The Agricultural Case for Climate Change: Cooling, Not Warming, Is the Real Danger
By Vijay Jayaraj
Proponents of climate doomsday have often cited food security as a major concern, claiming that extreme man-made climate change has put the global agricultural sector in crisis.
But are our food crops really in danger of climate change? If they are, what are the ways to mitigate it?
Here are three reasons why the current warming trend of global temperature levels won’t have a significant impact on the agricultural sector
1. The Demagogue and the Faulty Forecasts
For more than two decades, the Untied Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has held the helm in matters concerning international climate science and climate policy.
They are recognized — by the media, political, and academic institutions — as the authoritative body for climate change-informed decision-making on developmental policies of individual member states (almost all the nations).
In other words, policy recommendations by the IPCC determine the economic, energy, and environmental policies of member states that participate in its international treaties.
Most of the current conclusions on man-made climate change are based on IPCC’s computer climate model forecasts. The impact of climate on the agricultural sector, too, is analyzed and interpreted based on these predictions. But IPCC’s diagnosis of the future climate is not as accurate as it is made out to be in our mainstream media. In fact, it is so inaccurate and so different from real world temperatures that scientists testified about the models’ faultiness before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space & Technology.
Temperature measurements from the past 18 years validate the testimony about model incapability to predict future temperatures. Both skeptics and alarmists accepted the faultiness of computer climate models.
Unverified, unpredictable, and immature conclusions regarding future temperatures provide no reason to worry about our agricultural sector.
2. What if Extreme Climate Change Does Happen?
Skeptics can make the same error that the alarmists made if they try to decode the future solely based on the failure of climate models. Temperatures may increase or decrease regardless of the predictive capabilities of our computer climate models.
Any genuine climate enthusiast should therefore embrace an open-ended perspective about the future climate, which has an equal probability for occurrence of both cold and hot climatic conditions.
So what if temperatures, due to various reasons, don’t increase drastically in the near future?
Considering the inability of human CO2 emissions to impact temperature levels adversely — a conclusion strongly supported by the absence of significant warming for the last 18 years despite continuously rising CO2 concentration — the only cause of such an extreme increase in temperature (or decrease for that matter) would be natural phenomena, like changes in solar activity.
In such cases, humans will have little to no ability to reverse the changes.
However, the display of human ingenuity in the development of modern agricultural science and technology could be the X-factor in our fight against any potential climate disaster.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) — both genetically edited and genetically modified crops — have proven to grow better than non-modified crops in extreme weather and soil conditions. Besides surviving through extreme environmental conditions like drought and heat, these crops also have high productivity and high tolerance to diseases.
In other words, GMO crops will likely mitigate any challenge posed by our climate. Certainly, the agricultural sector is in no danger from the nominal increase in global temperatures.
3. Lessons from the Past
Proxy measurements of past climatic conditions and their historic impact on agriculture are key informants to mitigate challenges posed by climate in future.
If there is anything we can learn from our past climate, it is this: Cold climatic conditions have been significantly more detrimental to the growth of crops than hot climatic conditions.
During the Little Ice Age, especially in the 17th century, freezing conditions destroyed crops across the Northern Hemisphere. In contrast, crops thrived in the Roman Warm Period (1st century) and the Medieval Warm Period (10th century).
Most recent observations suggest that warm periods aid crop growth. When the Little Ice Age ended in the 19th century, it gave way to what scientists call the Modern Warm Period.
The Modern Warm Period (mid-19th century to the present) has been the most productive era in human agricultural history.
While a considerable amount of this success can be attributed to the advancement of agricultural science, the major reason for success has been the warm temperature (protecting against freeze damage and bringing more rainfall) and the steady increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration levels (improving plants’ efficiency in the use of water and nutrients, their resistance to disease and pests, and their fruit-to-fiber ratio, and enlarging their geographic range).
So, if our agricultural systems and essential food crops face any threat from the changing climate, it will be because of cooling, not warming.
Unfortunately, the present popularity of reducing CO2 emissions to fight global warming robs us of whatever protection CO2‘s warming effect could give us from naturally induced global cooling phenomenon.
If the latest scientific reports are to be believed, we are headed into a cold phase owing to solar inactivity. A newly published scientific report warns that solar activity in the next two decades will be similar to, or even weaker than, the solar activity during the Little Ice Age, the cold temperatures of which wreaked havoc on crops.
It is therefore critical that policymakers and academicians begin devising strategies to mitigate the impacts of a potential cooling phase. No longer can we afford to waste our precious time on archaic warming theories that have been proven wrong time and again.
No longer must our agricultural sector be left unprepared for the real threats that it could face from cooling. And no longer must the public be misinformed and misled about the imaginary dangers of a warming world to our agricultural sector.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.