Category Archives: photosynthesis

CO2 And Climate Change Science–Part 2: A Summary Of The Science


The website CO2 Coalition has a post titled “Climate Change: A summary of the Science”.  It one of the best summaries I have come across lately.  It is fairly long, so I could do my usual and summarize it, but there is virtually nothing in it that I would want to skip over.  So, I will not deprive the reader. I will put it in, in its entirety.  I hope that my posting yesterday will fill in any blanks you may have otherwise had.

cbdakota

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News 26 Feb, 2017

Climate Change: A Summary of the Science

The climate change science is settled, but not how the climate alarmists want you to think.

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CO2 And Climate Change Science–Part 1 Carbon Cycle


This posting sets out a preliminary understanding of the “carbon cycle” that you may not be aware of. The next posting will build off of this to lay out the science of climate change.

The Sun is the Earth’s source of energy. The energy is transported in the form of waves (radiant energy) known as electromagnetic energy. The Sun’s enormous surface temperatures generates these waves. The waves have a wide range of frequencies. In general, the waves are known familiarly as x rays, ultraviolet, sunlight, short wave infrared, radio waves, and microwaves. These waves heat the Earth.  Not all of the waves get through to the Earth’s surface.  Some are absorbed like Ultraviolet by ozone;  some are reflected back into space by clouds; and some are scattered by encountering mater in the atmosphere.

Much of the  Suns energy is reemitted from the Earth as longwave infrared. Some of the reemitted energy is delayed on its way back out into space by the so called greenhouse gases and water vapor. This slowdown is the reason the Earth has a habitable temperature. The primary greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2).  However, water vapor is the largest factor, by far, in the greenhouse effect.

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GMCs—Part 2—Are They “Frankenfoods”?


 

The benefits are numerous but even so, there is considerable opposition to Genetically Modified Crops (GMC).  Is this opposition science based or is based upon intuition/emotion?  My previous posting “Genetically Modified Crops–Part 1—Are They Beneficial?  enumerates the substantial economic and environmental benefits and the scientific studies that have concluded that GMCs are as safe as unmodified crops.

Corn grows near a barn . MADATORY CREDIT Ken Kashian

Corn grows near a barn . MADATORY CREDIT Ken Kashian

The Scientific American posting by Stefaan Blancke titled “Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe” gives us some answers .    

The author says:

Psychological essentialism, for instance, makes us think of DNA as an organism’s “essence” – an unobservable and immutable core that causes the organism’s behaviour and development and determines its identity. As such, when a gene is transferred between two distantly related species, people are likely to believe that this process will cause characteristics typical of the source organism to emerge in the recipient. For example, in an opinion survey in the United States, more than half of respondents said that a tomato modified with fish DNA would taste like fish (of course, it would not).

Essentialism clearly plays a role in public attitudes towards GMOs. People are typically more opposed to GM applications that involve the transfer of DNA between two different species (“transgenic”) than within the same species (“cisgenic”). Anti-GMO organizations, such as NGOs, exploit these intuitions by publishing images of tomatoes with fish tails or by telling the public that companies modify corn with scorpion DNA to make crispier cereals.”

The author says that intuitions about purposes and intentions also have an impact on people’s thinking about GMO.  

“In the context of opposition to GMOs, genetic modification is deemed “unnatural” and biotechnologists are accused of “playing God”. The popular term “Frankenfood” captures what is at stake: by going against the will of nature in an act of hubris, we are bound to bring enormous disaster upon ourselves.”

“GMOs probably trigger disgust because people view genetic modification as a contamination. The effect is enforced when the introduced DNA comes from a species that is generally deemed disgusting, such as rats or cockroaches. However, DNA is DNA, whatever its source. The impact of disgust explains why people feel more averse towards GM food than other GM applications, such as GM medicine. Once disgust is elicited, the argument that GMOs cause cancer or sterility, or that they will contaminate the environment, becomes very convincing and is often used. Disgust also affects moral judgments, leading people to condemn everyone who is involved with the development and commercialization of GM products. Because people have no conscious access to the emotional source of their judgments, they consequently look for arguments to rationalize them.”

