Could global warming be a boon to farmers? A recent study found that rising carbon dioxide concentrations bestow an additional $11.6 trillion in benefits from crop production between now and 2050.
The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change found that while many studies focus on the costs of rising carbon emissions, few studies focused on whether or not more carbon in the atmosphere could be beneficial to society.
In fact, the Obama administration recently raised its social-cost-of-carbon estimate from $21 per metric ton to $35 per metric ton to the ire of global warming skeptics and Republicans. The estimate reflects how much each ton of carbon emitted costs the U.S. economy.
The number was disputed by economists who argue that there is “little science” behind the estimate and it is politically malleable.
“The ‘social cost of carbon’ is a very malleable concept that can be inflated or deflated by turning certain wheels,” said Institute for Energy Research senior fellow Robert Murphy.
While the Obama administration has touted the costs of carbon emissions, going so far as to impose new regulations on coal-fired power plants, they have neglected to mention any areas where global warming could benefit society.
One such area is food production, according to the center.
The center’s study focused on benefits to global food production because higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been shown to stimulate plant productivity and growth, as well as increasing plant’s water conserving and stress-alleviating abilities.
“The results indicate that the annual total monetary value of this benefit grew from about $20 billion in 1961 to over $160 billion by 2011, amounting to a total sum of $3.5 trillion over the 50-year period 1961-2011,” reads the study. “Projecting the monetary value of this positive externality forward in time reveals it will likely bestow an additional $11.6 trillion on crop production between now and 2050.”
“It is clear from the material presented in this report that the modern rise in the air’s CO2 content is providing a tremendous economic benefit to global crop production,” the study adds.
Recently the United Nations released its latest global climate assessment, claiming “95 percent certainty” that human activities drove global warming and that global temperatures would “likely” rise 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial temperatures by 2100.
Burning fossil fuels has helped increase the global concentration of carbon dioxide to nearly 400 parts per million today, and current trends indicate that the carbon concentration could increase to about 700 parts per million by 2100, according to the center.
“And as the CO2 concentration of the air continues to rise in the future, this positive externality of enhanced crop production will benefit society in the years, decades, and even centuries to come,” according to the study.