Earth to Kansas … Come in please…

How many times do the Kansans have to go out of their way to prove to the rest of the world that Kansas is a state populated by morons, psychopaths and mental defectives?

Well, OK, I admit, Kansas has no more than the normal share of psychopaths…Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

Here is the latest, chronicled by Kevin Grandia at De-Smog Blog:

Desperate times, call for desperate arguments.In a last ditch bid to build two new coal plants in Kansas, Larry Powell (R- Garden City) is making the argument that the new coal plants would be in fact good for local crops.It’s worth mentioning that Garden City, Kansas is also home to a new organization called “Kansans for Affordable Energy.”The KAE recently ran outrageous print ads claiming that Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Vladamir Putin are smiling because the Kansas state government rejected the new coal plants and would now have to rely on Iran, Russia and Venezuela for natural gas imports.The KAE failed to mention that Kansas does not currently import any natural gas from these countries and in fact receives well over three-quarters of its gas from Canada.

I guess that would mean that the Canadians are smiling…

Anyway, Larry Powell’s argument, as you may well imagine, is simply that CO2 is good for plants, so the more the better. He claimed that “atmospheric CO2 enrichment will boost world agricultural output by about 50 percent”*

Not so much, Senator Powell. It has been shown by actual research, instead of just randomly pooping idiocies out of your mouth, that an increase in CO2 benefits plants a little bit, but then, as you increase the CO2 more, you get no more benefit.

There is a theory that suggests that higher CO2 levels could benefit water stressed plants, because when plants are busy gasping for CO2, they let out some water. But since plants did not evolve in a higher CO2 atmosphere, it is very doubtful that any plants are prepared to use this loophole in any significant way.

Model projections suggest that although increased temperature and decreased soil moisture will act to reduce global crop yields by 2050, the direct fertilization effect of rising carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) will offset these losses. The CO2 fertilization factors used in models to project future yields were derived from enclosure studies conducted approximately 20 years ago. Free-air concentration enrichment (FACE) technology has now facilitated large-scale trials of the major grain crops at elevated [CO2] under fully open-air field conditions. In those trials, elevated [CO2] enhanced yield by ~50% less than in enclosure studies. This casts serious doubt on projections that rising [CO2] will fully offset losses due to climate change.(Ainsworth et al 2006)

The Ainsworth study produced these results showing that yields were limited:

Source Rice Wheat Soybeans C4 crops

Kimball (1983) 19 28 21
Cure and Acock (1986) 11 19 22 27
Allen et al. (1987) 26
Enclosure studies 31 32 18
FACE studies 12 13 14 0*
Cure and Acock (1986) 21 24 30 8
Allen et al. (1987) 35
FACE studies 13 10 25 0*
Cure and Acock (1986) 35 21 32 4
FACE studies 9 13 19 6

Table 1. Percentage increases in yield, biomass, and photosynthesis of crops grown at elevated [CO2] (550 µmol mol-1) relative to ambient [CO2] in enclosure studies versus FACE experiments. Data for enclosure studies were summarized by Kimball (18), Cure and Acock (17), and Allen et al. (16) and in Fig. 2. Mean response ratios from these reviews were adjusted to an elevated [CO2] of 550 µmol mol-1 by means of the nonrectangular hyperbolic functions for C3 and C4 species from Fig. 2. The values that summarize all chamber studies shown in Fig. 2 are given in the row entitled “enclosure studies.” Percentage increases for FACE studies were generated by meta-analysis [see supporting online material (SOM) and table S2] (37).

The following is an even clearer exposition of the problem:


Fig. 3. Comparison of theoretical and actual changes in C3 crop production parameters at an elevated [CO2] of 550 ppm relative to ambient [CO2]. Theory, theoretical RuBisCO-limited photosynthesis at 550 ppm [(9) and SOM]; A’, measured daily integral of carbon uptake; biomass, final above-ground biomass; yield, harvestable grain yield. Error bars indicate mean ± 90% confidence intervals. A’, biomass, and yield were measured in C3 crops exposed to elevated [CO2] in FACE experiments

As you can see, there is no hope of the Senator’s wishes coming true, even if he knocks his ruby slippers together and says “There’s no place like home” a hundred times. Nature has spoken. Science translated. The Senator must listen.

LONG, S. P., AINSWORTH, E. A., LEAKEY, A. D. B., NÖSBERGER, J. & ORT, D.R. (2006): Food for thought: lower-than-expected crop yield stimulation with rising CO2 concentrations.. Science, 312, 1918-21.