 

The author concludes his thoughts on intuitions and emotions with this:

“The impact of intuitions and emotions on people’s understanding of, and attitudes towards, GMOs has important implications for science education and communication. Because the mind is prone to distorting or rejecting scientific information in favour of more intuitive beliefs, simply transmitting the facts will not necessarily persuade people of the safety, or benefits, of GMOs, especially if people have been subjected to emotive, anti-GMO propaganda”.

In researching this topic, I find that the anti-GMC folks have an issue with Glyphosate.  Glyphosate is a herbicide.  Many of us have used Monsanto’s ROUNDUP to control weeds in our lawns and gardens.  Its big application is in controlling weeds in crop farming.  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup.  Roundup is a very popular herbicide and is used on crops of all kinds to kill weeds.  It must be applied on the foliage and is not useable as a pre-emergence herbicide.  This limited the use of glyphosate until companies developed  genetically engineered crops that were tolerant to glyphosate.  It can now be sprayed on the crop plant and the chemical acts as a pre-emergence herbicide as well.  Major food safety bodies have concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.

 

cbdakota

Genetically Modified Crops–Part 1—Are They Beneficial?


Genetically modified crops (GMC also known as GMO) are plants that have their DNA modified by the addition of other sourced DNA. This is done to impart additional characteristics to the plant so as to reduce their vulnurability to attacks by certain viruses, insects, and molds, for example. This ability has made GMCs in demand world-wide .

According to Wikipedia:

Between 1996 and 2015, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops increased by a factor of 100, from 17,000 km2 (4.2 million acres) to 1,797,000 km2 (444 million acres).[2] 10% of the world’s arable land was planted with GM crops in 2010.[3] In the US, by 2014, 94% of the planted area of soybeans, 96% of cotton and 93% of corn were genetically modified varieties.[4] Use of GM crops expanded rapidly in developing countries, with about 18 million farmers growing 54% of worldwide GM crops by 2013.[1] A 2014 meta-analysis concluded that GM technology adoption had reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%.[5] This reduction in pesticide use has been ecologically beneficial, but benefits may be reduced by overuse.[6] Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries

SAFE FOR PEOPLE

Is the use of GMCs safe? From  Wikipedias we learn that:

There is a scientific consensus[7][8][9][10] that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food,[11][12][13][14][15] but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction.

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY

Lets go back for some history related to hybrid crops. Past, modifications to crops:

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Study Shows Global Tree Count 7.6X Larger Than Previously Thought.


Nature .com posted a study titled “Mapping tree density at a global scale”. This appalachiansimagesstudy dramatically changes our understanding of the number of trees on the globe. The study’s count is 3.04 trillion trees (3.04X10^12), which replaces the previous estimate of global trees of 400billion (400X10^9). As a point of reference, the study also expresses the change as trees per humans. Considering the currently estimated total global population of 7.2 billion (7.2X10^9), the study now shows the old count of 61 trees per person has grown to 422 trees per person.

New Count Old Count
TREES, BILLIONS 3,040 400
TREES PER (WORLD) CAPITA, 422 61

TABLE 1—NATURE .COM STUDY

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Will There Be Global Famine in 2050?


A report authored by Dr. Craig Idso titled “Estimates of Global Food Production in the Year 2050” asks the question ”Will we produce enough to adequately feed the world?” Idso says that researchers are estimating that global food production must increase by 70 to 100% to adequately feed 9 billion people in 2050.

Idso deals with  this question focusing on the world and also subgroups such as Europe, North America, Africa, etc. To do this, he compares forecast crop growth resulting from higher atmospheric CO2 and improved agricultural technology against the increased demand for food resulting from forecast population growth.

