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Give Peace a Chance by Giving Plants a Chance
Volume 2, Number 19: 1 October 1999

Perusing our local newspaper of 26 September 1999, our attention was captured by the title of an opinion piece in the Perspective section: "To cultivate peace, we must first cultivate food."  Penned by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, this article - albeit unknowingly, perhaps - makes an impressive case for the great good that can come from the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content.

President Carter begins by stating that "when the Cold War ended 10 years ago, we expected an era of peace" but got instead "a decade of war."  He then asks why peace has been so elusive, answering that most of today's wars are fueled by poverty, poverty in developing countries "whose economies depend on agriculture but which lack the means to make their farmland productive."  This fact, he says, suggests an obvious, but often overlooked, path to peace: "raise the standard of living of the millions of rural people who live in poverty by increasing agricultural productivity," his argument being that thriving agriculture, in his words, "is the engine that fuels broader economic growth and development, thus paving the way for prosperity and peace."

Can the case for atmospheric CO2 enrichment be made any clearer?  Automatically, and without the investment of a single hard-earned dollar, ruble, or what have you, people everywhere promote the cause of peace by fertilizing the atmosphere with carbon dioxide; for CO2 - one of the major end-products of the combustion process that fuels the engines of industry and transportation - is the very elixir of life, being the primary building block of all plant tissues via the essential role it plays in the photosynthetic process that sustains nearly all of earth's vegetation, which in turn sustains nearly all of the planet's animal life.

As with any production process, the insertion of more raw materials (in this case CO2) into the production line results in more manufactured goods coming out the other end, which, in the case of the production line of plant growth and development, is biosphere-sustaining food.  And as President Carter rightly states, "leaders of developing nations must make food security a priority."  Indeed, he ominously proclaims in his concluding paragraph that "there can be no peace until people have enough to eat."

Within this context, we recently completed a project commissioned by the Greening Earth Society entitled "Forecasting World Food Supplies: The Impact of the Rising Atmospheric CO2 Concentration," which we presented at the Second Annual Dixy Lee Ray Memorial Symposium held in Washington, DC on 31 August - 2 September 1999.  We found that continued increases in agricultural knowledge and expertise would likely boost world food production by 37% between now and the middle of the next century, but that world food needs, which we equated with world population, would likely rise by 51% over this period.  Fortunately, we also calculated that the shortfall in production could be overcome - but just barely - by the additional benefits anticipated to accrue from the many productivity-enhancing effects of the expected rise in the air's CO2 content over the same time period.

Our findings suggest that the world food security envisioned by President Carter is precariously dependent upon the continued rising of the atmosphere's CO2 concentration.  As Sylvan Wittwer, Director Emeritus of Michigan State University's Agricultural Experiment Station, stated in his 1995 book, Food, Climate, and Carbon Dioxide: The Global Environment and World Food Production,

"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.  It is a means of inadvertently increasing the productivity of farming systems and other photosynthetically active ecosystems.  The effects know no boundaries and both developing and developed countries are, and will be, sharing equally."

So, let's give peace a chance.  Let's give plants a chance.  And, while we're at it, let's give all of the world's national economies a chance as well.  Let's let the air's CO2 content rise unimpeded, and let's let the peoples of the world reap the multitudinous benefits that come from the God-given - and scientifically proven - aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment.  Let's live and let live.  And let's let CO2 do its wonderful work of promoting world peace via the planet-wide prosperity that comes from enhanced agricultural productivity.

Dr. Craig D. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President