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The Global Food and Water Crisis
Volume 11, Number 30: 23 July 2008

In a paper published in the Biological Sciences section of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in July of 2007, Morison et al. report that "agriculture accounts for 80-90% of all freshwater used by humans," that "most of that is in crop production," and that "in many areas, this water use is unsustainable." As a result, they say that "farmers in many countries are now faced with legislative restrictions on use of water," noting that the Chinese government "has set a target of a reduction of 20% in water use in agriculture by the year 2020," such that "if food security for the region is not to be threatened, this must be achieved without a loss in production."

So how is this global food and water crisis to be met and overcome?

In their many pages of discussion of the subject, the four UK researchers examine the underlying relationships that connect crop carbon uptake, growth and water loss, noting that "much effort is being made to reduce water use by crops and produce 'more crop per drop'." Some of the topics they examine in the course of this discussion are designed to alter various crop characteristics that might possibly increase their water use efficiency, such as by genetic engineering, while others deal with crop management strategies, such as how and when to apply irrigation water.

Clearly, all of these approaches to getting "more crop per drop" out of our agricultural enterprises should be pursued. But what if we had a magical substance we could release to the air that would automatically lead to greater crop yields? And what if it produced those greater crop yields while using less water? And what if the many processes that put this super substance into the air were incredibly useful in their own right ... or even essential, both to our individual well-being and to the security of numerous nations?

Why, everyone would be clamoring for its release to the air, right? Wrong! Al Gore, for one, is adamantly against it. So is James Hansen, as are a host of climate alarmists, all of whom feel that the water-use-efficiency-enhancing carbon dioxide that is released to the air by the burning of coal, gas and oil -- which is no different from what every one of us emits to the atmosphere with every breath we exhale -- should not only not be allowed to continue to rise, but should be stopped in its tracks, all because tenuous speculations spawned by woefully inadequate computer-run climate models suggest that releasing more CO2 into the air will lead to catastrophic global warming.

A tiny hint of what we will experience if Al Gore and his followers have their way with the world is already upon us. It is the soaring price of basic foodstuffs caused by farmers growing biofuels in place of food crops, as well as by the increased price of oil and gas that is needed to produce and move those foods -- and move us as well -- which is caused by a reduction in gas and oil availability that is miniscule compared to what the world's climate alarmists would force us to go without.

Insanity is upon us, as real catastrophes lie at the doorstep, and as they are actually made worse by those who would fight imaginary ones. Truly, the situation is as described by an astute observer of some three-plus centuries ago:

The World ran Mad, and each distempered Brain, Did Strange and different Frenzies entertain.*

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

* Mrs. Aphra Behn. 1688. A Poem to Sir Roger L'Estrange on his third Part of the History of the Times, Relating to the Death of Sir Edmund Bury-Godfrey.

Morison, J.I.L., Baker, N.R., Mullineaux, P.M. and Davies, W.J. 2007. Improving water use in crop production. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 363: 639-658.