By Vijay Jayaraj
Climate alarmists have long claimed that increasing global temperatures are destroying crops and causing serious disruption to agriculture. But data from US agricultural production shows otherwise.
America is the largest producer of corn and soybean in the world. It is also the third-largest producer of wheat. Like any crop, these are sensitive to extreme climatic conditions. A severe drought or extreme winter can adversely impact them.
However, there is no evidence of an increase in the frequency of extreme weather conditions in recent decades. To the contrary, crops all over the world have found more favorable conditions to flourish in the past six decades.
Optimum temperature levels and a high concentration of carbon dioxide have aided plant growth globally.
Cereal crops are no exception, and all major studies have proved that there is a very strong positive correlation between plant growth and carbon dioxide, especially for the world’s four most consumed crops—rice, maize, wheat, and soybean.
Cereal production in the US is at a record high (475 million metric tons in 2016), after a continuous upward trend for the past 50 years.
According to the USDA, soybean supplies reached record highs in 2017/2018 and are expected to climb another 3% to 4875 million bushels in 2018/2019.
Corn supplies for 2017/2018 were the highest in the records. Wheat production too, has continuously increased between the years 1970 and 2015.
The total food production index—an index (of food crops that are considered edible and that contain nutrients), which measures the relative level of the aggregate volume of agricultural production for each year in comparison with the base period 2004–2006, is also at record highs after displaying a tremendous growth rate from 1961 to 2018.
Similar patterns can be observed in other major agrarian countries across the globe. For example, India’s crop output reached record highs in consecutive years—2016 and 2017—thus feeding the 1.3 billion people who live there and exporting the surplus to other countries.
In China—a country where rice is the staple food for 65 percent of the population—rice yield increased consistently since the 1960s, reaching record high in 2016. The country also set a new world record in 2017, when a hybrid variety yielded 17.7 tons per hectare—the highest for rice yield ever!
Despite the growth in world population, world cereal production per capita rose 13 percent over the last decade, from 0.31 to 0.35 tons per person.
Moreover, extreme weather conditions are very rare and do not display a regular pattern.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the UN’s authoritative body for global climate change policy and regulation—had earlier admitted that there is no correlation between increasing carbon dioxide concentration levels and extreme weather events such as drought and floods.
If there was any period that was catastrophic to agriculture, it was the Little Ice Age of the 14th through 17th centuries. Agricultural yields were higher before and after it.
The current period—also known as Modern Warm Period, is comparable to the Roman and Medieval warm periods, when temperature levels were similar to today’s.
The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is higher in the Modern Warm Period than the other two, providing ideal conditions for record agricultural outputs.
Further, modern agricultural technology and development of high-yielding, disease-resistant crop varieties have helped us increase productivity by reducing water consumption and consuming less land area.
The fears of climate crusaders are unwarranted. Climatic conditions have aided, not impeded, plant growth, ensuring global food security despite an exponential increase of population in the past two centuries.
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 Coimbatore, India.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.