Not Enough “Plant Food”? Climate Crimping Crops Worldwide

July 28, 2021

We’re a decade removed from the video above, which looks at the vulnerability of food supplies to climate impacts – but the “CO2 is Plant Food” crock remains a hardy perennial.

The video is a reminder of the massive failure of the Russian grain crop in 2010 – leading to a ban on exports, which, along with failures in Argentina and Australia, lead to a spike in food prices across vulnerable states in Northern Africa, and the “Arab Spring” uprisings – aftershocks still being felt.

Meanwhile, in the US West, those farmers looking at parched fields are probably not thinking, “Gee, I wish I had some more carbon dioxide…”


Extreme weather is slamming crops across the globe, bringing with it the threat of further food inflation at a time costs are already hovering near the highest in a decade and hunger is on the rise.

Brazil’s worst frost in two decades brought a deadly blow to young coffee trees in the world’s biggest grower. Flooding in China’s key pork region inundated farms and raised the threat of animal disease. Scorching heat and drought crushed crops on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. And in Europe, torrential rains sparked the risk of fungal diseases for grains and stalled tractors in soaked fields.

Coffee’s the biggest recent mover, with prices surging 17% this week week and topping $2 a pound for the first time since 2014. But the recent frost in Brazil is just the latest example of woes that have struck farmers there this year. Brazil’s also experiencing a crippling drought that depleted reservoirs needed for irrigation.

The series of misfortunes underscores what scientists have been warning about for years: Climate change and its associated weather volatility will make it increasingly harder to produce enough food for the world, with the poorest nations typically feeling the hardest blow. In some cases, social and political unrest follows.

“Things that are happening in one part of the world end up impacting all of us,” said Agnes Kalibata, a United Nations special envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit and Rwanda’s former agriculture minister. “We’ve underestimated as a world is just how frequently” weather would start to have serious impacts.

“Some communities are already living through the nightmares of climate change,” Kalibata said.

The Food Price Index from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization rose for 12 consecutive months through May before easing in June to 124.6 points, still up 34% from a year earlier. The index measures international prices of a basket of food commodities.

No other industry is more at the mercy of sun, rain and heat than agriculture, where changes in the weather can upend a farmer’s fortunes overnight. It’s also an industry that’s become extremely globalized and concentrated, creating a precarious situation where an extreme weather event in one place is bound to have ripples everywhere.

Brazil, for example, is the world’s biggest shipper of sugar and orange juice and a key producer of corn and soybeans. It accounts for about 40% of the world’s harvest for arabica coffee, the smooth variety that shows up in your Starbucks cup.

“There’s no other country in the world that has that kind of influence on the world market conditions — what happens in Brazil affects everyone,” said Michael Sheridan, director of sourcing and shared value at Intelligentsia Coffee, a Chicago-based roaster and retailer. 

What’s unique right now is that extreme weather seems to be pounding almost every region of the globe.


19 Responses to “Not Enough “Plant Food”? Climate Crimping Crops Worldwide”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Painful ending to the video:

    “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.”

    It’s still worse when you deal with them in person.

  2. redskylite Says:

    “While climate scientists have warned for a half-century that this was the inevitable result of adding too much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, so-called climate deniers have continued to suggest that the observed changes might be a fluke—just natural variation.”

  3. redskylite Says:

    “Thousands of Central Valley farmers may lose access to surface water amid worsening drought.

    On Friday, the State Water Resources Control Board released a draft “emergency curtailment” order for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed. The measure, which was first reported by The Sacramento Bee, would bar some water rights holders from diverting surface water for agricultural and other purposes.

    The proposed regulation underscores just how dire matters have become as drought squeezes the American West.”

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      Problems with the subsurface water too! And all problems are escalating in frequency and severity. Fire torches and pitchforks, Dodge trucks ad long guns, will not help but are a nice thought.

  4. John Swallow Says:

    It is interesting to note, since Kevin Trenberth is featured in this video, just what he wrote about the situation taking place in 2009 in Colorado.

