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Local Commentary -- Feeding a growing world trumps dubious efforts to alter climate

By Harvey Koehl

I am writing this in regards to the article in the Morris Sun Tribune by Dr. Pete Wychoff, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris ("Thoughts on 'Climate-gate': Mitigate our impact," Dec. 12).

While I am not a professor, I guess you could say that I do have a degree, it is a degree in common sense from the school of hard knocks. So I would like to make the following comments on his commentary:

From what I have been reading and hearing, unless we have a major global disaster, we are going to have a lot of mouths to feed in the very near future. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that agriculture will have to produce as much food in the next 40 years as it has produced in the past 10,000 years. In the past three years, the number of people on the planet who are hungry has increased from 800 million to one billion. At this century's midpoint, FAO's experts predict, we will have another 2.5 billion souls added to the Earth's population. Here, where we live, three square meals a day and a bed at night is a right. In other parts of the globe, it is a luxury.

What has that got to do with your "Climate-gate"? The legislative goal of the bill -- HR 2454 -- called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, is to create jobs, reduce global warming and cut pollution.

First of all, in any articles I have read, there is no conclusive scientific data that any or all of the measures we impose will have any significant impact on the climate. Even at an aggressive adherence to regulations the maximum drop to the earth's temperature would be no more than 0.1 degree by the year 2050. The bill HR 2452 provides no concrete alternative energy such as nuclear power to hold down energy costs. While this bill would create a real dilemma for all households in the U.S., raising cost to somewhere around $3,300 annually, it would be a complete disaster for agriculture production. There are a few segments of agriculture that would benefit from some type of carbon production, but by far the majority of them would suffer loss. This bill would create a hole in our energy supply leaving farmers, ranchers and others with reduced sources of energy or energy that is too expensive.

On Sept. 8, 2000, the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug stated, "I now say that the world has the technology -- either available or well advanced in the research pipeline -- to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology?" Don't forget, he continued, "that current agriculture productivity took 10,000 years to attain, and the world's nearly seven billion people consume that stockpile almost in its entirety every year."

So I guess we will have to decide, do we go for the 0.1 degree of temperature change or do we go to work and try and feed a billion people? Our moral obligation should be to feed anyone that is hungry. As sad as it is, there are those out there who oppose technology and the modern production system because they don't want to feed the world; they want it to die off. Yes, I believe in clean water and clean air, but let us use some common sense.

If you people at our land-grant universities would spend half as much time trying to improve ag production as you do trying to hinder it, that would be a big help. You keep trying to turn the clock back to the 1950s. I have been there and done that. Now there are another one billion people sitting at our table waiting to eat. We'd better figure out a way to feed them, and spending a lot of time on something like our changing weather -- which we have no control of -- is a waste of time. I do not like to be hungry.

Harvey Koehl is a Morris resident.