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8 thoughts on “Earth to Kansas … Come in please…

  1. Higher CO2 emission in Kansas means higher concentrations planetwide, which means increasing the acidity of the ocean, which favors jellyfish over their calcium-shelled competition, and jellies are already plaguing food fish and fishermen. Jellies — wouldn’t you know — are not edible by humans, and few animals can feed on them.Our legacy may go to cockroaches and jellyfish. What a thing to aspire to.

  2. I wish to point out that jellyfish is edible. You just need to go to Asia to find a decent restaurant serving them (Specifically around the sea of Japan)

  3. “How many times do the Kansans have to go out of their way to prove to the rest of the world that Kansas is a state populated by morons, psychopaths and mental defectives?”–How many times does Greg Laden have to go out of his way to prove he is a mean-spirited ignoramus with no contextual knowledge of those he ridicules?Kansas is the first state to ever deny a permit for a coal power-plant based entirely on carbon dioxide emissions.You’re calling everyone in the state “morons, psychopaths and mental defectives” because the people who stand to lose $3.6 billion because of that decision are willing to spend money to confuse the issue.Then you’re linking all Kansans to the opinions of a state representative who clearly doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.Are you that stupid, that ignorant, or that much of a jerk?

  4. Jim…You are looking a gift horse in the mouth. Every time some yahoo in your home state does something dumb (like this) and others start on the Kansas bashing routine (as I have) people like you can take this to your colleagues, friends, and enemies and say “look what is happening. Once again we are the laughing stock of the nation. Ever since that damn Oz book, then the Creationism trial, now this… etc. etc. etc.”If things really get bad, I know a guy who can be your governor for a while. THEN you will know the meaning of ridicule.In the meantime, I want everybody to go over to James’ web site and check out his blog. Its very nice.GTL

  5. But you’re singling out Kansas for the kind of representation that is true throughout the country. We have a president who has said equally stupid and ignorant things (and taken much more dangerous action), but I don’t see you referring to the entire United States as being populated by morons and mental defects. I also don’t see many people (like yourself) praising Kansas for having been the first state to take a serious stand against increasing carbon emissions right now. The same people elected _those_ representatives!There is no state that can claim to be doing their part to control carbon emissions, why seek out Kansas? I mean, I _know_ the answer, it’s because of the whole creation-evolution issue. Therefore it is easy for everyone to say: “ha ha, Kansas = idiot” and that perception is entrenched in the mentality of blogs that attack pseudo-science.But c’mon. Kansas throws down the gauntlet on CO2 emissions, despite the massive economic incentives to ignore the issue, and the only response you have is to refer to the state as being populated by morons and mental defectives… That’s all you’ve got to say about it?

  6. James:Your critique is not entirely fair. It is not as though I have never written about Bush, or Texas, or Florida, or Pennsylvania. And especially, Minnesota.I can’t reify all of my opinions and observations in each single post.The entire country is, obviously, populated by MMMD’s at a rate of about 50 percent, with a couple of percent more or less in each state. (Giving us the blue/red distribution.)I recommend to my readers a look at this:

    Last Thursday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment denied a permit to Sunflower Electric for 2 proposed coal power plants near Holcomb, KS. In the words of Secretary Roderick Bremby: ?After careful consideration of my responsibility to protect the public health and environment from actual, threatened or potential harm from air pollution, I have decided to deny the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation application for an air quality permit.?

    Which can be foundhereGo Kansas!Now, James, what is going on in Kansas with corn? I’m asking because I have no idea, but I do know that corn grown for ethanol has been criticized, and I believe you grow a lot of corn in Kansas. Here in Minnesota is has been demonstrated that this is very inefficient.

  7. Fair enough.Corn for ethanol is a huge problem in Kansas, as I’m sure it is most places. My understanding (although I don’t have the data in front of me) is that the process uses more fossil fuels than gasoline production. I assume that’s what you are getting at.The whole ethanol craze has driven the price of corn through the roof, which means farmers are:-taking fields out of CRP programs and putting them into corn production.-pulling more water out of the aquifers to irrigate corn (the aquifers in Kansas are over allocated, although that is an unimaginably complex/annoying political issue involving Colorado).-building dams/ponds to use for irrigation.Overall, bad for the Kansas environment. In general, my impression is the ethanol boom is straining water resources in Kansas (the plants themselves use a lot of water). Almost everyone I know thinks the ethanol-from-corn thing is a load of crap, but almost everyone is also optimistic that we can use other, cheaper, products to generate ethanol more fossil-fuel efficiently (cellulose or native grass seed). There is at least one plant that does this already.I should probably get into this issue some more.

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