Victory Gardens Were Not the Solution to Feeding the World

Feeding all the people in the world is a problem with similarities to climate change. Both are world-scale problems. Both are problems where the solution is critical.

Failing to feed the people of the world would result in mass deaths from starvation. This has been a top concern throughout human history. How we solved the problem of feeding the world provides lessons that apply to solving climate change.

Article Highlights

* Victory Gardens were 10% of total US food needs in WW2 and less than 2% of global food requirements
* Victory gardens could never be the solution to feeding the world. Feeding the world took the billions of tons of food per year from a green revolution of industrial farming, irrigation, fertilizer and new seeds
* the climate change equivalent of Victory Gardens is every person reducing their carbon footprint by changing to electric cars, installing solar panels and stop eating beef
* What if you change your car to an electric car? This mitigation is among the most cost-inefficient methods. Electric cars cost $400 per ton of CO2 avoided. This gets better if utilities switch from coal and natural gas to nuclear, solar and wind. However, switching the power grid also has costs and delays.
* Rooftop solar has a cost of about $150 per tons of CO2.
* There are far better-proven solutions with costs that are less than $1 per ton of CO2 range or less.

Ultimately, Victory gardens had some positive benefit. Small personal actions like getting an electric car or installing solar power do have some positive benefit against climate change. However, these small personal actions do not move the needle on the overall problem.

Even if all cars in the world were changed and all houses in the world had solar on the roof, then global emissions might be 5% less. World population and wealth are still increasing. Emissions are currently still increasing by about 1% per year. The cost for switching the 1.5 to 2 billion cars and adding solar to 1-2 billion homes would be $40-60 trillion. If there was 10% government subsidies then the tax burden would be $4-6 trillion.

Actual effective action is large-scale planting of additional trees. The world already spends $50 billion per year planting trees. There is a company called Biocarbon Engineering that is using drones to plants trees 150 times faster and over 10 times cheaper. If all lumber companies switch to drone tree planting with high-growth trees then an additional 250 billion tons of CO2 could be stored in the form of wood over the next 15 years. The CO2 levels would be reduced by 20 parts per million from 410ppm to 390ppm.

There are those in the climate change movement who are against counting on trees. They argue that trees cannot store quite as much carbon and that it will cost more to plant the trees.

These arguments do not look at
* using the fastest growing trees
* harvesting trees, storing or using the wood and replanting with more fast growth trees
* making the tree planting faster and cheaper with drones
* electrifying the lumber industry over 15-40 years.

Reviewing Victory Gardens

During WW2 there were Victory Gardens. People were encouraged to help with the war effort by growing fruits and vegetables so that more agricultural production could be sent to soldiers and allied countries. 20 million Victory Gardens were planted. The US population in 1940 was 132 million. In 1943, the little plots produced 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the US. It’s estimated that 9-10 million tons of vegetables were grown over three years.

The world eats about 4 billion tons of food every year. 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted. The problem of feeding the world was solved by green revolutions where farming became vastly more productive.

Today, there are various plans against climate change like the UN IPCC plans or the Green New Deal.

580 Billion tons of CO2 Budget left for 1.5°C Warming But Plus or Minus 900 Billion Tons of CO2

In 2019, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report says that cumulative CO2 emissions are kept within a budget by reducing global annual CO2 emissions to net-zero. This assessment suggests a remaining budget of about 420 billion tons of CO2 for a two-thirds chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, and of about 580 billion tons of CO2 for an even chance (medium confidence). These estimates come with an additional geophysical uncertainty of at least ±400 billion tons of CO2, related to non-CO2 response and TCRE distribution. Uncertainties in the level of historic warming contribute ±250 GtCO2. In addition, these estimates can vary by ±250 GtCO2 depending on non-CO2 mitigation strategies as found in available pathways.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says the time limit for the world to get to zero net emission is 30 years but plus or minus 15 to 20 years.

It should be noted that the estimates are that there have already been 9 trillion tons of ice melt and a sea-level rise of 27 millimeters over the last fifty years.

Here is a map with one-meter sea-level rise for Florida. This is ten times more than the 10-centimeter sea-level rise scenario. There might only be 100-300 years for any levees, barrages or new cities to be built to counteract 1-meter sea-level rise if the temperature and global models are correct. This would be somewhere in the range of the ages of the nations of Canada and the United States.

Instead of Victory Gardens Against Food Shortfalls, the Modern Plans Are That We Change Our Car, House and Lives

Many of the new plans are where everyone changes their car, stop using planes, changes their house, installs solar panels, stop eating meat and other life changes. Instead of 20% involvement from a Victory Garden propaganda campaign, there are demands, shaming and potential regulations and laws to try to reach 100% involvement.