The data used by Idso is sourced from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to quantify the food crops, the UN’s IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC FAR) for an estimate of the atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2050 and the UN’s medium variant population projections for the year 2050.    Additionally he used the Plant Growth Database of CO2 Science to define the effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on plant growth.  Finally he works out food production estimates that will come due to the “Techno-intel effect”.  This “effect” is the advancement in agricultural technology and scientific research that expands our knowledge or intelligence based—e.g., the Green Revolution/GM seed work, etc.

Crops

The FAO database lists 169 crops.  Idso uses 45 of those crops in his work as these 45 crops account for 95% of the world food production.  To provide greater understanding, tabled below are the top 5 crops that together provide more than 55% of the world crop food sources.

Specific Crop % Of Total Production
Sugar Cane 21.240
Maize (corn) 10.283
Rice, paddy 9.441
Wheat 9.372
Potatoes 4.871

              FAO Data Base for World Food Production 2009.

                                               Top 5 Crops

The Specific crops vary in their ranking from subgroup to subgroup.

Population

The UN provides the forecast 2050 world population of nominally 9 billion.  Idso adds:

Another concern with respect to future population is whether or not the use of medium variant data from the United Nations is too conservative. Indeed, the medium variant population estimate for the year 2050 has recently been revised upward from 8.9 to 9.2 billion persons. A more realistic estimate of future population may be to use the constant fertility variant, which is weighted more heavily on current population trends and which foresees a global population of 11 billion in 2050.

Atmospheric CO2

Based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s best median estimate of this number (derived from the A1B scenario, ISAMS, in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, see http://www.ipcc-data.org/ancilliary/tar-isam.txt), we find that we could expect an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration of 145 ppm between 2009 and 2050.

Enhanced Growth Via Greater Atmospheric CO2 Content

In my last posting I discussed the results of a vast number of trials done to quantify the results of increased atmospheric CO2 content.  Click here to get more detail, but I have lifted a table from that posting which gives the reader a feel for the enhanced growth that results from increased levels of atmospheric CO2.

PLANT No. OF STUDIES DRY WEIGHT INCREASE %(Arithmetic mean)
Corn 20 21.3
Rice 188 35.8
Soy Beans 179 46.5
Wheat 235 32.1
Sugar Cane 11 34

 Effect of Atmospheric CO2 Increased 300ppm Over Ambient

 

Techno-intel

Providing seeds that can adapt to growing condition or seeds imbued with resistance to fungus or insects is accomplished by techniques such as mutagenesis and genetic engineering.

Wiki says this about Norman Borlaug, considered the Father of the Green Revolution:

During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations.[4] These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation.[5] He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

From Wiki: 

Genetically modified foods (GM foods or GMO foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms, (GMOs). Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise[1] than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change.

Idso estimates that the likely increase in food production from 2009 to 2050 will be about 51.5%. Idso assigns 34.5% to Techno-intel and the remaining 17% to CO2 aerial fertilization. Note that the 51.5% is substantially less than the 70 to 100% increase believed by many experts to be needed.

Conclusions

Idso tables the results for the World, the Regions and the Sub Regions.  The calculated food supply has two cases.  Case 1 assumes that the increase in food supply is due only to Techno-intel.  Case 2 assumes that the increase is a result of both Techno-intel AND CO2 aerial fertilization.

World food supplies in 2050 will not be secure in Case 1 nor in the enhanced case 2.  For the Regions, Europe has a secure food source in Case 1 as well as Case 2. This can be explained by the expectation that Europe is the only Region where the population declines.  Africa, Asia, North America, Oceania and South America do not have secure foods supplies in Case 1.  In Case 2, Africa, Asia and Oceania  still do not have food source security.   North America and South America get a “maybe” in Case 2 as regard their food security.

Idso sums it up this way:

It is clear from the results obtained above that a global food security crisis is indeed looming on the horizon. If population projections and estimates of the amounts of additional food needed to feed the rising population of the planet prove correct, humanity will still fall short of being able to adequately feed the 9.1 billion persons expected to be inhabiting the Earth in the year 2050, even utilizing all yield-enhancing benefits associated with technological and intelligence advancements plus the aerial fertilization effect of Earth’s rising atmospheric CO2 content.

