In the run-up to the United Nations’ 68th Civil Society Conference, where the “climate crisis” and sustainable development will dominate discussions, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report in its ever-growing “Alarming Climate Crisis of the Week” series: “Climate Change and Land.”
IPCC’s new report paints a dark, disturbing picture about the current and future state of crop production and food availability. “Climate change, including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes, has adversely impacted food security and terrestrial ecosystems as well as contributed to desertification and land degradation in many regions,” the report claims.
“Warming compounded by drying has caused yield declines in parts of Southern Europe. Based on indigenous and local knowledge, climate change is affecting food security in drylands, particularly those in Africa, and high mountain regions of Asia and South America,” the report continues.
The fake news media eagerly hyped the alarmist report. For example, an August 8 NBC News headline reads, “Climate change could trigger a global food crisis, new U.N. report says.” Other major media outlets published similar stories.
There’s just one little problem with this report: its thesis and the facts. (Okay, we admit that’s two problems and they are both big.)
Evidently IPCC missed the fact the U.N.’s own data shows farmers throughout the world are setting new production records virtually every year. For example, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports new records were set in each of the past five years for global cereal production—the Big Three food staples of corn, wheat, and rice.
Indeed, CCW 324, a special issue devoted to agriculture and climate change, pointed out World-Grain.com reports in 2016 world cereal production broke records for the third straight year, exceeding the previous record yield, recorded in 2015, by 1.2 percent and topping the prior record yield recorded in 2014 by 1.5 percent. In addition, government data from India (2017 through 2018) and Bangladesh (2016), show rice and coarse cereal production set new record highs. The subcontinent’s growth in food production is part of a long-term trend as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased. And Honduras also set new records in recent years for its production of staple and commercial crops, coffee, maize, rice, and wheat.
The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change has documented hundreds of studies and experiments conclusively demonstrating plants, including cereal grains and fruits, generally thrive under conditions of higher carbon dioxide and modestly warmer temperatures.
The ongoing record crop production perfectly illustrates the difference between the Climate Delusion perpetrated by IPCC and other government-funded alarmists and what is happening in the real world.
To make the news gloomy, to fit the narrative humans are causing a dangerous climate crisis, IPCC’s report nefariously parses words and engages in semantic tricks to give readers a false impression of declining global crop production. The report refers to declining yields in “parts” of Southern Europe, ignoring data showing crop yields are rising throughout the world as a whole and across Southern Europe as well. Instead of highlighting this welcome development, IPCC focuses on what it claims are yield reductions in some small, isolated regions of Southern Europe. Readers who are not paying close attention will be led to believe, incorrectly, that crop yields are declining throughout Southern Europe. They are not.
Even if yields were declining in Southern Europe, it would be inappropriate to blame crop reductions in a small portion of the planet on global warming when study after study shows increasing carbon dioxide levels and the recent century’s modest warming are responsible for record yield increases globally and for a general greening of the Earth as forests, grasslands, and vegetation-cover expand even into marginal areas such as desert edges.
IPCC claims “indigenous and local knowledge” supports claims of declining food production “in drylands” in Africa, Asia, and South America. Such anecdotal evidence does not trump objective data, readily available to IPCC’s authors, showing crop yields are increasing throughout Africa, Asia, and South America as a whole, including on their drylands on average.
The irony of IPCC’s misleading claims and semantic tricks is that people who point out real data shows crop production continues to set new records almost every year are accused of “denying” climate change and attacking science. Point out facts about the increase of carbon dioxide having incontrovertible positive effects on plant growth and more efficient water use and contributing to increasing crop yields and a greening of the earth, and alarmists respond with the trite, derisive reply: “Climate change is real.” Yes, climate change is real, and record crop production is in fact consistent with and is partly explained by it.
Unfortunately, many people, having never examined actual crop production data, will believe the false claims of a food production crisis made by IPCC and other politically driven organizations. This is just the latest example of the ongoing Climate Delusion, as radical environmental activists, government bureaucrats, socialists, and a biased news media, looking to transform American society, continue to make ridiculous climate claims lacking any basis in actual climate and environmental conditions. Their hope is a constant drumbeat of authoritative-sounding claims will stampede people and politicians in the United States and elsewhere to give governments more power over the economy to combat the false climate crisis.
