September 21, 2012

Agriculture: Tropical Cyclones are Welcome Visitors

When talk turns to tropical cyclones—hurricanes and their weaker siblings—the topic usually becomes winds, waves, and destruction. Or an exchange of war stories, like vacations cancelled, or harrowing tales from the beachfront lines. In some circles, anthropogenic climate change may enter the conversation.

But rarely does the discussion turn to the benefits of tropical cyclones.

For example, tropical cyclones often deliver widespread drought-busting rainfall during the crucial late-summer period when field crops are maturing. Across the Southeastern U.S., where most fields are non-irrigated, crops such as corn, soybeans, peanuts, tobacco, and hay benefit from tropical cyclone precipitation. From east Texas along the coast to Maryland, non-irrigated crops, like those above, combine to bring in a good ten billion dollars per year. While this economic activity is not all ascribable to tropical cyclone precipitation, neither is such precipitation inconsequential. (more…)




June 13, 2011

Global Food Supply Going Strong

Filed under: Agriculture

The New York Times recently ran a front page article by Justin Gillis titled “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself” in which Gillis repeats the well-worn alarmist mantra that anthropogenic climate change spurred by greenhouse gas emissions is leading us down a terrible pathway towards death and destruction. The contents of this article splashed across all media outlets.

Here is the gist:

“The rapid growth in farm output that defined the late 20th century has slowed to the point that it is failing to keep up with the demand for food, driven by population increases and rising affluence in once-poor countries.

…Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilize the food system: climate change.”

And to try to cut the tried and true carbon-dioxide-is-good-for-crops argument off at the chase, Gillis adds:

For nearly two decades, scientists had predicted that climate change would be relatively manageable for agriculture, suggesting that even under worst-case assumptions, it would probably take until 2080 for food prices to double.

In part, they were counting on a counterintuitive ace in the hole: that rising carbon dioxide levels, the primary contributor to global warming, would act as a powerful plant fertilizer and offset many of the ill effects of climate change.

Until a few years ago, these assumptions went largely unchallenged. But lately, the destabilization of the food system and the soaring prices have rattled many leading scientists.

But alas, Gillis’s proclamation, like so many that came before him, just doesn’t stand up to the facts.

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January 6, 2011

Pumpin’ Up Pineapples!

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

Winter is here for most Americans and doesn’t a trip to Hawaii sound perfect over the upcoming months? Sun, beaches, tropical drinks garnished with pineapple, pineapple at breakfast, pineapple on pizza, pineapple on hamburgers… pineapple here, there, and everywhere. Somehow a trip to Hawaii without pineapple just wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii, would it?

Turns out a little extra carbon dioxide in the air will add to your experience as the extra CO2 boosts productivity of those perfect-with-anything pineapples from our Pacific paradise.

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November 24, 2010

Let’s Give Thanks for CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

As Americans sit down on Thursday and give thanks for the food on their table, hopefully many will say a good word for enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as much of the foodstuff filling their plates will have benefited from the anthropogenically-elevated CO2 levels in the air.

And even if we don’t produce the food ourselves, we contribute to the growth of crops around the world through emissions of CO2 whenever we use energy derived from fossil fuels—a large component of the energy that we use to power our daily lives.

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September 30, 2010

Sweet News for Maple Syrup

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

We conducted a web search for “Global Warming and Maple Syrup” and found over 150,000 sites – almost all proclaim that the maple syrup industry is in deep peril given the threat of global warming. This must surely be seen as bad news for all those who enjoy maple syrup on waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, crumpets, and French toast (and in any number of desserts as well). Before you think this threat is less than serious, be aware that maple syrup is big business in New England and in Canada.

But, as with most things you read about on the majority of websites, the fate of maple syrup turns out to be not nearly as bad as portrayed. In fact, the future may be even better for maple syrup production than the past.

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June 21, 2010

Spinach Lovers Rejoice

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

We at World Climate Report wholeheartedly endorse First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to curb childhood obesity. As she has said many times, about two-thirds of American adults, and about a third of American children, are overweight or obese. The country spends $150 billion every year treating obesity-related diseases, most of which are preventable. Military officials, looking at a pool of increasingly overweight recruits, have said that the nation’s weight problem is a security issue as well as an economic one—obesity is now one of the most common disqualifiers for military service.

