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Will There Be Enough Food?
Reference
Idso, C.D. and Idso, K.E.  2000.  Forecasting world food supplies: The impact of the rising atmospheric CO2 concentration.  Technology 7S: 33-56.

Background
As the world's population continues to climb, there is increasing concern about the sustainability or carrying capacity of the planet; and in making decisions about long-term research and development policies, movers and shakers from many sectors of the global economy need to know if there will be sufficient food fifty years from now to sustain the projected population of the globe.  After all, it is only prudent that we attempt to gain such insight into the human condition (see our Editorial: Prudence Misapplied), for we all have a stake in the future progression of man and womankind.

What was done
The authors developed and analyzed a supply-and-demand scenario for food in the year 2050.  Specifically, they identified the plants that currently supply 95% of the world's food needs and projected historical trends in the productivities of these crops 50 years into the future.  They also evaluated the growth-enhancing effects of atmospheric CO2 enrichment on these plants and made similar yield projections based on the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration likely to have occurred by that future date.

What was learned
The authors determined that world population will likely be 51% greater in the year 2050 than it was in 1998, but that world food production will be only 37% greater if its enhanced productivity comes solely as a consequence of anticipated improvements in agricultural technology and expertise.  However, they further determined that the consequent shortfall in farm production can be overcome - but just barely - by the additional benefits anticipated to accrue from the aerial fertilization effect of the expected rise in the air's CO2 content, assuming no Kyoto-style cutbacks in anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

What it means
In order to avoid the unpalatable consequences of widespread hunger in the decades ahead - as though there were not enough of it already - it would appear to be necessary to allow the air's CO2 concentration to rise at an unrestricted rate.  Consequently, efforts designed to discourage CO2 emissions are seen in this light to be inimical to our future well-being, as well as that of generations yet unborn.


Reviewed 1 November 2000