food production

Potash and Phosphate help feed the world

More than 90 percent of phosphate and potash production is used to fertilize soil, increasing America’s crop yields in a sustainable manner. The United States produced $3.6 billion worth of phosphate and potash in 2013, supporting nearly 4,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs. Altogether, industries utilized all minerals to add more than $2.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2013.

Below is an infographic from the National Mining Association which gives the basics for potash and phosphate.

I notice that the map in the infographic shows no production from Arizona. That may soon change. Recent discovery of potash in the Holbrook Basin has inferred reserves of 66 million metric tons of contained potash (K2O). See my post here.


The Positive Externalities of Carbon Dioxide on Global Food Production

A new report from the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change examines the benefits of rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  The report can be downloaded from a link on this page.

The study provides “a quantitative estimate of the direct monetary benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment on both historic and future global crop production. Results indicate that the annual total monetary value of the increase in the air’s CO2 content (since the inception of the Industrial Revolution) for world crop production grew from about $20 billion in 1961 to over $160 billion by 2011, reaching the staggering sum of $3.5 trillion over the 50-year time period from 1961-2011. And projecting the monetary value of this positive externality forward in time reveals that it will bestow an additional $11.6 trillion on crop production between now and 2050.”

To set the stage, the report reminds us that:

At a fundamental level, carbon dioxide is the basis of nearly all life on Earth. It is the primary raw material or “food” utilized by the vast majority of plants to produce the organic matter out of which they construct their tissues, which subsequently become the ultimate source of food for nearly all animals and humans. Consequently, the more CO2 there is in the air, the better plants grow, as has been demonstrated in literally thousands of laboratory and field experiments. And the better plants grow, the more food there is available to sustain the entire biosphere.

The table below shows the increase in production that may be gained from a 300 ppm rise in carbon dioxide – not quite double the current concentration.


The report also discusses the issue of climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide; i.e., the disconnect between climate model projections of temperature rise due to carbon dioxide versus real world observations.  (For more details on that subject, see my post: More evidence that climate models are wrong.)

The report concludes, in part:

It is clear from the material presented in this report that the modern rise in the air’s CO2 content is providing a tremendous economic benefit to global crop production. As Sylvan Wittwer, the father of agricultural research on this topic, so eloquently put it nearly two decades ago:

“The rising level of atmospheric CO2 could be the one global natural resource that is progressively increasing food production and total biological output, in a world of otherwise diminishing natural resources of land, water, energy, minerals, and fertilizer.”

See also:

Terrestrial biosphere response to rising CO2 and temperature

More evidence that climate models are wrong

A Modest Proposal: Triple Your Carbon Footprint

Triple your carbon footprint. Does that sound crazy? Read on. By some estimates, our increasing use of fossil fuels will raise atmospheric carbon dioxide to about 1,000ppm (versus about 390ppm currently) by the end of this century. Climate alarmists and governments have decreed that this is undesirable and even dangerous because it might lead to uncontrolled global warming, so they say. They propose various schemes to reduce our carbon footprint. I contend that more carbon dioxide will not significantly affect climate change, and that government policy to curb emissions is exactly the opposite of what we should do. Why? Because we need to increase food production for our increasing population, and to preserve habitat for wildlife. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide will help do both.

Human population is about 6 billion and is projected to rise to 11 billion by the end of the century. How are we going to feed all those people? There are several methods to increase food production. One is to increase the area of cultivated land, but that would displace wildlife, and we would have to divert more water to raise the crops. Currently, agriculture uses about 75% of all freshwater resources. Other methods of increasing production include increasing crop yield per unit land area, increasing crop yield per unit of fertilizer applied, and increasing crop yield per unit of water used. But, for many crops we are reaching the genetic limit of yield per acre. Use of ever increasing amounts of fertilizer has other undesirable consequences.

The answer to all these problems is to let atmospheric carbon dioxide rise, because carbon dioxide is plant food. There are many studies which show that doubling of the air’s carbon dioxide concentration increases the productivity of earth’s herbaceous plants by 30- to 50% , and of woody plants by 50- to 80% or more. These studies also show that more carbon dioxide increases plants’ efficiency in use of nutrients and water.

But what about global warming? The fact is, there is no physical evidence which shows that carbon dioxide has a significant effect on global temperature, only computer modeling speculations. For background, see my articles: Your Carbon Footprint Doesn’t Matter, A Basic Error in Climate Models, and Natural Climate Cycles. If you are concerned about the potential for human diseases in a warming world, see these articles.

In fact, the “normal” temperature for the planet is about 18 F higher than now. By “normal,” I mean the temperature which has existed for most of the time. And, for most of the time, atmospheric carbon dioxide has been more than 1,000ppm; see the reconstruction based on geologic evidence below.

Phanerozic temp

Both temperature and carbon dioxide concentration are lower than “normal” now because the planet is in an ice age. (See the distinction between Ice ages and glacial epochs here .)

Concerns about runaway global warming and “tipping points” are unfounded. If run-away warming were possible, it would have already happened, especially since carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been more than ten times the current level for most of Earth’s history.

Run-away warming cannot happen on this planet because Earth is a water world. Warming increases evaporation. Water vapor, and its latent heat, is carried aloft by convection. Heat is lost to space when the water vapor condenses. The condensation also produces clouds which reflect incoming solar radiation. That is Earth’s negative feedback mechanism to prevent run-away warming, and it has been regulating Earth’s temperature for about 4.5 billion years.

To preserve nature and feed humanity, we must let carbon dioxide levels rise. Help it rise back to “normal” concentrations faster by tripling your carbon footprint, or at least discouraging the futile government schemes to reduce emissions.

If you are one who believes that carbon dioxide actually does have a significant effect on global temperature (please cite some evidence), then you should join the program anyway to help forestall onset of the next glacial epoch which would really impact food production.

After all, Al Gore, the charlatan of carbon, has recently increased his already enormous carbon footprint with the purchase of a mansion in California.