Google News today is promoting articles (see the Google-promoted PhysOrg article here, for example) about a speculative World Bank “study” claiming climate change is threatening crop production in the Middle East. The World Bank study is full of speculation but short on facts. Real-world data show crop yields per acre and total crop production are consistently and dramatically rising in each of the Middle East countries examined by the World Bank study.
In its study, titled “Water in the Balance,” the World Bank says, “[w]hile information about water scarcity at present and in the future is available there is little knowledge of what this increasing scarcity means for Middle Eastern … food security. Agriculture will suffer because of climate change and water scarcity….”
In particular the World Bank asserts water scarcity caused by climate change will reduce farm production in Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. The available evidence strongly suggests that will not happen.
Had the study’s authors examined real-world data concerning crop production in the Middle Eastern countries, they would have found, even amidst substantial strife in the region, crop yields and overall production have increased dramatically. More food is being produced even as thousands of acres of agricultural lands have been abandoned during regional conflicts.
Data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization show during the period of modest warming since 1989:
- Cereal crop production in Iraq increased 91 percent, even as the acreage being harvested fell 5 percent.
- Cereal crop production in Iran increased 187 percent, while the acreage harvested increased by just 2.6 percent.
- Cereal Crop production in Jordan increased 15 percent, even as the acreage harvested declined 30 percent.
- Cereal Crop production in Lebanon increased 115 percent, while acreage harvested increased 30 percent.
- Cereal Crop production in Syria increased 22 percent, even as acreage harvested declined 66 percent.
- Cereal Crop production in Turkey increased 46 percent, even though acreage harvested declined 19 percent.
It is clearly good news – and not a climate crisis – that Middle Eastern countries have increased crop production despite the fact that many them have been embroiled in internal political strife, outright civil warfare, and external conflicts. That good news is ignored in the World Bank’s doom-and-gloom report.
Global warming lengthens growing seasons, reduces frost events, and makes more land suitable for crop production. Also, carbon dioxide is an aerial fertilizer for plant life. In addition, crops also use water more efficiently under conditions of higher carbon dioxide, losing less water to transpiration. The latter fact should have allayed the World Bank’s concern about climate change induced water shortages leading to crop failure.
The benefits of more atmospheric carbon dioxide and a modestly warming world have resulted in 17 percent more food being available per person today there was 30 years ago, even as the number of people has grown by billions. Indeed, the last 20 years have seen the largest decline in hunger, malnutrition, and starvation in human history.
Sorry, World Bank, Google, and PhysOrg, but that does not equate to a climate crisis.