Sorry. CO2 is not Pumping up Plants. Climate Change pinching Global Food Supplies Now
June 6, 2011
I’ve done 3 videos now on the pervasive “CO2 is good for crops” canard.
Finally, the mainstream media might be catching up with what climate activists have been talking about for years. On sunday, the New York Times published a long essay about the dawning realization on the part of scientists, agronomists, and public officials, that climate is already having a major impact on food systems and food prices worldwide.
I can’t improve on Joe Romm’s great discussion piece over at ClimateProgress, but here are a few snips from the Times article, “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself”.
Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilize the food system: climate change.
Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters, like floods in the United States, drought in Australia and blistering heat waves in Europe and Russia. Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human-induced global warming.
Temperatures are rising rapidly during the growing season in some of the most important agricultural countries, and a paper published several weeks ago found that this had shaved several percentage points off potential yields, adding to the price gyrations.
The article points out that the long touted notion that higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase plant productivity have not panned out, largely because these notions were based on laboratory or greenhouse conditions, not reflective of the real world, where extreme weather events of recent years have taken a severe toll.
Now as results from “real world” crop tests have been coming in, ag scientists have been taken aback.
They started by planting soybeans in a field, then sprayed extra carbon dioxide from a giant tank. Based on the earlier research, they hoped the gas might bump yields as much as 30 percent under optimal growing conditions.
But when they harvested their soybeans, they got a rude surprise: the bump was only half as large. “When we measured the yields, it was like, wait a minute — this is not what we expected,” said Elizabeth A. Ainsworth, a Department of Agriculture researcher who played a leading role in the work.
The results have been similar for other staple crops.
For First world nations, the idea of food shortages is an abstraction, and if they think about it at all, it is in terms of giving some money for relief organizations to throw an extra sack of surplus grain at struggling third world people. What has changed in the last generation is that the stability of those third world nations is now a much higher stakes proposition. Across the middle east, governments are falling due to social unrest due, at least in part, to rising food prices.
Pakistan, shaken to the core by last year’s catastrophic flooding, is nuclear armed.
Comfortable westerners can no longer afford to ignore what climate change, largely due to our emissions, is doing to the rest of humanity. We are all together on this ride.