Record Agricultural Yields Should Allay Climate Fear
By Vijay Jayaraj
Countries all over the world are surpassing previous records for production of food crops. This is good news that stands in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture that the media paints daily in reports on climate and weather.
Because food is fundamental to human survival, even a slight increase in its price can significantly affect millions – even billions – of people. “When food fails, everything fails,” said Geraldine Matchett, Co-Chair of the CEO Alliance on Food, Nature and Health.
So, it is not surprising that the purveyors of fear present climate change as the biggest threat to the world’s food security. Endlessly recycled articles and TV programs constantly peddle the misinformation that a supposedly dangerously warming Earth poses a risk to crops or is already destroying them.
However, in the real world, data show historically high crop production all over the globe. This is because climate change has aided in the proliferation of food crops, as well as other vegetation. Abundant harvests continue to affirm this. As in previous years, 2023 is expected to produce records for agricultural production in many countries.
Wheat is a major source of calories, protein and essential nutrients, and it is relatively easy to grow and store. A reliable source of food in many regions, wheat is the staple crop for an estimated 35 percent of the world population.
After a year of supply uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine, wheat production is slated for a global increase. In the UK, for example, wheat production in 2022-23 is expected to increase by 450,000 tons from the previous year. In the U.S., winter wheat has been planted across nearly 37 million acres, up by 11 percent from the prior year and the highest in eight years.
In Africa, Zimbabwe produced a record 375,000 tons of wheat in 2022, making the country self-sufficient. The new record is 13 percent higher than the previous year and surpasses 50-year-old records. This saves the country 300 million dollars that otherwise would have been spent on wheat imports.
India is second only to China in wheat production. The Indian government reports that wheat production will reach an all-time high of 112 million tons in the 2022-23 crop year.
“The prospect of the wheat crop is better due to current weather conditions and slightly higher acreage,” The Economic Times reported..
In fact, globally, there has been a steady increase in yields of wheat as measured in tons per hectare, with some of the highest being in China.
Crop yields in the 21st century have been increasing due to a combination of factors. Among them are the use of modern technologies, the development of high-yielding crop varieties through plant breeding and genetic engineering and the application of fertilizers.
Nonetheless, the level of production would not have been possible without the post-Little Ice Age warming of the earth since the 18th century and the modern increase of atmospheric CO2.
Greater warmth has allowed for longer growing seasons and the cultivation of a wider variety of crops. Higher CO2 concentrations have helped plants to photosynthesize more efficiently, resulting in increased growth and crop yields.
Even in the worst-case scenarios of alarmists, where temperatures rise sharply, global agriculture can adapt through genetically advanced food crop varieties that are resilient to extreme droughts and high temperatures.
There is simply no reason for alarm over climate’s impact on global food production either today, next year or in 100 years. In fact, climate is aiding crop growth and helping the world to feed growing populations.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK and resides in India.