Global Warming: Positive Effects on Agriculture, the Economy, and Greenhouse Gases

Global warming is a phenomenon that can affect every nation across the globe and is caused by air pollutants. It is associated with greenhouses gases including carbon dioxide, methane gas, and nitrous oxide. Together these air pollutants can stimulate global warming causing changes in climate and temperature. It is estimated that temperatures will increase five degrees Celsius by 2050. Global warming is caused by fossil fuels and emissions in the air produced by energy and chemical factories and automobiles. Despite the relevancy of global warming and its effect on the environment and greater society, the premises of the research relates to global warming and its effect on agriculture as it relates to the American economy. While many suggest that negative effects of global warming, scholars indicate that this can have a positive effect in agriculture, producing increased sales and revenue. Although each scholar utilized different models and methods to produce these findings, the majority concluded that the overall effect of global warming, when utilizing the best production function of farming, remains positive. Consequently, due to estimated precipitation, production function, and value of cost associated, the agricultural sector is predicted to generate a profitable income from the effects of global warming and greenhouse gases.

In 1997, Kyoto, Japan, the United Nations met with their associates to discuss the issue of global warming and greenhouses gases. Scientist around the world concluded that emissions and air pollutants were the primary cause of global warming and demonstrated the dramatic and ill affects this could have on human society and its ecosystems. Global warming can cause ice glaciers in the northern and southern poles to melt. This would instigate ocean beaches to ascend, changing life and habitats along coastal shores. It could also cause droughts, endanger agriculture, and animal life.  “Major agricultural impacts of increased GHGE (Green House Gas Emissions) may include changes of the species composition in a given area, changes in crop yields, changes in irrigation water requirements and supply, and changes in cost of production”, (McCarl & Schneider, 2004). To curve the amount of pollutants in the air, the United Nations developed a treaty called, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. The protocol of this treaty is known as the Kyoto Protocol. This protocol is an agreement between the associate countries of the United Nations, which includes the United States, to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases to a sustainable level. The primary goal is to “achieve the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, (“unfcc.int/Kyoto.protocal”). Although this was adapted in December of 1997, the protocol did not come into effect until 2005, in which 38 countries agreed to reduce air pollutants by 5.2% between the years of 2008 and 2012. With America and other nations attempting to meet their requirements, researchers have begun to study the hazardous affects global warming can have on the economy, particularly agriculture. As the race against global warming continues, researchers concluded that global warming can have a positive effect on agricultural economy. Furthermore, agriculture and forestry can also be used to combat greenhouse gases. As a result, agriculture plays a fundamental role on global warming and its effects on the U.S economy.

It is hard to image how global warming can have a positive impact on agricultural economy. However, once implementing models and conducting research on predicted warming trends, precipitation is the key to agricultural success and the effect of global warming. A study conducted by Mendelsohn and Nordhaus indicates that a predicted 2 degree Celsius warming trend would cause an 8% increase in precipitation. This significant increase in precipitation is the primary sources of agricultural success for the United States economy. Thus, although the climate would be drier than it is today, the additional moisture in the air would help plant growth despite drought and lack of rain.

The question of irrigation has been a hot debate amongst researchers. Irrigation is used by farmers to transport water from one place to another. In this way, farmers are able to supply plant life with the resources needed for growth.  When inputting irrigation into the model for global warming and agriculture, researchers differ in opinion. Mendelsohn and Nordhaus conclude that, “temperatures in the crop-revenue equation continue to be positive even with irrigation”. However, another study conducted by Schlenker, Hanemann, and Fisher in 2004, indicates that “climate change will harm counties with irrigated agriculture [because] climate change will cause an increased water shortage in a number of these counties”. Their research goes on to conclude that, “economic effects of climate change on agriculture need to be assessed differently in dry land and irrigated areas”, (Schlenker, Hanemann, & Fisher, 2004). Despite their differences, both conclude that global warming can be beneficial for the agricultural economy.

