Get ready for the coming permanent food crisis


8:50 am - July 17th 2012

by Adam Ramsay    


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At what point do you draw a line through the dots on a graph and call them a trend? At what point do we stop calling talking about “another food crisis” and start accepting we are entering a new era in which our food system is perpetually in crisis?

There is a ‘once in a generation’ heatwave in America’s Midwest. As crops are destroyed, corn, soya and wheat prices are soaring – for the third summer in the last five.

Each time this has happened, it is explained away as unusual combination of mishaps. Weather events that we used to think of as extreme are becoming normal as climate change unravels.

The 2010 food price spike came partly on the back of ‘freak’ a heatwave and leading fires in Russia; and ‘rare’ flooding in Australia and Pakistan. ‘Extreme’ floods in Thailand in 2011 wiped out 14% of the crops of the world’s largest exporter of the stuff. This year, the weather event is “the biggest heatwave in the USA for a generation”.

So, surely the time has come to stop thinking of ourselves as lurching from shock crisis to shock crisis, and start seeing that crisis is the new normal: food prices are going to get higher – up to 30% higher this decade than last, according to the UN and the OECD.

The last food crisis: 2007-8, went largely unnoticed in the UK press as it happened alongside our financial collapse. But it did lead to riots across the world. There is a good argument that the Arab Spring was partly triggered by food price rises last year.

We aren’t yet looking at the kind of price spike that was seen in 2008 yet – though one significant weather event could tip us over the brink.

For those who benefit from the system, it is convenient to talk of crises – to imply that these are one off events, the result of bad luck, outliers on the graph. For the rest of us, perhaps we need to be clear that this isn’t a freak.

It was precisely to prevent such weather events that so many of us have fought for so long against climate change and the system which drives us to rely on fossil fuels.

It was to stop price hikes that the likes of WDM have campaigned against food speculation. It was because the impact of food prices was forseen that so many have worked so hard against agri-fuels. The failure to deliver food security isn’t a one off, it is not a freak. It is the ultimate failure of an economic system whose time must be up.

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A longer version of this post is here

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Adam is a regular contributor. He also writes more frequently at: Bright Green Scotland.
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Reader comments


Excellent exposition of the problem.

But what’s the solution? (I hope you’re nor going to suggest building more windmills or switching the central heating off).

So how about more investment in genetically modified food? That’s what you’re after, isn’t it?

Tim will be along shortly to explain to you why commodity speculation does not raise prices or create spikes however if you want a debunking of the assertion that global warming is responsible for extreme weather I’d be happy oblige.

2. Chaise Guevara

“For those who benefit from the system, it is convenient to talk of crises – to imply that these are one off events, the result of bad luck, outliers on the graph. For the rest of us, perhaps we need to be clear that this isn’t a freak.”

Any evidence to suggest that this ISN’T just an unfortunate combination of random events?

Looking at wheat and maize futures contracts, it shows rising prices over the next few months but then quite aggressively lower prices thereafter….

Whilst it’s sometimes hard to unpick what is exactly driving the futures curve, the market prices do suggest that all that has happened is that the market has priced in a poor crop this year, but expects things to return to normality thereafter.

Indeed, the research I get from the major banks is saying exactly that – short term prices are higher because of real demand into a poor harvest, and it will return to normal given all else equal. They also say that the main reason grains prices are driving higher is purely demand – in this case for meat. As the world has got richer, there is more demand for meat products, and raising livestock needs much more grain per calorie than simply eating the grain products themselves. None of them particularly blame speculation for shifting prices – and if it did the effect is being swamped by real demand.

So what is really driving food prices is increasing demand for food….not speculation. It also means that the best way to lower food prices would be for everyone to become vegetarian or to simply grow a lot more food.

It also means that the best way to lower food prices would be for everyone to become vegetarian

FFS, Tyler don’t give them ideas.

The days when you’ll end up in prison for eating fillet steak are not far off……….

Well disaster capitalism creates opportunities to push things that the elites want. So yesterday it was announced Bill Gates poured millions into British genetically modified food research.

And bankers are buying islands apparently. Worried about social unrest. May you live in interesting times.

The amount of food some Americans eat is obscene. Maybe this will cut down their intake a bit.

7. Chaise Guevara

@ 6 Steven

Food undersupply doesn’t lead to dieting by rich people, it leads to poor people being priced out. The only Americans who might end up cutting back on food because of this are those who already don’t get enough to eat.

8. Luis Enrique

afaik, there’s href=”http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/342195/title/Warming_indicted_for_extreme_weather”>some evidence that global warming is causing an increase in extreme weather events, which is generally bad news for farmers and food production.

why is a story about how extreme weather events are causing food prices to spikes followed by: and so we are campaigning against speculation?

why not campaign for investment in irrigation, sustainable land management land reclamation or href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8gPvsl9ni-4#!”>permaculture, improved drought management, storage and logistics and operation of markets in vulnerable countries, etc. etc.?

(also, if we really are in for greater underlying volatility in supply, things like futures markets may help farmers and customers cope with volatility)

“It was to stop price hikes that the likes of WDM have campaigned against food speculation.”

Dear God. The stupidity, It hurts.

So, let’s take your scenario. Bad weather (leave aside whether it’s AGW or not) leads to partial crop failures. There is less food to go around than we’d like, less food to go around than we thought we were going to have.

