Right in the centre - CO2 levels may cause crop production cutbacks


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The Winnipeg Free Press ran an article on Tuesday. It was a good enough article on its own merits. It states that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels are up, but… it’s a rather shallow article. The last year they have stats for is 2018. Results for 2019 and 2020 don’t seem to be available yet.

What the article misses is that CO2 levels will likely be down in 2020 and maybe by a long way. If the comparative smog pictures from larger cities around the world are any indication, then CO2 emissions will be lower. If after the great decrease in airline and ground vehicle traffic that has taken place due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, CO2 doesn’t come down then all we have been told about how fossil fuels are the great dreaded source of CO2 is wrong. The doom and gloom people will have to find a new CO2 villain if the reduction in airline and ground vehicle traffic doesn’t drop CO2 levels.

World CO2 will likely be down in 2020 and that could very well be a bad thing as crop yields have increased over the past few decades for three reasons:

1. Better land management practices;

2. Higher yielding seed varieties;

3. Increased CO2 levels.

If CO2 levels are actually down, from less oil and gas being burned, then we may see a decrease in world-wide crop production and that could be a bad thing.

For what it’s worth, an online search shows that  CO2 concentration in ambient air ranges from 300 to 500 parts per million (ppm), with a global atmospheric average of about 400 ppm. If you are growing in a greenhouse or indoors, the CO2 levels will be reduced, as the plants use it up during photosynthesis.

Some articles say that, at least in a greenhouse, the CO2 levels can go as high as 1,200 ppm and result in much higher yields.

If CO2 levels have actually gone down, crops may not be as green this year. It will be an interesting thing to observe.

Another interesting idea that is being examined is why oil is priced so low. Until the COVID-19 shutdown, oil consumption should have been fairly steady or increasing. Again, the gloom and doom people were saying we were running out of oil. Doesn’t look like that was true, does it? Some would say that new sources of oil are being discovered and that seems to be true. But seeing as we were always told that oil was produced deep in the earth by plant material being under a lot of pressure, millions of years ago, could it be that oil is still being produced deep down in the earth’s crust? I haven’t been down there to check lately.

And lastly, the big question on everyone’s mind is when will the COVID-19 shutdown end. Due caution is important, but the sooner we end this shutdown, the better. Through hard experience, we have learned that as much as 80 per cent of Canadian deaths have happened in care homes. This stat is small comfort to older people in general and to families who have lost loved ones, be they old or young. However, it shows that when such a pandemic as COVID-19 shows up, early detection is very important. The ability to protect the vulnerable is equally important. Early, and perhaps repeated testing, combined with quarantining the sick, would seem to be essential. Shutting down the economy and the community needs to be avoided  in future situations and in the current situation, it needs to end soon. 

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.