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.

26 Responses to “Sorry. CO2 is not Pumping up Plants. Climate Change pinching Global Food Supplies Now”

  1. daveburton Says:

    Actually, I don’t know who Steven is; I judged him on the basis of his excellent writing about climatology. OTOH, I don’t see his name among the 31,487 skeptical scientists (and engineers in relevant disciplines) listed at, so perhaps he is not a credentialed scientist. But if he isn’t, he nevertheless is a very fine amateur scientist.

    BTW, I believe that our host here is a sociologist. There’s nothing to prevent a non-credentialed person from acquiring expertise outside his original field, and doing potentially excellent work.

    OTOH, if they had a stronger hard science background, some of the global warming alarmists might not make so many embarrassing mistakes, such as uncritically accepting the now-discredited claim of a catastrophic decline in phytoplankton, even after Willis Eschenbach had shot it full of holes.

    Did you listen to GreenMan’s breathless alarm (starting at 8:55 of this video)? He said:

    “The most critical plant life on earth… phytoplankton… has plunged almost 40% as the world has warmed, a finding researchers call staggering and disturbing — this while climate deniers successfully target low-information voters with sixth-grade reasoning. Climate scientists document a fundamental threat to life as we know it, on the only planetary home we will ever have.”

    Actually, the claim of a 40% or 50% decline in phytoplankton is complete hogwash, and any careful scientist should have suspected as much, even before Eschenbach’s dissection. Phytoplankton are not in decline at all, of course, and if they had declined by anything like 40% the consequences would be very, very obvious.

    It is ironic that GreenMan’s wolf-crying over phytoplankton is in the very same sentence with a particularly crass set of insults aimed at the folks who, it turns out, were right when he was wrong. He called them:

    “climate deniers” — an allusion to Holocaust deniers, the ultimate bigoted anti-intellectuals
    “low-information voters” — i.e., stupid
    with “sixth-grade reasoning” — i.e., stupid

    Now, I ask you, how is THAT kind of behavior conducive to constructive scientific dialogue?


    • mrsircharles Says:

      You won’t find him, because it’s an alias name. “Steven Goddard” has seemingly stolen his name from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He is anything but a scientist. Last year I came by for the first time ever because of an article posted in a blog. His graph was a hoax. I put the original data into an Excel sheet and debunked him. He had to change the title of his article accordingly. It was about Northern Hemisphere Snow Coverage since 1967. A couple of months later I couldn’t find the article any more. I’m no more on this site because since my posts there my email address I used got internationally registered as spam, which means my friends didn’t find my mails any more and I had to change my email address.

      So far to your “very fine amateur scientist”.

      Anthony Watts debunked himself with Muller.

      I’d recommend that you get your information from serious scientific sites and not from websites of professional deniers (“Wattsupwiththat”, “Real Science” [my arse!])as you have done so far. These professional deniers have an agenda. They are cherry-picking. Most of them are payed dogsbodies from the mining and petroleum industry (like the “skeptical scientists” you mentioned).

      A good website from real climate scientists is Real Climate

      Easier explained, but also with intermediate information, is Skeptical Science, which is maintained by John Cook. He studied physics at the University of Queensland, Australia. After graduating, he majored in solar physics in his post-grad honours year. He is not a climate scientist. Consequently, the science presented on Skeptical Science is not his own but taken directly from the peer reviewed scientific literature. To those seeking to refute the science presented, one needs to address the peer reviewed papers where the science comes from (links to the full papers are provided whenever possible).

      If you’re more into the subject there is a blog site called Climate Science

      Real scientists publish their papers in peer reviewed magazins. They don’t hide their results and accuse the reviewer of betrayal (like Watts did with Muller). They don’t hide themselves under a pseudonym (like “Steven Goddard”). And they discuss their results openly with the scientific community.

      • daveburton Says:

        You wrote, “Real scientists… discuss their results openly with the scientific community.”

        You should have said, not just their results, but also their data. Consider this nugget of wisdom from the Institute of Physics, in response to the climategate revelations, about the proper practice of science:

        “The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. … Where the nature of the study precludes direct replication by experiment, as in the case of time-dependent field measurements, it is important [to require] access to all the original raw data and its provenance, together with the criteria used for, and effects of, any subsequent selections, omissions or adjustments. The details of any statistical procedures, necessary for the independent testing and replication, should also be included.”

        Unfortunately, in climatology there has developed (or, I should say, festered) a culture of secrecy which thwarts this “vital” principle. Look at how the warmists scurried for cover when Willis Eschenbach pried up the rock under which they hid:

        Here’s a brief excerpt:

        …in 2005 Warwick asked Phil for the dataset that was used to create the CRU temperature record. Phil Jones famously replied:

        Subject: Re: WMO non respondo
        … Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it. …
        Cheers Phil

        Hmmm … not good. Science can only progress if there is a free exchange of scientific data. The scientific model works like this:

        1. A scientist makes claims, and reveals the data and methods he used to come to his conclusions.
        2. Other scientists who don’t agree attack the claim by (inter alia) seeing if they can replicate the result, using the first scientist’s data and methods.
        3. If the claims cannot be replicated, the claim is adjudged to be false.

        Obviously, if the data or the methods are kept secret, the claims cannot be verified. Attacking other scientist’s claims is what what scientists do. This adversarial system is the heart of science.