    Hi all
    Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here in
    Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. We
    had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it
    smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about 18F and also a
    record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather (see the Rockies
    baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last night in below freezing
    Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s global
    energy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 1, 19-27,
    doi:10.1016/j.cosustREDACTED[1][PDF] (A PDF of the published version can be obtained
    from the author.)
    The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
    travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
    shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing
    system is inadequate.
    That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on a
    monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is the
    change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn’t decadal. The PDO is already reversing with
    the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time since
    Sept 2007. see

    • redskylite Says:

      Your posting here utterly disgusts me. Dr Kevin Trenberth is a highly respected and awarded Atmospheric and Climate Scientist, who has retired after a long and successful career and returned to his native home. Do you want me to start on Willie Soon ?

      Climategate has been investigated and no evidence of foul play was found. The servers were hacked illegally by unprincipled scumbags, and shame on you for spreading the private emails here.

      Climate science has moved on since those days anyhow – the so called hockey stick has been validated by other unbiased teams and there are many new scientists in the picture. The latest generation are not still bickering about Mann, Jones and Climate gate , trust me that was yesterday and is water under the bridge.

      Why do your sort pick on Climate Scientists in particular ? do you attack oncologists when you are diagnosed with cancer?, aircraft scientists when you fly? stress and structural physics science when you drive over road bridges ?

      Why do you mix science and politics so vehemently, many conservative governments in various countries are tackling climate change and adhere to the IPCC policies.


      In 2019, Ripple and colleagues (2020) warned of untold suffering and declared a climate emergency together with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from 153 countries. They presented graphs of planetary vital signs indicating very troubling trends, along with little progress by humanity to address climate change. On the basis of these data and scientists’ moral obligation to “clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat,” they called for transformative change. Since the article’s publication, more than 2,800 additional scientists have signed that declaration of a climate emergency (see supplemental file S1 for the current signatory list); in addition, 1,990 jurisdictions in 34 countries have now formally declared or recognized a climate emergency

      • John Swallow Says:

        redskylite Says: “Your posting here utterly disgusts me.” Dr Kevin Trenberth wrote what I quoted him writing; so, why do you have such a problem with that? “Climategate has been investigated and no evidence of foul play was found.” and you do not want to remember that Climategate was why the phony Copenhagen climate talks fell apart.
        Do you recall how the 2009 Copenhagen get together fell apart after the climate gate emails became public knowledge that showed the dishonesty and deception of these charlatans who want people to believe in the anthropogenic global warming hoax? An example of how your “science” conducts itself.
        From: Phil Jones
        To: ray bradley ,REDACTED, REDACTED

        Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
        Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or
        first thing tomorrow.
        I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps
        to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
        1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual
        land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
        N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
        for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
        data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
        Thanks for the comments, Ray.

      • John Swallow Says:

        It is amazing how many different climatic events that these ‘scientist’ can pack into one sentence than what appears in the one below. Are we being asked to believe that all of this is due to the trace gas that is only .03-.04% of the total atmosphere?

        “But, at the same time, there has been an unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters since 2019, including devastating flooding in South America and Southeast Asia, record shattering heat waves and wildfires in Australia and the Western United States, an extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season, and devastating cyclones in Africa, South Asia, and the West Pacific (see supplemental file S2 for attribution information).”

        They mention; “an extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season” while not wanting to bring this up so that they can try to lie their way out of these facts.
        hurricane drought
        ( — Saturday, June 24 marked the completion of a record 140 straight months since the last major hurricane made landfall in the continental United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA).
        The last major hurricane to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida on Oct. 24, 2005. According to NOAA, four major hurricanes hit the continental United States that year. They included Wilma, Rita, Katrina, and Dennis.
        But since Wilma, no Category 3 or above hurricane has made landfall in the continental United States, making June 24, 2017 the end of a record 140 months without a major hurricane strike.
        Prior to this 140-month stretch without a major hurricane strike, the longest major hurricane drought was the 96 months between September 1860 and August 1869.

        • Mark Mev Says:

          I keep forgetting this point, so thanks. Since atlantic hurricane us landfalls are down, there are no hurricanes! Its a hurricane drought of biblical proportions. All “theories” of climate change increasing the severity of atlantic basin hurricanes (and not the total numbers) are incorrect because it has been centuries since a hurricane landed 21.3 miles north of Daytona Florida.

