From the January 11, 2010 Enter Stage Right
January 11, 2010
by Dennis T. Avery
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued new report that attempts to forecast the impact of climate change on American farming in the next 50 years. USDA seems to expect serious climate-related farming problems ahead, but the recent changes in global climate have been tiny—and in the "wrong" direction! The earth's temperatures are now slightly cooler than when NASA's James Hansen first warned the U.S. Senate about "runaway global warming" in 1988.
Senior climate researcher Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research recently admitted to colleagues "we have no idea why the earth isn't warming, and it's a travesty that we don't know." That's a quote from one of those e-mails leaked at Britain's University of East Anglia.
That pretty much tells us how much faith we dare to put in the new USDA climate-change forecasts.
The USDA report's timing couldn't have been worse. Since 2007, the earth seems to have passed a "tipping point" into global cooling—at least temporarily. NASA told us in 2008 that the Pacific Ocean had shifted into a cool cycle, after strong warming both globally and in the Pacific from 1976-1998 and cooling from 1940-1975.
What does USDA predict from its new computer-generated look into the future?
USDA left out the most important information about CO2 and farming's future: More CO2 in the atmosphere raises crop yields substantially, acting like fertilizer for the plants and increasing their water use efficiency. Doubling CO2 in the air raises the yields of herbaceous plants 30–50 percent, and of trees by 50–80 percent, based on hundreds of studies in dozens of countries.
Higher CO2 levels should mean higher crop and livestock yields! Talley ho!
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.
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