NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 19, 2005

History and science both tell us that a warmer planet has beneficial effects on food production. It results in longer growing seasons, more sunshine, and more rainfall, while summertime high temperatures change very little. In addition, a warmer planet means milder winters and fewer crop-killing frosts in the late spring and early fall, says Dennis T. Avery, director of global food issues at the Hudson Institute and an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The present warming trend has not resulted in agricultural water shortages. Rather, rainfall is currently increasing moderately over most of the world. This is not surprising, says Avery:

  • Global warming evaporates more water from the oceans, and it falls back down to earth in a reinvigorated hydrological cycle.
  • The Illinois Water Survey tells us that U.S. rainfall has recently risen to match the rainfall of the late 1880s, when the end of the Little Ice Age was still bringing more storminess.
  • Continued warming should enhance rainfall, rather than suppress it, and even if some areas do experience greater aridity under warmer conditions, both nature and humans have been through it many times before, and have adapted.

Global warming also brings additional CO2, which acts like fertilizer for plants. As the planet warms, oceans naturally release huge tonnages of additional CO2 that dwarf the output from our cars and factories. (Cold water can hold much more of a gas than warmer water.) For plants, it's like letting Lance Armstrong carry an oxygen tank on his racing bike, explains Avery.

Since 1950, during a period of global warming, these factors have helped the world's grain production soar from 700 million tons to more than 2 billion tons last year.

Source: Dennis T. Avery, "Climate Forecast: Warm and Sunny," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 516, May 19, 2005.

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