          • John Swallow Says:

            Who has any idea what Mark Mev Says? He mentions something about severity of Atlantic basin hurricanes and he most likely does not know anything about what happened to Galveston Texas in 1900.
            “Although the “Great Galveston Hurricane” also occurred before the establishment of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, this estimated category 4 storm is still considered the United States’ deadliest natural disaster. The storm’s sustained wind velocity, which was registered before the anemometer blew away, was 84 miles per hour (135 kph), but gusts of 100 miles per hour (161 kph) had been recorded. Later, meteorologists estimated that wind speeds probably reached 140 miles per hour (225 kph) (City of Galveston 1900 Storm Committee 2010). The storm surge, estimated at 15.7 feet (4.8 m), swept ashore in advance of the hurricane’s vortex and caused a sudden rise in water depth, inundating most of Galveston Island and the City of Galveston. At the time, the highest elevation on Galveston Island was 8.7 feet (2.7 m)
            […] Between 6,000 and 8,000 people in the city died as a result of the storm. Estimated casualties for the entire island range from 10,000 to 12,000. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina (2005), the deadliest storm of recent times, claimed the lives of approximately 1,500 people (Blake et al. 2007)”.

            I ask Mark Mev to try to explain to me what part that the level of CO₂ in the atmosphere in 1900 played in this most deadly of all United States hurricanes.

          • J4Zonian Says:


            Not sure how the Princeton numbers square with this:

            As of April 2018, 400 months in a row warmer than the 20th century average. (As of August 2021, 440 months.) If you assume the odds of a particular month being warmer than average are 50% — what you’d expect in a stable climate — then the odds of 400 warm months in a row if we weren’t warming would be approximately one in 1 x 10^120—a “novemtrigintillion” — more than a trillion times the number of atoms in the universe.

            The world is warming; it’s caused by humans, and it will destroy civilization if not stopped now.

            18 of hottest 19 years have been since 2000


            2020 tied with 2016 as hottest year on record; 2019 was 2nd.

            “In the last 30 days, all-time high temperature readings in the United States outnumbered record lows [1] 86 to zero, and for the year-to-date, the ratio of heat records to cold records is 212 to 11. In the 1950s, the ratio was one-to-one.
            …one of the recent record highs may end up being the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit, on Aug. 16 in California’s Death Valley.”

            [1] insideclimatenews[DOT]

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Don’t know why that first link didn’t picturate.

        • J4Zonian Says:


          Are you autistic?

  5. John Swallow Says:

    “The series of misfortunes underscores what scientists have been warning about for years: Climate change and its associated weather volatility will make it increasingly harder to produce enough food for the world, with the poorest nations typically feeling the hardest blow. In some cases, social and political unrest follows”.

    We were in India in 2018 for about a month and I observed that their farming practices are still very primitive compared to what one see in the US; but, in spite of that and being smart enough to know that more CO₂ in the atmosphere is good for plant, this is what India produced recently.

    India: Grain and Feed Annual
    India is heading for a fourth consecutive record wheat harvest, with marketing year (MY) 2020/21 (April/March) production forecast at 105 million metric tons (MMT). MY 2020/21 rice production is forecast at a near record 117 MMT with average yields. Back-to-back record harvests and government procurements have inflated MY 2019/20 wheat and rice stocks to more than three times desired levels. The Government of India (GOI) is likely to release additional wheat and rice at subsidized prices in CY 2020 and 2021 to reduce stocks to manageable levels. Indian wheat remains uncompetitive in the international market, but exports in MY 2020/21 are forecast higher at 1 MMT on expected higher sales to neighboring countries. Rice exports in MY 2020/21 are forecast to recover to 12 MMT on higher exportable supplies. MY 2020/21 coarse grain consumption is forecast at 45.8 MMT stagnant over last year on weak demand from the poultry sector, which has been hit by fake news that poultry products can transmit Covid-19.