So what can be done to deal with the projected food production shortfall? Based on the results described above, there are only three possible avenues to achieving food security in the future: (1) greater gains must be achieved in the techno-intel sector than presently forecasted, (2) benefits from atmospheric CO2 enrichment must be increased, or (3) world population growth must be slowed to reach a lesser value by 2050.

Abstracting Dr. Idso’s report is a perilous undertaking.   The report is 43 pages and this posting is about one tenth that size.  Such reduction can introduce errors or poor assumptions that are not in the full report and can only be chalked-up to me.

Idso’s report  indicates that the world will be better served to have a goodly supply of atmospheric CO2 that can do aerial fertilization of the World’s food supply.  As a skeptic of the CO2 theory of run-away global warming, I can comfortably support the idea that atmospheric CO2 has more benefits than drawbacks.  Further, GM crops are a major benefit.   I like this comment by Borlaug regarding critics of his work:

“some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels…If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.[54]

cbdakota

Should You Worry About CO2 in Our Atmosphere?


Should you worry about CO2 in our atmosphere?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is the basis for nearly all life on our planet.  Plants need at least 150ppm of atmospheric CO2 to grow.  The plants are the source of food for all animals.  There would be no T-Bones steaks were it not for plants.

That would seem to answer the question unless you are one of the radicals that believe to save the Earth, all humans must die.

But there is more.  Many scientists believe that global famine has been avoided by the increase in atmospheric CO2 from a pre-industrial level of about 270ppm to the current level of about 390ppm.   Before examining why scientist think CO2 increases can help avoid famine, let’s look at this VIDEO:

The levels of CO2 used in that video are outside normal considerations.  But much more modest increases in atmospheric CO2 are beneficial,too.    (So you can make the connection with the video and perhaps your own experience, cowpeas, are an important food legume crop in semi-arid tropics covering Asia, southern Europe and Central and South America.   In the Southern US cowpeas are called black eyed peas.)

The CO2 Science’s Plant Growth Data Base has an impressive compilation of peer-reviewed scientific studies that report the growth responses of plants to atmospheric CO2 enrichment.  Click here to see all the plants studied.

The following table lists a selected group of plants and the dry weight response to a 300ppm CO2 increase over ambient.

PLANT No. OF STUDIES DRY WEIGHT INCREASE %(Arithmetic mean)
Corn 20 21.3
Rice 188 35.8
Soy Beans 179 46.5
Wheat 235 32.1
Sugar Cane 11 34

 Effect of Atmospheric CO2 Increased 300ppm Over Ambient

The tables also provide response data on Photosynthesis (Net CO2 exchange rate).

The greater the amount of CO2 not only increases the quantity, its effect on the quality of the plant is not significantly altered.  Some studies have suggested that the protein levels are reduced, but other studies have indicated that the protein levels are increased.  Other factors, such as ozone (O3), soil nitrogen and sulfur dioxide (SO2) effect the outcome both positively and negatively.  Click here for more discussion of the quality of the plants tested.

It is hard to argue with all this data and just the common sense notion that warmer weather, more CO2 and more rainfall will provide bigger crop yields. And that the increase in crop yields will be beneficial in view of the forecast increase in the world’s population.   We all know that it surely will continue to warm as it part of a natural cycle.  We need to worry when the cycle reverses and the temperatures begin to drop.  Surely some one is yelling at his computer display right now shouting about the droughts that are going to occur when man-made global warming really kicks in.    Ok, but for every warmer that says the world will become a desert, there is another taking about the vast rainfall that is and will continue to occur.  It is some kind of an unhealthy theory that every weather or climate event, snow, heat, drought, wind, no wind, rising temperatures, dropping temperatures, sea level rise, sea level drop, you name it, are all caused by CO2.

More on CO2 and famine in the next blog.   Growth enhancement using forecast changes in atmospheric CO2 will be examined.

cbdakota