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Global warming creates desperate media lies

August 4, 2018

There are certainly numerous reasons why so many Central Americans are seeking a way (legal or otherwise) to enter this country, but the impact of global warming on crop production is not one of them.

The New York Times has published a misleading article claiming global warming is largely responsible for unauthorized immigrants entering the U.S. from Central America. The article, titled “A Warming World Creates Desperate People,” alleges global warming is causing crop failures in Central America, which in turn has forced people to flee north to the U.S. In reality, global and Central American crop production is at record levels. The true lesson from The New York Times’ article is a beneficial climate creates desperate media lies.

According to the Times, “Drought and rising temperatures in Guatemala are making it harder for people to make a living or even survive, thus compounding the already tenuous political situation for the 16.6 million people who live there.” The article focuses specifically on coffee production, quoting “one young farmer” who said, “We can’t make a living purely off coffee anymore.” The article then asserts global warming is causing coffee crop failures that are inducing people to enter the U.S. without authorization.

Objective facts obliterate this fictitious narrative. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s June 2018 publication "Coffee: World Markets and Trade," the 2017–18 coffee season produced the second highest global coffee crop on record and narrowly fell short of the record 2016–17 season. And the 2016–17 season will likely not remain in the record books for long. “World coffee production for 2018/19 is forecast 11.4 million bags higher than the previous year at a record 171.2 million,” according to the USDA report. The current forecast is a full 6 percent above the previous record yield. That will make 2016–18 the three years with the largest coffee production in recorded history.

It’s also important to note Central America and South America are producing record global coffee yields. Brazil produces more than half the global coffee crop, and USDA reports Brazilian coffee production has set records each of the past four years. Meanwhile, the 2017–18 Central American coffee crop set a new record, and USDA forecasts the 2018–19 Central American crop will set yet another record.

After focusing most of its attention on coffee production, the Times article asserts in passing that global warming is also devastating tomato production. Referring to two anonymous El Salvadoran teenagers, the article claimed, “The family’s fields produced less and less. The tomatoes took on a pallid, sickly color.” However, objective data show that if this were truly the case for the two anonymous brothers, it would defy global tomato trends. According to “Overview Global Tomato Market,” published by the agricultural website Hortidaily, 2016 produced a record global tomato crop that was 30 percent higher than the production from just one decade ago. Tomato production is so strong, in fact, the prices consumers pay for tomatoes are rapidly declining. Hortidaily quotes a Belgian trader who explained, “there is simply too much supply because all countries have had a good harvest.”

It’s not just coffee and tomato production setting new records under current climate conditions, either. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) tracks global crop production, including production of the all-important cereal crops. Cereal crops include the big three of rice, wheat, and corn. According to FAO, global cereal production set a new record in 2017–18, surpassing the previous record set in 2016–17. This should not come as a surprise, because record yields for virtually all important food crops were set this decade; many were recorded in the past year or two.

There are certainly numerous reasons why so many Central Americans are seeking a way (legal or otherwise) to enter this country, but the impact of global warming on crop production is not one of them.

[Originally Posted at WashingtonExaminer.com]

Author
James Taylor is a senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute.
jtaylor@heartland.org
Author
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is the science director at The Heartland Institute.
jlehr@heartland.org