Researchers and authors of a study entitled, U.S Agriculture and Climate Change, found reasoning for differing opinions regarding precipitation and irrigation. “The water sector did not consider how demand from other sectors might further impinge on supplies” as “both supply and demand for water might be expected to shift”, (Reilley et al, 2003).  During global warming, scientists predict that warming will cause drought and reduced rainfall to particular regions in the United States. Reduced rainfall and drought can cause other sectors to have a higher demand for water. As demand and supply for water changes with the effects of global warming, the possible lack of water can have a negative effect on agriculture. However, researches indicate that such factors are unpredictable. The authors argue that an increased air moisture and precipitation may not require farmers to utilize irrigation for plant growth. If precipitation is predicted to climb to an astounded 8%, plant life can receive efficient water resources from the moisture trapped in the air. This was seen when comparing agriculture in dry regions such as California and Arizona to other regions such as Wisconsin and Iowa. Farmers in the Plains or Midwest do not utilize irrigation to water their plant life as only 2% of the water provided to plants is produced by an irrigation system or water source, and 98% of water is provided to the plant from precipitation. As a result, although the supply and demand for water is not indicated, scholars suggest that irrigation systems are not essential to agriculture during global warming. Furthermore, if the precipitation adjustments are true, then “reductions in agricultural demand for resources could ease the growing competition for water from urban and environmental users”, (Reilly et, al., 2003).

The production and function of a working farm can significantly increase profitability for agriculture and the American economy. Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, and Shaw were benchmarkers in predicting the profitability of agriculture during global warming. In their 1994 study, the authors stated that “climate shifts the production function for crops”. To get a better understanding of production function, the authors suggest that in the event of global warming, farmers will change their crops to plants that have a better chance of growth and survival in a warmer climate. Grains such as wheat and soy will have negative effects on global warming as they are less likely to grow or adapt to a warmer climate. Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, and Shaw predict “the annual damage is in the neighborhood of 4-5% in wheat production”, while Reilly et, al. assume that the loss generated from wheat and soy can gross up to 50%. Consequently, those who grow wheat and other grains located in the Great Plains will be unyielding. However, if farmers substitute such plants with other plants, “a broader vision should also include warm-weather plants such as cotton, fruits, vegetables, rice, hay, and grapes”. Including plants accustomed and acclimated to the warm weather that global warming can produce, ensures economic productivity and profitability in agriculture. Such gains work exceptionally well to offset the production of wheat and the predicted 5% loss.

Another way to increase the production and function of an operating farm is to move. Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, and Shaw predict a “mid continental drying and warming of the U.S heartland”. This warming in the Great Plains which has notoriety for its high winds and poor soil can halt agricultural production all together. Their theory concludes that farming and agriculture can be difficult and less likely in this region. “Lands in the West or South that thrives on a Mediterranean and subtropical climate, a climate that will be come relatively more abundant with a warming” may become inhabitable, (Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, & Shaw, 1994). As such, farmers must use the production and function of their farm wisely. During global warming, it may be beneficial for some farmers to move further north and out of desert like and subtropical regions. The Northern region of the United States is estimated to be more habitable for plant life and may better benefit from the effects of global warming. From the extensive research gathered by Reilly et, al., the authors assume that, “production shift to dry land cropping and more than likely to Northern regions of the country”. As such, for an agriculturalist to produce a high yield of crop during an era of global warming, it may be wise to move north to a region that can better sustain plant life. The northern United States is expected to be cooler than other parts of the country where plants can receive an abundance of precipitation, sunlight, and better soil.

Agriculture can serve as additional function for the American economy; this includes utilizing farm lands to produce biofuels and biomass. “Substitution for fossil fuels generally involves using agricultural products as feedstock for electrical power plants or inputs to liquid fuel production”, (McCarl & Schneider, 2004). In the event of global warming, the United States may reduce its amount of fossil fuels used to combat greenhouse gases. Instead of utilizing gasoline, people may turn to corn, soy, and other vegetable oils to supplement fossil fuels. In addition, industrial factories may turn to biomass to generate electricity by “burning agricultural biomass in the form of switchgrass or short rotation wood crops to offset fossil fuel use”, (McCarl & Schneider, 2004). However, utilizing farmlands to generate biofuels and biomass can be problematic for consumers. If agriculture was dictated by the supply and demand of biofuels, this can potentially harm the American consumer. Farmers would struggle to supply the demand of biofuels in an era that is driven by automobiles, technology, and machinery. In addition, if farmers began to produce large amounts of corn, for instance, to use as biofuel, then the cost of corn would rise to an unprecedented amount and there would be little room for agricultural growth for food consumption. Thus, “the more agriculture enters the GHGE (Green House Gas Emissions) business the less there will be conventional agricultural production … and cause price of food commodities to rise”, (McCarl & Schneider, 2004). Although this will be highly profitable for the crop producer this can have devastating effects on the consumer and food production. In addition, “biofuels for the energy market would probably place agriculture as a fairly small player in producing against an elastic demand curve”. (McCarl & Schneider, 2004).

