NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Carbon Emissions and the Drought

August 23, 2012

Global warming alarmists are quick to blame this summer's drought on rising carbon emissions. Farmers have been affected the most as the drought has crippled their ability to grow crops, particularly corn. This has led to higher global food prices as farmers were unable to meet the demand, says Blake Hurst in The American.

Donald Carr, with the Environmental Working Group, wrote that if cap and trade legislation had passed three years ago, the current drought and subsequent crop shortage could have been avoided. However, Carr does not take into account several factors about the current situation.

  • This is the worst nationwide drought in 50 years, in spite of the fact that U.S. emissions have fallen 1.7 percent in 2011 -- the lowest levels in 20 years.
  • Moreover, this year's beginning stocks of corn will only be around 900 million bushels of corn.
  • This is in contrast to 1988 -- a year with a drought comparable to this year's -- which had beginning corn stocks of 4.5 billion bushels.

Furthermore, the cap and trade law would have done nothing to curb emissions or prevent this year's drought.

  • First, countries like India and China would have continued to emit carbon into the atmosphere, which would still effect crop production.
  • Second, cap and trade would have forced farmers to use less fertilizer as a means of lowering carbon emissions.
  • Predictably, that would have hurt a farmer's ability to produce more food since the fertilizer is what allows high crop yields.

High food prices can have cataclysmic outcomes for the world. The Arab Spring and revolts in Mexico can be traced to the shortage of food. Indeed, 50 million people in the world went hungry in 2007 and 2008 when food prices sharply increased.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts a 5 percent increase in food prices next year as well. However, there is good news on the horizon. This year, 94 million acres of crops have been planted. And next year there may be upwards of 100 million acres of crops planted by shrinking the size of government-land retirement programs and also shifting other crops to corn.

Source: Blake Hurst, "Raining Nonsense during a Drought," The American, August 21, 2012.


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