by Craig D. Idso and Caleb S. Rossiter
An inconvenient scientific fact for the climate alarmist industry is that industrial carbon dioxide turns out to be plant food. The burning of fossil fuels to generate electrical power has not only led to dramatic economic growth, and hence the wealth that buys health and life expectancy. It also has led to a greening of the planet by carbon dioxide, an inert, non-polluting byproduct of combustion.
The fossil-fuel-driven 45 percent increase in CO2 levels since 1900 from a bit less than three percent of one percent of the atmosphere to a bit more than four percent of one percent has increased plant growth by at least 15 percent and perhaps as much as a third. (http://www.co2science.org/articles/V20/oct/a14.php) After all, that’s why carbon dioxide is pumped into greenhouses, to increase productivity. NASA has published dramatic images of this “greening” of the planet. (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/carbon-dioxide-fertilization-greening-earth)
In 2015 our science education organization, the CO2 Coalition, summarized the relevant studies (https://co2coalition.org/2015/10/19/carbon-dioxide-benefits-the-world-see-for-yourself/). We have a far more detailed White Paper coming out in a few weeks on the latest research.
So, it is perhaps not surprising that the alarmist industry – which usually spends its time and effort publicizing computer models that have significantly over-predicted both the warming effect of carbon dioxide and the climate changes that result — has started to claim that there are costs to crops, and not just benefits, from these rising carbon dioxide levels. A summary study in this new line of attack was published in August 2018 by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, with this headline: “As CO2 Levels Rise, Millions at Risk of Nutritional Deficiencies.” (https://phys.org/news/2018-08-co2-climb-millions-nutritional-deficiencies.html#jCp)
Field experiments have long shows that a few crops deliver perhaps five to ten percent less zinc, iron, and protein per unit when carbon dioxide levels are increased from current levels to concentrations that are predicted for the year 2100. As the Harvard researchers acknowledge, people have been “dramatically” and “significantly” increasing their wealth and hence improving their diets for many years, so this small decline in the nutrients in some crops is hardly likely to cause a nutritional crisis. They also acknowledge that plant breeding, fertilizers, and new growing methods can more than compensate for the decline. However, the researchers decided to hold wealth, diets, and agricultural methods constant in their computer model, which resulted in their estimates about “millions” being harmed.
Trying to justify this bizarre view of the future, the Harvard researchers claim that “the aim of this study was not to predict the precise future health burden related to” higher levels of CO2. Oh yes it was! Then they say that, “Macroeconomic trends, environmental changes and the potential for adaptation make forecasting speculative.” Why then, we wonder, did they speculate?
This is what “climate science” has come to: an institution dedicated to promoting public health has created a scary story that supports a proposal to “redouble efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.” But that would require reducing the very fossil fuels that drive economic growth and hence human health in the poorest countries.
Life expectancy in Africa is in the low 60’s, just as it was in China before its fossil-fueled economic boom took it to 76 years of life today. Less than a third of African households have an electrical connection. Businesses across the continent suffer from black-outs and brown-outs, and so rely on highly-polluting diesel generators to meet orders. For the foreseeable future, only fossil fuels can power a reliable grid in Africa. Under pressure from the climate alarmist industry, the World Bank is no longer going to help African countries build coal and gas-fired power plants. Now there’s a real crisis in public health.
Dr. Craig D. Idso is an agronomist and climatologist. He is the chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and the principal adviser on plant productivity at the CO2 Coalition. Dr. Caleb S. Rossiter is a climate statistician and the executive director of the CO2 Coalition.