NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 26, 2005

Mass famine and starvation due to a collapse of agricultural production ranks high among myriad catastrophes environmentalists claim human-induced global warming will cause. Fortunately, this is one global warming bogeyman that's easy to slay, say Dennis Avery (Hudson Institute) and H. Sterling Burnett (National Center for Policy Analysis.)

Regardless of the cause of the current warming, the best available evidence indicates a warmer planet would result in bountiful crops:

  • The modest warming many scientists expect should result in longer growing seasons, more sunshine and rainfall, while summertime high temperatures change little.
  • And a warmer planet means milder winters and fewer crop-killing frosts.
  • History shows the Earth's climate is less stormy and more stable in relatively warm eras.

The present warming trend has not resulted in agricultural water shortages:

  • Indeed, rainfall is increasing moderately over most of the world because global warming evaporates more water from the oceans, where it falls back down to earth in a reinvigorated hydrological cycle.
  • Thanks partly to increased rainfall, infrared satellite readings show worldwide vegetative activity generally increased 6.17 percent between 1982 and 1999.
  • The world is getting greener; continued warming should increase, rather than reduce, rainfall.

The real famine threat will come not in the present warming, but rather the next Ice Age when huge ice sheets will once again cover Canada and Russia, and the Northern Plains will be too cold to farm. Fortunately, that test may not come for another 10,000 years. By then, unless regulations interfere, the world should have genetically engineered a set of even higher-yielding and still more stress-tolerant crop varieties to feed humanity on dramatically reduced acreage, say Avery and Burnett.

Source: Dennis Avery and H. Sterling Burnett, "Warming: Famine or feast?" Washington Times, May 25, 2005.


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