The US has 5800 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year. This would be 18 tons of CO2 for every person in the USA. 23 tons of tons of CO2 for every adult in the USA or 47 tons of CO2 for every household.

If you have a 22 mpg car and drive it about 12000 miles then this is 6 tons of CO2. If all vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains, motorcycles) were replaced then this would be 17% of global emissions. If this is done in the USA then it is about 26% of US emissions.

You spend $30,000. Instead of generating 6 tons of CO2 each year by driving 12,000 miles you generate 2 tons of CO2 each year. Your car is electric but you are pulling power from the US grid. If you are in China where over half of the electric cars are deployed you end up even. China generates 75% of its power from coal. The battery pack takes an additional 9 tons of CO2 to produce. It takes a minimum of 2-3 years to get more efficiency to payback the CO2 for the battery pack.

If you drive your electric car for 20 years in the USA, then the CO2 cost was $400 per ton. There would be no net gain until about year 5 of car ownership.

There is an online calculator for emissions reduction from different vehicles.

A 10-kilowatt solar PV system installed on your roof will produce about 14 MWh of electricity per year. Coal power stations produce 0.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per MWh this could save about 12 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. However, most of the USA is not using coal power os it is about 0.5 tons of CO2 per MWh. This is about 7 tons of CO2.

If you are not home during the day from 10AM to 5PM, then your roof solar would not be generating usable power. You would need to have a large battery storage system to hold the power when you are not at home to capture that power.

But the utility runs the electric meter backwards. Does your utility have electrical storage on the grid? PGE is California does not. There is virtually zero battery storage in the world’s power grids. The solar power generated on rooftops burns off as heat at the nearest distribution node.

If you have rooftop solar and a large battery storage then the cost would be about $30,000. This could save 200 tons of CO2 over 30 years. This would against require getting the CO2 savings to offset the battery construction and the solar panels and metal frames. This works out to about $150 per ton of CO2.

There are valid reasons for switching to an electric car or installing solar power on your roof. However, there are actions that are hundreds of times more efficient for offsetting climate change.

The Green Revolution Was the Answer for Feeding the World and There Are Cheap and Scalable Solutions to Offset CO2 Emissions

Farmers make up about 1-2% of the world’s population but they feed the world. We can have our own gardens if we want but our gardens are not the main solution to feeding the world.

Currently, the world spends $50 billion per year to plant 9 billion trees per year and a $200 billion world lumber industry cuts down 15 billion trees each year.

Drone planting could plant 100 billion trees per year for about $6 billion per year. We can scale up tree planting. Trees already remove 30 percent of the CO2 from the atmosphere. It is proven. Planting a lot of trees, cutting them down and using the wood and planting new trees is already a $250 billion global industry. It is called the lumber industry. Making the lumber industry about five times bigger and more efficient would be the farming solution to climate change.

Satellite analysis indicates there is room for another 1 billion hectares of forests in addition to 4 billion hectares of existing forests. There are 3 trillion trees now.

If tree planting were doubled every three years or so then over 11 years we could scale to 100 trillion trees planted each year. Ideally, these would be Emperor Splendor trees that grow faster.

The tree reaches heights of 10 to 20 feet in its first year and more than 50 feet within a decade. The tree can be harvested every 7 to 10 years, providing lumber that WTT describes as “ultra long-grain.

The trees can sequester 250 tons of CO2 for every hectare.

The ramp-up of tree cutting can lag the ramp-up of tree planting by about 7-12 years.

Planting an extra 1 trillion trees on 100 billion hectares would sequester 250 billion tons of CO2 over 15 years. This would be from all of the trees getting planted in available extra areas and for all the trees to mature. The planted trees would need to be fast growth trees to achieve the timely benefits desired. This would offset one-third of the world emissions over the next fifteen years. If this was optimized drone tree planting then the cost would be about $60 billion.

This would be less than 25 cents per ton of CO2.

In the past decade alone, China invested more than US$ 100 billion into six key forestry programs. The aims of these programs are to reduce environmental degradation, to create green spaces, to supply the enormous demand for forest products and to conserve biodiversity. Their scale is globally unique. The ‘Three-North’ Shelterbelt Program alone resulted in the planting of approximately 50 billion trees. Its aim is to build a 4500 km long wall of trees through the Gobi desert by 2050 to reduce sand storms. The Grain for Green Program aims to convert crops to forests on steep slopes to reduce erosion and to increase the provision of forest products. With a total planned investment of US$ 40 billion and 40–60 million target households, it is regarded as the world’s largest payment for ecosystem services scheme. The focus of China is thus on large-scale landscape manipulation and afforestation—often with single and sometimes exotic species, which may not always be adapted to local conditions

Where to plant the trees according to a satellite analysis by Tom Crowther.

Written By Brian Wang,


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