National Post FP Comment
February 13, 2008
Global warming is the biggest threat that farmers face, and not because carbon dioxide threatens their crops — carbon dioxide is actually a boon to crops, and increases yields. Thanks to increased carbon dioxide emissions, in fact, the world’s biosphere is on an upswing, the terrestrial NPP (net primary production) growing by more than 6% in the last two decades of the century.
No, global warming threatens farmers because agriculture is a major producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for about 14% of Canada’s emissions, according to Environment Canada. Agriculture is also one of Canada’s biggest money losers, and biggest sponges for taxpayer subsidies. If governments curb greenhouse gas producing industries on environmental grounds, they could harvest a lot of cash by curbing those deficit-growing farmers.
Farmers countered by promising to combat global warming by growing biofuels such as corn for ethanol, a replacement for gasoline. The promise diverted attention from farmers’ big role as greenhouse gas producers, and it also earned farmers an additional bushel full of subsidies.
Did the farmers overreach? The Nature Conservancy, a blue-chip environmental group, just came out with a study showing that biofuels can release as much as 420 times the carbon dioxide as the fossil fuels they displace. A new Science magazine study agrees that biofuels are a problem, not a solution. These confirm earlier studies by leading environmentalists at Cornell University and Stanford that show much the same thing.
Environmentalists are beginning to see farmers as the enemy. If the environmental lobby ever turns on the farm lobby, farmers will face formidable foes for the first time in the last two centuries of farming on this continent.