If you are in the DC area, be sure to make a visit to the south lawn of the White House grounds where the first lady will be organically growing lots and lots of spinach (more spinach than anything else—see Figure 1)! She not only plans on growing the stuff, but she is featuring her side dish called “No Cream Creamed Spinach” which to feed six people requires two pounds of baby spinach (the recipe is at the end of our article). We are sure the Obama children just cannot get enough of her healthy spinach salad.


Figure 1. Layout of the White House vegetable garden. Note the preponderance of spinach!

Given the Obama’s focus on spinach, we decided to deliver them some wonderful news about how spinach responds to elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

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May 3, 2010

Red Wine Story

Filed under: Agriculture

Close your eyes. You are sitting by a fireplace, you’ve just open a bottle of vintage Port wine your friend brought back from Portugal, you’ve cracked open Al Gore’s latest book … ouch, things were actually going pretty well with the fireplace and the vintage Port!

We bring this up given some really good news for Port lovers that appeared recently in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. We realize you’ve probably read this piece already given the widespread circulation of the journal and the intense media coverage of the article? No?! Then we’ll fill you in.


WOW – looks good for sure!

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April 28, 2010

In Defense of Humans

Imagine if the global annual average temperature were about 5°F colder than it is presently.

Not quite sure how to? OK, consider this: During the Little Ice Age—a period extending from about the 1500s to the mid-1800s and thought to be one of the coldest periods during the past 10,000 years or so—the earth’s average temperature may have been 2-3°F colder than present. Associated with the Little Ice Age are all sorts of human calamities—widespread crop failures, plagues, famines, population declines, glacial encroachments, etc. For a collection of descriptions of all the fun times that a colder climate brings, take a gander at the Wikipedia page on the Little Ice Age. After spending a few minutes there, you’ll see that these were not high times for humans.

Now, consider a temperature decline twice that much. That can’t be good.

Yet that’s apparently where we would be had human ingenuity not come along.

According to a new study just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the global climate would be about 5°F colder than present were it not for human carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

Brrr.

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March 22, 2010

Sesame Street Revisited: Interviewing Vegetable Puppets about CO2

Filed under: Agriculture

Back in November, Sesame Street celebrated its 40 anniversary, and the show featured First Lady Michelle Obama talking to vegetable puppets about helping curb childhood obesity. The First Lady explained to three young children and two somewhat old muppets the logistics of planting and growing tomatoes, lettuce and carrots as part of her initiative to promote healthy eating. She mentioned that eating these vegetables can make the children big and strong. At the end of the show, the cabbage puppet told her “We think you’re great too” and then led the children in three cheers for the First Lady. Mrs. Obama said at the time of recording her appearance was “probably the best thing I’ve done so far in the White House.”

We at World Climate Report were so moved by this show that we decided to ask the vegetable puppets what would make them big and strong, and the answer we got in our exclusive interview was resoundingly … “higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)!”

There are 1,000s of articles in the professional literature showing the incredible biological benefits of CO2, so in honor of the Sesame Street’s 40th Anniversary, here is the latest on tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and carrots.

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March 10, 2010

Baseball’s Back—With More Peanuts Than Ever

Filed under: Agriculture

For many citizens in the USA, this has been a winter for the ages. From no end of storms in the Southwest to record-breaking snow in the Northeast, this has been one long winter. But in Arizona and Florida, the boys of summer are dusting off their bats and balls and spring training is now underway. Fans are flocking back to the ballparks, and our consumption of peanuts is on the rise. American will eat more than 600 million pounds of peanuts this year at ballparks around the country (and elsewhere), we will eat over 700 million pounds of peanut butter, and we will spend over four billion dollars on our peanut habit.

What’s the climate change rub? Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are enhancing peanut productivity and protecting the crop from the harmful impacts of atmospheric pollutants such as ozone. Which means more peanuts to go around. So next time you raise your hand and call out “Hey Beerman, how about a cold one and jumbo bag of peanuts!” remember that elevated atmospheric CO2 is helping to keep your bag full.

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