    “When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken or cease to be honest.” Abraham Lincoln

  6. John Swallow Says:

    “There’s no other country in the world that has that kind of influence on the world market conditions — what happens in Brazil affects everyone,” said Michael Sheridan, director of sourcing and shared value at Intelligentsia Coffee, a Chicago-based roaster and retailer.
    It would appear that a little extra CO₂ in the atmosphere does really help plants to grow. Why would that premise ever have been questioned, is the big question?
    Ignore Climate Hysteria: Brazil Set To Post Record Harvest

    Brazil set to post record harvest: Conab
    Published date: 10 October 2019
    Brazil’s 2019-20 grain and oilseed crops are poised to reach record production of 245.8mn metric tons (t), boosted by an increase in acreage and a recovery in the soybean crop, which will also likely break a record.
    The number would mark an increase of 1.6pc from the last cycle. The total area planted is also expected to reach a record of nearly 64mn hectares (158mn acres), up 1.1pc from last year’s season, the country’s agricultural statistics agency (Conab) said today in its first report on the new season.
    Farmers have already started planting soybean and corn in some southern and west-central areas of the country. Both commodities – including the winter corn crop, sowed after the soybean harvest – account for 90pc of all Brazil’s grain and oilseed crops. Other crops included in the total are sunflower, barley and peanuts, among others.
    Soybean output is estimated at a record 120.4mn t in the 2019-20 harvest, 4.7pc higher than the 2018-19 season, when unfavorable weather conditions hampered yields in some producing regions. The planted area this year is expected to reach 36.6mn ha, up by 1.9pc from last year.

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    A trace gas is any that’s less than 1% of the atmosphere. CO2 makes up about .1%, 4th most plentiful gas there.

    The only gases in Earth’s atmosphere that aren’t trace gases are nitrogen (78%) and oxygen, (21%); Despite being about 75% less plentiful, O has far more effect on biological and geologic processes than N. (Next is inert argon, 0.9%).

    “Without life there would be virtually no oxygen, slower nitrogen dynamics, almost nothing of the trace gases that are primarily biogenic, and a greatly elevated level of carbon dioxide.” Tyler Volk, Gaia’s Body: Toward a Physiology of Earth p 111

    Put some table salt in your hand and dump out all but 2 grains. Keep hold of them while you read the next paragraph.

    Cyanide’s LD50, the dose that kills half those exposed to it, is 13 parts per million. Arsenic’s is 6. Some snake venoms, algal bloom toxin, & ricin, can kill at 1 part per million. The main source of methyl mercury in the world is coal burning. It can kill in quantities smaller than 1ppm; at even smaller doses it doesn’t kill, it just has profound lifelong physical and mental effects—Mad Hatter syndrome, for example, in which the victim speaks in the bizarre tangles called word salad. It takes even less than that in chronic doses.

    Dart poison frogs’ Batrachotoxin’s LD50 is 1/1000th of that (1mcg/kg or 1 part per billion), so if those 2 grains of salt in your hand were batrachotoxin, it’s a coin flip whether it would be enough to kill you. It would take 6 salt grains worth of VX, while Botulinum toxin kills at 1 thousandth that amount—1 nanogram, or 1 billionth of a gram/kg body weight. One part per trillion of it can kill.

    CO2 is at 419 parts per million in the atmosphere now.

    The troll argument is that small things have no appreciable effect on living systems. But lots of small things have enormous effects.

    Termites have the rare talent of being able to eat wood; they emit methane, despite being tiny they have a dramatic effect on the composition and behavior of the atmosphere. But they don’t do it themselves; they do both because they hold bacteria in their guts—microscopic, of course—who digest it for them and produce the methane.

Saying that CO2 can’t be having any effect on the biosphere because there’s not much of it is ignorant, insane, and given the stakes and the overwhelming science, criminally irresponsible. Saying people can’t have an effect on Earth is ludicrous; either a clumsy and stupid lie or some complex unconscious paradox of a feeling of impotence.

    Plus, tens of thousands of peer-reviewed studies say both we and CO2 ARE having an effect. An enormous one.

People who persist in denying reality are often helped by psychotherapy. They obviously aren’t helped by facts.

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