Among the greatest challenges humankind has faced throughout its history, feeding the world’s hungry ranks at or near the very top of the list. And with the world’s population expected to top nine billion between 2050 and 2100, this issue will surely become even more important in the coming decades.
However, what many people may not realize is that the carbon dioxide humans have been pumping into the air since the middle of the 20th century has enriched plant growth, thereby contributing to record crop yields, which has helped to bring about the largest decline in hunger, starvation, and malnutrition in human history.
Most of the world’s plant life arose during times when carbon-dioxide levels were much higher than they are today. Over time, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowly declined, to the extent that during the most recent ice age, atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels fell to dangerously low levels — just 180 parts per million (ppm).
Plants begin to die when carbon dioxide reaches 150 ppm because they are unable to use sunlight to photosynthesize food from carbon dioxide and water. After humans emerged from the previous ice age, carbon-dioxide levels rose to approximately 280 ppm, still far below the levels existing when plant life began to colonize the land.
Let’s be clear: If plants die, humans and almost all other living beings on Earth will perish as well, so, historically speaking, higher carbon-dioxide levels are positive and associated with more life on Earth.
The addition of approximately 120 ppm carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by humans — through the burning of fossil fuels, slash-and-burn agriculture, and various other actions — is making plants grow stronger, more quickly and abundantly, and improving the efficiency with which they use water. (Under higher carbon-dioxide conditions, plants lose less water through their stoma during transpiration.)
Since the widespread development and use of fossil fuels, world poverty and hunger have declined precipitously. Despite adding 3.2 billion people to the planet since 1968, poverty and hunger have fallen at a faster rate than at any time in human history.
Contrary to the predictions made by 1968 Malthusian environmentalists such as Paul Ehrlich, who said in his woefully mistaken 1968 jeremiad The Population Bomb, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now,” more people are better fed today than ever before.
Forty-four percent of the world’s population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of people living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent in 2015. And although 700 million people worldwide still suffer from persistent hunger, according to the United Nations, hunger has declined by two billion people since 1990. Additionally, research shows there is now 17 percent more food available per person than there was 30 years ago.
Read more at American Thinker
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