Most researchers indicate that global warming will cause the value of agriculture to rise. This is seen predominately in the production and function of the farm. The value of the land farmed may significantly impact agriculture and can lower fossil fuels and emissions that are the cause by greenhouse gases. Results founded in the study by Robertson, Paul, and Harwood in 2000 showed that, “agriculture… has been promoted as a partial means for slowing further increases in radioactive force”.  Their research concluded that agriculture can help recycle nitrous oxide in the air by 40% and biomass growth reduces 95% of carbon dioxide, (McCarl & Schneider, 2004). Substituting fossil fuel for biofuel can generate “the average abatement cost between $250 and $350 per ton”, (McCarl & Scneider, 2004). McCarl and Schneider provide four ways in which agriculture can help deplete greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Agriculture releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide
  • Enhances its absorption of GHGE by creating or expounding sinks
  • Provide products that substitute for GHGE intensive products displacing emissions
  • Commodity and input prices GHGE related policy

Chemicals dispensed by plants and agriculture help recycle the greenhouse gases in the air. Consequently, the more forest and vegetation the less potential pollutants have in damaging the air and air quality. Thus, not only is agriculture a way to profit from global warming it is also necessary to help decrease the affects global warming has on the society and the ecosystem.

Global warming adds value to agriculture by using the land in the most productive means. By changing the diet of domestic animals that produce fertilizer can also help curve global warming and introduce savings and value to the agricultural economy. Providing livestock with “low protein amino acid supplements to swine feed could reduce a feeding cost by $1400 per ton”, (McCarl & Schneider, 2004). In addition, warm weather encourages plant growth which can significantly impact agricultural value and profitability. Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, & Shaw conclude that “higher winter temperatures are less harmful”. Their study showed that a 2 degree temperature increase during the winter can increase crop revenue between $89 and $103 per acre. The strong growth due to warmer climate can stimulate and encourage plant growth, which increases crop yield and profit.

Lastly, agricultural land will increase in value during a time of global warming. In certain areas of the United States including the Great Plains, southern, and western regions, these areas may be too dry and uninhabitable for most plant species including soy, wheat, and other grains that grow well in cool temperatures. As many farmers may change seed and production that is better suited for the climate, southern regions may become abandoned due to the inability for crop survival. As such, especially lands with irrigation systems, Mendelsohn and Nordhaus admitted that, “irrigated acre is worth $910 more than dry land acre”. Due to this, many farmers may want to sale their land to provide resources for others forced to migrate because of weather changes. In addition, “crop-revenue approach predicts an increase of $20 to $35 billion in farmland values a gain of $1-$2 billion per year”, (Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, & Shaw, 1994).

Although it is suggested that agriculture will receive a net profit from global warming, some of the same studies indicated a loss of revenue. Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, and Shaw suggest that there will be a “harmful impact between $138 and $160 million” due to the loss of wheat and soy. Another study conducted by McCarl and Schneider demonstrated that utilizing agriculture to reduce methane gases could decrease revenue by governmental taxes on food and agriculture, ranging from $100 on rice and $700 on beef per ton. Schlenker, Hanemann, and Fisher conclude that in “dry land, nonurban counties… the estimated loss in annual profit comes to about $5.3 to $5.4 billion”. Despite these predictions in net loss, the positive effects on agricultural economy far out way the negative in terms of recycling pollutants, utilizing production function, and overall agricultural value.

