The world is facing a crisis. But it is not a global warming crisis. It is a global population crisis. More specifically, it is a food crisis – how to feed the 11 billion people who will be on earth by the end of this century.
The world population has been growing dramatically, mostly since about the year 1800 A.D, at the time when the United States was just getting started. Then world population was just 1 billion. As recently as the year 1927, which is within some current lifetimes, it was only 2 billion. Today it is 7.7 billion, and before the end of this century the world population is projected by the U.N. to be at least 11 billion.
An article called “Population Growth” on Wikipedia describes the many causes for the huge recent population increases, including improved sanitation, disease control and medicines. But the primary reason for the burgeoning world population growth is the result of better nutrition caused by more and better food, resulting from the greater use of carbon and carbon compounds, such as fertilizers, insecticides, mechanized farming and food processing and storage, transportation and distribution of food, and thousands of other carbon products used in food production, storage and distribution.
Until now, the current carbon-based energy and mechanized food production system has been able to feed the existing 7.7 billion world population, but just barely. Currently tens of thousands are dying each year of starvation, while millions struggle on subsistence diets. Nevertheless, the advocates of the current “green revolution” are trying to convince the world that carbon dioxide is polluting the atmosphere and causing a global warming crisis, and that as a result carbon and carbon dioxide need to be eliminated from our commerce. However, removing the use of carbon from our energy, fuel, food, fertilizer, shelter, transportation and thousands of other everyday food products will cripple the ability to feed even the current 7.7 billion people on the planet. When you add another 3 billion before the end of this century, then you have a real crisis: mass starvation.
But first a caveat. Burning coal and other carbon products to produce electric power and transportation and other products does create serious air pollution problems. Greater efforts must be made to reduce air pollution and improve world air quality. But carbon dioxide (CO2) is not an air pollutant. It is the one compound that is critical to all life on earth. The atmosphere consists of Nitrogen 78%, Oxygen 21%, Argon .93%; but carbon dioxide is currently only .04% (400 parts per million-ppm). However, even in that miniscule amount, carbon dioxide is the one gas that supports all life through the process of photosynthesis, in which plants convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into vegetation. Vegetation forms the base of the food chain which supports all humans, animals and insects. And the oxygen we breathe is a byproduct of that photosynthesis. Without carbon dioxide, even in those minuscule amounts, there would be no vegetation for humans or animals to eat and no oxygen to breathe. Simply put, humans and animals would not exist.
The “green revolution,” which proposes to reduce or eliminate carbon – a carbon free/carbon neutral society – will greatly reduce the current energy and food systems and thousands of other products, creating a food crisis. If another 3 billion people are added in this century, how will they be fed and sheltered? The only answer that makes scientific sense is by allowing higher levels of carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures, which scientific studies show will increase vegetation growth (food) by 30-50%. It has done so in the past, and has been doing it since the end of the last little ice age, about 200 years ago, which is resulting in a warmer atmosphere and higher levels of carbon dioxide, increasing the world’s food supply. Solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power can supplement the carbon-based electrical supply. But nothing can replace carbon and carbon dioxide in the production of food, shelter, fertilizer, insecticides, transportation, medicines and all the other tens of thousands of carbon uses and products on which the world’s food production relies.
More global warming is projected by many scientists to increase environmental degradation, such as rising sea levels and myriad other problems. But that environment degradation has been occurring for at least the last 200 years, and is the result of the increasing world population, which, in an effort to produce more food, has cut down forests, overharvested fish from the oceans, and polluted the atmosphere to provide the energy and transportation to grow and distribute more food for the growing masses.
The experiences of the last 200 years, and the prospect of an additional 3 billion people arriving on the planet before the end of this century, demonstrates that it is a population crisis, not a global warming crisis, which is forcing the world to make a difficult but critical trade-off. One choice is to stop global warming by eliminating carbon products and carbon dioxide in order to protect the earth’s environment. But that will reduce food production. The other choice is to continue allowing carbon products and carbon dioxide to produce more food to prevent mass starvation. But that will further degrade the environment. Like most trade-offs, neither choice is all good or bad. And there will be some who will argue that we can do both. That’s a “manna from heaven” argument. It simply won’t work in this day and age.
The world crisis is not a carbon-induced global warming crisis. The world crisis is a population-induced food crisis. The world simply cannot provide food and shelter for an additional 3 billion people and their animals (a 40% increase), while at the same time remove carbon products and carbon dioxide from the environment. What the “green” anti-carbon movement fails to recognize is that it is carbon dioxide that makes things “green” and that produces our food. Short of some miraculous discovery, only more carbon dioxide and global warming can provide the food and shelter for the 3 billion more people arriving by the end of this century.
Robert E. Bakes is a former Idaho Supreme Court justice.