Monthly Archives: August 2011

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.


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.


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, 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.

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



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.


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]


Asteroid Encounters–August thru November

So why do I find these near Earth encounters fascinating???—- I don’t know.
But here is a listing of things to come,, up to and including  November.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:

Miss Distance
2011 QE23
Aug 22
7.6 LD
32 m
2009 AV
Aug 22
49.7 LD
1.1 km
2003 QC10
Sep 18
50 LD
1.2 km
2004 SV55
Sep 19
67.5 LD
1.2 km
2007 TD
Sep 23
3.8 LD
58 m
2002 AG29
Oct 9
77.1 LD
1.0 km
2000 OJ8
Oct 13
49.8 LD
2.5 km
2009 TM8
Oct 17
1.1 LD
8 m
2011 FZ2
Nov 7
75.9 LD
1.6 km
2005 YU55
Nov 8
0.8 LD
175 m
1994 CK1
Nov 16
68.8 LD
1.5 km
1996 FG3
Nov 23
39.5 LD
1.1 km

Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach. 

Fortunately,   the close ones are SMALL.



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.

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.


Solar Cycle 24 Continues to Under Perform the Early Projections.

Cycle 24 Sunspots count continues to underperform early forecasts.   Chief forecaster, David Hathaway, Ph.D., Heliospheric Team Leader, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama has frequently revised his forecast of maximum monthly average Sunspot count.  A look at the lowering of the NASA forecast over the years:

Before I pile it too heavily on Dr. Hathaway, most of the experts were as wrong as he was.  One of the few that accurately forecast Cycle 24 was Dr. Lief Svalgaard of the Helioseismic and Magnetic team of Stanford’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO),   Svalgaard predicted 75 as the maximum number in 2004 and has since revised it downward to 72.

Show below is the Cycle 24 recorded Sunspot monthly average numbers through July 2011 versus the current NOAA forecast of 90.

Before you begin to question my grasp of consistency in numbers, please be aware that the Sunspot number is measured several different ways.   The folks in business recognize this and have put together a team to try to bring about uniformity.  One of the more obvious questions is —are we reading more sunspots now because we have much better optics?  The following abstract from this program lays out some of the problems.

The Sunspot number (SSN) record (1610-present) is the primary time sequence of solar and solar-terrestrial physics, with application to studies of the solar dynamo, space weather, and climate change. Contrary to common perception, and despite its importance, the international sunspot number (as well as the alternative widely-used group SSN) series is inhomogeneous and in need of calibration. We trace the evolution of the sunspot record and show that significant discontinuities arose in ~1885 (resulting in a ~50% step in the group SSN) and again when Waldmeier took over from Brunner in 1945 (~20% step in Zürich SSN). We follow Wolf and show how the daily range of geomagnetic activity can be used to maintain the sunspot calibration and use this technique to obtain a revised, homogeneous, and single sunspot series from 1835-2011.

Where do we go from here?

Find and Digitize as many 19thcentury geomagnetic hourly values as possible

Determine improved adjustment factors based on the above and on model of the ionosphere

Co-operate with agencies producing sunspot numbers to harmonize their efforts in order to produce an adjusted and accepted sunspot record that can form a firm basis for solar-terrestrial relations, e.g. reconstructions of solar activity important for climate and environmental changes

To learn more about sunspot counting click here.

As the magnetic fields are what drive sunspots, here is a current look at Sun’s north and south magnetic fields:

Chart Courtesy of Wilson Solar Observatory

It is obvious that Cycle 24 is different from the Cycles 21, 22 and 23 that precede it.   The magnetic field strength is much weaker and angle of approach to the X axis (0 microTesla line) is very much steeper than that of Cycle 24. Click here, here and here for further discussion of the magnetic field.

How about a look ahead to cycle 25 and beyond.  I don’t know enough to have much confidence in this forecast Ed Fix, but David Archibald seems to think it is viable.  Click here for more info:

The green line is the solar cycle record from 1914 to 2010, with alternate cycles reversed. Solar Cycles 19 to 23 are annotated. The red line is the model output, from which the lengths of individual solar cycles in the mid-21st Century can be calculated.

Mr. Fix has Cycle 25 duplicating the current Cycle 24.  Cycles 26,and 27 are about half again as large as 24 and 25. Even so his forecast for Cycles through 28 are all considerably less active than Cycles 18 through 23.  Does this mean an extended global cooling?



The competition between the Volt and the Nissan Leaf sales continues to be of interest, it seems, as the numbers are carried in a lot of automotive blogs.  The Leaf’s July sales were lower than in the previous month but at 931 they topped the Volts anemic July sales of 125.   Both Nissan and GM claim that the low year-to-date sales are due to lack of production and that the sales would be much greater had more cars been available.   A comment from Chevrolet Communication to the Torque News Blog said that “Our sales of 125 Volts this month are exactly what we anticipated to sell……”  .  and  that revamping  currently underway will allow them to have production capacity for Volts and Amperas (no specifics about the production capacity split): “…this year will increase to 16,000 units.   In 2012, global production capacity is expected to be 60,000 vehicles with an estimated 45,000 delivered in the United States.”  See here for more detail

This statement was challenged by Mark Modica, associate fellow at the National Legal and Policy Center, who said he found about 125 Volts for sale.

I decided to call a few dealers within 75 miles of my location to determine what the true situation was. I stopped my research after finding that five of the first six dealers I called had Volts in inventory available for immediate sale. Two of the five dealers even had two each in stock. I can now safely assume that GM is, once again, not being entirely honest with its facts. The demand for the Chevy Volt is not as strong as GM would have us believe.”  See here for more detail.

Nissan has announced that they are going to increase the price of the 2012 Leaf from the current suggested price of $33,630 to $36,050.    I understand that the 2012 Leaf will come with a quick charge port that will allow battery charging in 30 minutes.  That should be a decided improvement, but I have often wondered how long the lines would be today, at the gasoline stations, if a fill up required 30 minutes.   See here for more detail