        When I found out about this, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, a scientist can’t do that, can they? So I wrote to CRU on September 8, 2006, saying:

        I would like to obtain a list of the meteorological stations used in the preparation of the HadCRUT3 global temperature average, and the raw data for those stations. I cannot find it anywhere on the web. The lead author for the temperature average is Dr. Phil Jones of the Climate Research Unit.

        Many thanks, Willis Eschenbach

        I got no response from Phil Jones or anyone at CRU. So I filed a Freedom of Information act request…

        Now, can’t we all agree that this business of having to file FIOA requests to get the data needed for testing/replication/refuting of scientific results is a travesty?

        • greenman3610 Says:

          travesty, yes, since it’s all been widely available to anyone willing to look for it.

          for now, go to

          and graph yer brains out. Have at it, sport.

          • daveburton Says:

            No, greenman, the data hasn’t “all been widely available to anyone willing to look for it.” Of course.

            “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” -Phil Jones

            Do you think Jones was smoking dope when he wrote that?


          • greenman3610 Says:

            Let’s forget for a moment that 6 official investigations and hundreds of journalists could find no wrong doing in the climate hack nonsense – and simply remind ourselves that the data that made up the CRU temp graphs came from a number of different sets, some of which were from governmental sources that had non-disclosure agreements with CRU – they were not at liberty to just give away any data willy nilly. That would have been against the law.
            But a serious researcher that really wanted to get the data, as opposed to merely harass real scientists, could always do so, and that process has become much easier over time.
            In the meantime, of course, those temp graphs HAVE been replicated and proven many times over, most recently by the BEST project out of Berkeley. You can get some of that story in my most recent vid here

            so again, if you want to access the data, run the numbers, and show us your claimed expertise – find something no one else has been able to find, that the temp graphs are wrong or show something that is not there, I will make posting space available to you to announce your discovery to the world.
            Please, by all means.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      petition project “scientists” – see here-

      “BTW, I believe that our host here is a sociologist.’
      your research capability continues to astound.

      nope. not a sociologist. Just someone that studies the peer reviewed literature as opposed to the blogs, and when he has questions, asks people with decades in the field and advanced degrees in a specialty, as opposed to anonymous bloggers whose writing style I admire. Old fashioned, I know.

      • daveburton Says:

        Not a sociologist? Then I’ve apparently misunderstood who GreenMan3610 is. Sorry about that!

        But you’re being coy with me. Please don’t. Please tell me: who is GreenMan3610, and what is/are is degree(s)/field(s)? Does he have any credentials applicable to climatology, meteorology, atmospheric physics, etc.?

        BTW, in case anyone cares, my own degrees are in Systems Science and Computer Science, both highly applicable to modern climatology. (As an undergrad I was a Physics major for two years before changing majors.)


        • greenman3610 Says:

          I have no formal degrees in climatology or applicable science. I am a communicator. I have, however, been following closely the issues of energy and environment for a lifetime.
          My approach to learning is old fashioned…., rather than seek anonymous shake-and-bake “experts” on the internet, who will confirm my bias for me, I follow the work of established authorities with lifetimes of achievement in the field, and trustworthy organizations like the National Academy, the American Meteorological Society, NASA, the National Snow and Ice Data center, and the American Geophysical Union.
          Then, rather than change what they say to suit myself, I encourage them to explain their work to me in language I can understand, and transmit to others.
          As a result, my work has gained the approval of active, publishing climate scientists around the planet, many of whom are sharing these videos with their students and colleagues.

  2. rpauli Says:

    I hope that no one is saying that rude behavior or misspelling on a blog, somehow disproves anthropogenic global warming?

    Are you?

    • daveburton Says:

      Agreed. But it sure is ironic that Greenman engaged in such name-calling in the very same sentence that he uncritically parroted the Boyce disappearing phytoplankton nonsense!

      From Nature:

      Is there a decline in marine phytoplankton?

      Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Philip C. Reid, Martin Edwards, Peter H. Burkill, Claudia Castellani, Sonia Batten, Winfried Gieskes, Doug Beare, Robert R. Bidigare, Erica Head, Rod Johnson, Mati Kahru, J. Anthony Koslow & Angelica Pena
      Nature 472, E6–E7 (14 April 2011) doi:10.1038/nature09950
      Received 31 August 2010
      Accepted 01 February 2011
      Published online 13 April 2011
      Article (July, 2010)
      Brief Communication Arising (April, 2011)

      ARISING FROM D. G. Boyce, M. R. Lewis & B. Worm Nature 466, 591–596 (2010);

      Phytoplankton account for approximately 50% of global primary production, form the trophic base of nearly all marine ecosystems, are fundamental in trophic energy transfer and have key roles in climate regulation, carbon sequestration and oxygen production. Boyce et al.1 compiled a chlorophyll index by combining in situ chlorophyll and Secchi disk depth measurements that spanned a more than 100-year time period and showed a decrease in marine phytoplankton biomass of approximately 1% of the global median per year over the past century. Eight decades of data on phytoplankton biomass collected in the North Atlantic by the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey2, however, show an increase in an index of chlorophyll (Phytoplankton Colour Index) in both the Northeast and Northwest Atlantic basins3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (Fig. 1), and other long-term time series, including the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT)8, the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series (BATS)8 and the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI)9 also indicate increased phytoplankton biomass over the last 20–50 years. These findings, which were not discussed by Boyce et al.1, are not in accordance with their conclusions and illustrate the importance of using consistent observations when estimating long-term trends.

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