Fortunately, we can avoid that fate. Factual data, showing the truth about global food supplies and other climate conditions, is readily available to anyone willing to search the internet for it. Concerning climate and crops, a good place to start for a thorough presentation of the facts is the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change’s study Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts. In addition, as the UN’s Civil Society Conference starts in Salt Lake City, The Heartland Institute is hosting a livestreamed event online presenting the alternative view of the state of the planet, at which a number of notable climate experts will present good news about food supplies and global sustainability. Watch and learn.
— James Taylor, guest essayist, with contributions from H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
Public pronouncements and climate treaty commitments to the contrary, China is doing little if anything to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its electric power sector. Instead, it is moving full speed ahead to expand the use of coal.
In order to reduce its air pollution, China is moving forward with “ultra-low emissions” technology to reduce or prevent emissions of ozone, particulates, smog, sulfur, and other pollutants emitted by older coal power plants. However, this technology does not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Even as China is shutting down small coal mines, power plants, and polluting industrial facilities—which the government doesn’t control—it is approving new coal mines and new, large, ultra-low emissions coal power plants, which the government does control. The national government is also suggesting localities use the energy source that is most accessible to them—coal—during the winter, going so far as to finance cities’ efforts to build centralized “clean coal” heating systems.
Reuters reports China approved the construction of 141 million tons of new annual coal production capacity in the first six months of 2019, compared to just 25 million tons of new coal production approved in all of 2018. Overall, the Chinese government reports coal output rose 2.6 percent in the first half of 2019, to 1.76 billion tons.
In addition to opening new mines in the regions of Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Xinjiang, China also restarted construction of coal power plants with more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of capacity the government had halted in 2018. In July, the China State Grid Corporation estimated total coal-fired capacity would peak at 1,230 to 1,350 gigawatts (GW), meaning coal power would increase by approximately 300 GW from present levels. China’s expected growth in coal use alone exceeds the total amount of existing U.S. coal power capacity. In 2017, there were 359 coal-powered units at electrical utilities across the United States, with a total nominal capacity of 256 GW.
China’s coal expansion will make it difficult, if not impossible, to meet commitments the government made in the Paris climate agreement to cap carbon dioxide emissions, says Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior energy analyst for Greenpeace in China.
“[I]t is alarming that China’s energy planning seems to be driving at roughly maintaining current levels of coal output for the coming decade or two, which is very hard to reconcile with the goal of the Paris agreement (on climate change),” Myllyvirta told Reuters.
A recent Wall Street Journal article by Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, based on his recent report, “The ‘New Energy Economy’: An Exercise in Magical Thinking,” explains why going 100 percent wind and solar, even if it were possible—which it is not—would require a massive increase in mining and result in a huge increase in pollution.
“‘Renewable energy’ is a misnomer,” Mills explains. “Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from nonrenewable materials. And they wear out. Old equipment must be decommissioned, generating millions of tons of waste. The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste.”
Fabricating a single electric-car battery requires mining, moving, and processing more than 500,000 pounds of raw materials, Mills writes. By comparison, the batteries used in a gasoline powered vehicle use just one-tenth the total tonnage of raw materials to drive the same number of vehicle miles over the typical life of an electric car battery. Building a single wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel (manufactured using coal), 2,500 tons of concrete, and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. Large-scale solar power requires even more cement, glass, steel, and other minerals, mined in countries with lower environmental standards than those in developed countries.
For instance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 70 percent of the world’s raw cobalt, and China controls 90 percent of cobalt refining. As Mills notes, to obtain these and other elements critical to the batteries necessary for electric cars and for wind turbine and solar panel construction and operation, it will be necessary to mine in remote, relatively wild lands where biodiversity currently thrives. As politically connected, global green energy elites prosper, wildlife will be expected to decline as mining gobbles up habitat.
In addition, the mining and refining of these minerals, and the chemicals used in the manufacturing of wind turbines and solar panels, creates millions of tons of toxic waste, which often endangers the health of people living near or working at the mining sites and factories.
Nor is the production of the technologies for renewable energy carbon-neutral, Mills notes. Large amounts of coal, natural gas, and oil are used in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels. “Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce the concrete and steel, along with two billion barrels of oil to make the composite blades. More than 90 percent of the world’s solar panels are built in Asia on coal-heavy electric grids.” Concrete manufacturing alone is among the largest sources of human carbon dioxide emissions.
As Mills puts it, it is “magical thinking” to believe the quest for greater amounts of renewable energy won’t produce similar or even worse environmental outcomes than continuing to use less-expensive, more-reliable fossil fuels.