is projected to reach 2,613.3 million tons, 5.8 million tons above 2016’s level and nearly one-fourth higher than 2008’s. Despite population growth, production per capita rose 13 percent over the last decade, from 0.31 to 0.35 tons per person.

Production of all the world’s staple food crops — such as rice, wheat, and other coarse grains like millet — has risen in the past decade.

Comparison with the period before 2008 is even more startling.

The global food production index — an index of crops considered edible and nutritious — has risen steadily in the past six decades. Doubling from 1983 to 2008, it grew more than twice as fast as population and has continued to rise.

Rice production, for example, rose almost 30 percent from 361.33 million tons in 1990 to around 506.5 million in 2017.

Yet climate alarmist scientists, politicians, and mainstream media claim that climate change would hinder global agricultural production.

There are two key reasons their claims are false — exaggeration of climate change and misconceptions regarding the biological impact of carbon dioxide.

The change in global average temperature has in fact been beneficial to life during the past 2,000 years. Global temperatures during the Roman Warm Period (around 0 A.D.) and the Medieval Warm Period (around 1000 A.D.) greatly aided human life by enhancing crop growth. The Modern Warm Period we are experiencing is in fact very similar to these earlier warm periods.

Global agricultural production suffered only during cold periods, including the Little Ice Age, which ended around the late 18th or early 19th century.

Since the 1800s, the earth has been warming — returning to levels ideal for crop production. It is remarkable that the mainstream media can claim that temperatures are killing crops when they have actually contributed to exponential growth of crop yields.

A second major reason for unprecedented growth in global vegetation, including crop yields, has been the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere during the past few centuries.

Increasing carbon dioxide has been a major driver of plant growth since the Little Ice Age. It contributed roughly $3.2 trillion worth of crop yield in 1960–2011 and can be expected to contribute another $9.8 trillion by 2050.

In other words, carbon dioxide is the elixir of life. But climate alarmists wrongly brand it a pollutant.

Studies in the fields of chemistry, physics, agro-science, and climatology all indicate that increased carbon dioxide is the major reason for the greening of the earth in the past two centuries, including substantially high growth in the past few decades.

The historic growth patterns of global vegetation, their real-time impact on agricultural output, and crop-specific studies all prove that the current climate patterns have aided in the progress of human civilization.

Claims of the adverse impact of global warming are myths propagated by global warming elites and radical environmentalists. They cannot be defended scientifically.

Both global warming and carbon dioxide have benefitted plant growth, and both are important contributors to the success of modern civilization.

If anything, the Modern Warm Period, with its high carbon dioxide concentration, has given us reason to celebrate this winter, not to fear.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in New Delhi, India.

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