Plenty of Food - The Miracle of Modern Agriculture

With various newspapers writing about global warming and weather this weekend, I thought it might be beneficial to remind our readers of some scientific facts pertaining to a warmer climate. 
2020 Kansas Wheat Harvest

Historically, human beings have flourished during times when the earth has warmed and suffered during periods when the climate was cold. Right now, we are warmer than 70 years ago, which is a very good thing. One of the reasons is fewer disasters worldwide and, in the farm belt, fewer tornadoes. Another is the near-elimination of meteorological famine. 

There are two reasons that meteorological famine is nearly a thing of the past:

  • The warmer climate, which allows for longer growing seasons.
  • The Agricultural Revolution.
Longer Growing Seasons
Click to enlarge

The media is filled with silliness such as predictions for the winters of the 2050's (we have zero demonstrated skill with 30-year weather forecasts) along with the adverse side of less winter. I do worry about the effects of warmer weather on glaciers, et cetera. But, the highly beneficial aspects of less winter never seem to be discussed. 

The above graphic, from a recent scientific paper, demonstrates the decrease in extreme cold which is an aspect of our warmer climate. With less cold, lower growing seasons result. The longer growing seasons allow for much more agricultural productivity! 

You've probably heard a lot of speculation about more drought in a warmer climate. Good news: it isn't happening. Here is the conclusion of a just-published, peer-reviewed paper by Kogan, Wei and Wenze. 
Drought is not increasing and food security is likely to remain and the current high levels. 

Kansas Farmer Racing to Get His Wheat Cut Ahead of Approaching
Thunderstorms (in the background). Modern meteorology often
informs agricultural decisions. 

The Agricultural Revolution

We've often written about Norman Bourlag's agricultural revolution where new types of seeds allowed agricultural production to increase by orders of magnitude, allowing people in once food poor areas to, at last, have enough to eat. 

But, it isn't just better seeds. There is a technological agricultural revolution which is both good for humanity and for the environment. Here is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article from this weekend. 

New irrigation systems then began to replace wasteful flooding, while lasers leveled the fields to eliminate surface runoff. In the 1990s, farm tractors acquired GPS auto-steering, which ended wasteful gaps and overlaps in the field. This was followed by digital soil mapping, which could tell “smart” farm equipment to apply chemicals at variable rates tailored to each location’s differing soil characteristics. The spacing of seeds can also be varied with astonishing, sub-inch precision thanks to modern GPS equipment. And genetically engineered seeds now allow farmers to protect against weeds and insects with fewer chemical sprays.

Add the warmer climate and modern agricultural technology and techniques and it allows the planet to enjoy the highest standard of living in history. Prior to COVID, earth had the fewest people in extreme poverty in the history of humanity. 

We should be celebrating all of this rather than exaggerating the effects of global warming. 


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