By Vijay Jayaraj,
Nature and carbon dioxide emissions of human activity are aiding the hunger-haunted continent of Africa as our modern climate greens the Earth overall.
While the developed West often associates poverty with joblessness and economic recession, it is a different ball game in Africa. There, millions go to bed hungry and malnourished, a precursor to life-long morbidities and even premature death.
“Child undernutrition remains one of Africa’s most fundamental challenges for improved human development,” says the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
To combat poverty, the continent needs rapid development in numerous areas, including an agricultural sector currently faced with making food more affordable and available and with reducing dependence on imports.
Aiding in this endeavor are environmental conditions that have become more favorable for crop production in recent decades. Contrary to reports in the popular media, ongoing climatic changes are engendering a greening of the globe, increases in harvests and a flourishing of humanity.
NASA, quoting a study from Nature Climate Change, says “From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.” BBC reports, “A new study says that if the extra green leaves prompted by rising CO2 levels were laid in a carpet, it would cover twice the continental USA.”
Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increase from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the mid 19th century to just over 400 ppm, coinciding with rising CO2 emissions from industrial activity. While climate alarmists portray this as a threat, CO2 levels have measured several thousand ppm in the geologic past when life was first evolving. Over the same period, moderate warming that began with the waning of the Little Ice Age has also contributed to a climate more conducive to life.
The Barents Observer says that “carbon emissions and intensive land use have inadvertently greened half of the Earth’s vegetated lands.”
A 2019 paper in Nature Sustainability declares that satellite data show increasing leaf area of vegetation due to land-use management and factors such as climate change, CO2 fertilization, nitrogen deposition and recovery from natural disturbances. “Among these, climate change and CO2 fertilization effects seem to be the dominant drivers,” the paper said.
Boston University’s official publication says in a headline: “Humans Are Officially Greening the Earth…China, India have added an Amazon rain forest’s worth of plants to the world.”
Africa, too, could enjoy higher crop production with increased use of its rich soil and utilization of favorable environmental conditions that have benefited historically poverty-stricken countries like India and China, which now feed 2.6 billion people.
A 2016 report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that, “agricultural productivity in Africa increased at a moderate rate between 1961 and 2012, although there are variations in the rate of growth in land, labor, and total factor productivities depending on country and region.” The gross production value of the agricultural sector in Africa increased from a meager $106 billion in 1991 to $232 billion in 2016.
A greater abundance of atmospheric CO2 and the warmer temperatures of this century are the unsung heroes in the recent success of African agriculture and will continue to play a key role.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, VA., and holds a Master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK. He resides in Bengaluru, India.Tags: Commentary