Global warming can affect every nation around the world both large and small. “It is estimated that 60% of the world’s food supply comes from rice, wheat, and corn”, (Pimentel, et al, 1997). Keeping this in mind, the world’s agriculture and food supply may be at risk. To combat global warming, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has developed a treaty and protocol signed by more than 100 nations across the globe all committed to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2012 the United States of America was able to inadvertently meet the guidelines of the Kyoto Treaty, without ratifying the treaty or making it legally binding. This occurred despite the countries strict adherence to reduce emissions, while some suggest reduced emissions only occurred due to a faulty economy. Even still, every individual across the nation should continue to do their part and reduce gas emissions. Utilizing low energy appliances and public transportation are all ways that Americans can help the nation and the world with global warming. Although individual impact may be small, it is still significant. Despite this, there is a larger platform in which America can make larger and notable changes in air pollution. This entails utilizing agriculture and forestation to help recycle these gases and reduce fossil fuels in the air. There are various ways that this can be done through agriculture and forestation. This includes:

  • Land retirement
  • Residue management
  • Less disruptive soil tillage
  • Use of winter covers and perennials
  • Altered forest harvest
  • Land conversion into pastor or forest
  • Restoration of degraded soil

 

Despite all that needs to be done to combat global warming, it is a serious issue that affects every living organism. It is hard to predict the future. Whether all the information can be scientifically determined, thought, guessed, or assumed, global warning can have a serious effect on the global economy, especially in the agricultural sector. Although researchers argue that it can have a good impact through value, production function, and precipitation, the economic, social, and cultural dynamics and other implications of global warming can have a far greater negative affect. Even if global warming proves to have a positive change on agriculture, Americans and government officials should do all that is possible to alleviate these effects.

 

 

 

 References

  1. McCarl, B., & Schneider, J. (2004). U.s agriculture’s role in a greenhouse gas emission

mitigation world” an economic perspective. Informally published manuscript, Department of Agriculture and Research Economy, University California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. Retrieved from http://agecon2.tamu.edu/people/faculty/mccarl-bruce/papers/669.pdf

 

  1. Mendelsohn, R., Nordhaus, W., & Shaw, D. (1994). Impact of global warming on

agriculture: A ricardian analysis. American Economic Review, 84(4), 753-771. Retrieved from http://www.climateknowledge.org/figures/Rood_Climate_Change_AOSS480_Documents/Mendelsohn_Climate_Change_Agriculture_AmEconRev_1994.pdf

 

 

  1. Mendelsohn, R., & Nordhaus, W. (1999). Impact of global warming on agriculture: A

ricardian analysis, reply. American Economic Review, 89(4), 1053-1055. Retrieved from http://test.aeaweb.org/aer/archive/8904/89041053.pdf

 

  1. Reilly, J., Tubiello, F., McCarl, B., Abler, D., Darwin, R., Fuglie, K., Hollinger, S.,

Izaurralde, C., Jagtap, S., Jones, J., Mearns, L., Ojima, D., Paul, E., Paustion, K., Riha, S., Rosenberge, N., & Rosenzweig, C., (2003). U.s agriculture and climate change: New results. Climactic Change, 59, 43-69. Retrieved from http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/47519/1/IND44484561.pdf

 

  1. Pimentel, D., Wilson, C., McCullum, C., Huang, R., Dwen, P., Flack, J., Tran, Q., &

Saltman, T. (1997). Economic and environmental benefits of biodiversity. BioScience, 47(11), 747-757.

 

 

  1. Robertson, G., Paul, E., & Harwood, R. (2000). Greenhouse gases in intensive

agriculture: Contribution of individual gases to the radioactive forcing of the atmosphere. Science, 289(1922), Retrieved from ftp://cee.ce.cmu.edu/emulkeen/Public/Independent Research/Composting Data/Comp Use/ghg fr Ag artic in Sci 2000.pdf

 

  1. Schlenker, W., Hanemann, M., & Fisher, A. (2004). Will u.s agriculture really benefit

from global warning? accounting for irrigation in the hedonic approach. Informally published manuscript, Department of Agriculture and Research Economy, University California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. Retrieved from http://escholarship.org/uc/item/65s781bh

 

  1. Schlenker, W., Hanemann, M., & Fisher, A. (2004). The impact of global warming on u.s

agriculture: An economic analysis of optimal growing conditions. (Master’s thesis, University California Berkeley)Retrieved from http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0801j7s0

 

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations, NATO.

(2012). Kyoto protocol. Retrieved from website: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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