What would we like to happen now?

Well, let’s look at what will happen in nothing is done. We’ll all carry on eating, feeding the pigs, sticking corn into cars (a bloody stupid idea as you point out) and then, some time before the next harvest we’ll go to the granaries, open them up and find out that, Oooops!, there ain’t no grain.

Because we’ve used it all.

Hmm, no, that’s a bad idea.

So, what we would like is for people to eat a little less of those foods in short supply. Cut back on the bacon and beef and eat the corn directly maybe. Switch from pasta (made of wheat) to gnocchi (made of potato flour). Take a chance on that diet to reduce obesity maybe.

Yes, we would like those things to happen.

We would also like producers to be more careful: reduce the amount that is lost in transportation perhaps. Get farmers to be a bit more careful in harvesting those crops they do have. Maybe boosting yields a bit with another layer of fertiliser.

Yes, we would like those things to happen.

Excellent. Now, how do we make those things happen? Well, a rise in prices is a pretty good way isn’t it? Consumers will substitute away from things that rise in price. Consume less of those things in shortage. Producers will be more careful, attempt to boost output of them.

Yes, a price rise does this all very nicely.

Excellent, so, how do we engineer a price rise? We don’t have to engineer it,. The speculators are doing it for us. They can see that the price in July next year, a few weeks before the next harvest, is going to be higher than now (for simplicity’s sake I’m using just the one harvest a year here. Obviously today’s world is more complex than that). So buy now, store and sell later. Profit!

Hmm, what happens then? Ah, yes, the price rises now instead of next July when the barns are empty. And the price rise now reduces consumption now and increases production now. Meaning that when we get to July next year the barns will not be empty.

Well how about that eh? Speculators, intent only on increasing the amount of filthy lucre they own, move prices through time and thus stop us from having a famine.

Sounds pretty good to me actually.

And there’s nothing new about this either. Adam Smith lays it all out in Wealth of Nations. Book IV, Chapter V, start at para 40. We’ve known how this works for 230 years and change now.

Which leaves us with the only important question. Given that this is in the foundational text of economics why is that fools like you still don’t understand it 230 years later?

@ Pagar

True….

@ 7 Chaise

The point is that the bulk of new demand for meat (and therefore a lot more grain to feed the livestock) is not coming from the western world – it’s coming from traditionally “poor” countries because their people are in relative terms becoming a lot richer. The demand for meat in China alone has gone bonkers, because the general population is more able to afford it.

@ Luis

Have looked at a historial chart of realised price volatility foor South African white maize (closest I had to hand, but a good enough approximation for global prices) and the volatility has REDUCED over time…which would lend support to the idea that speculation has REDUCED price volatility.

Do note though that price vol doesn’t tell you about the price level – only that it hasn’t been moving away from the moving average as much as it has in the past.

@9

Still cherry-picking Smith’s Wealth of Nations I see.

“Given that this is in the foundational text of economics why is that fools like you still don’t understand it 230 years later”?

Economics is not ideologically neutral. The economics that you refer to is the economics of the right. Moreover, Adam Smith is only ever selectively quoted by the likes of yourself and the ASI.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Tyler

“The point is that the bulk of new demand for meat (and therefore a lot more grain to feed the livestock) is not coming from the western world – it’s coming from traditionally “poor” countries because their people are in relative terms becoming a lot richer. The demand for meat in China alone has gone bonkers, because the general population is more able to afford it. ”

Sure, but what are we to take from this?

13. Luis Enrique

buddyhell

“The economics that you refer to is the economics of the right”

no no no. How prices respond to changing supply and demand and cause consumers to substitute away to other foods and farmers to invest and/or change what crops they are producing is at the heart of economics, not right-wing economics or left-wing economics.

Feel free to argue that there are other considerations to take into account, for example distributional consequences, which might mean we needn’t view the operation of the market mechanism as wholly benign, or complications which might mean we think the market mechanism fails to operate quite as Tim describes, but that last thing left-wingers want to do is “nah nah nah I’m not listening” whenever anybody puts forward the case for market mechanisms on the basis that’s “right wing” thinking.

Luis @8

From the article you cite.

Using the developing field of “attribution science,” researchers are beginning to apply massive computing capacity to explore how global temperatures, reflectivity and moisture patterns can affect the odds of localized extreme weather events.

So what is attribution science?

Climate attribution is a scientific process for establishing the principal causes or physical explanation for observed climate conditions and phenomena. This includes attribution of the causes for observed climate variations that may not be unusual in a statistical sense but for which great public interest exists because they produce profound societal impacts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_attribution

Let me paraphrase that last bit for you.

When bad weather happens and affects people adversely, we will blame it on climate change even though there is no statistical evidence that global warming was in any way involved but because it suits our agenda.

It is the science of the snake oil salesman.

15. Luis Enrique

Pagar

I don’t think you can write-off the whole idea of trying to understand and model the causes of extreme weather events.

I admit, the passage you cite sounds dubious, but it includes “attribution of the causes for observed climate variations that may not be unusual in a statistical sense”, which could just mean explaining (attributing causes) of normal climate variation, and is also consistent with explaining (attributing causes to) an increased frequency of extreme weather events, if that’s what the data show.

there seems to be quite a lot of stuff out there suggesting probabilities of extreme weather have increased

http://www.skepticalscience.com/extreme-weather-global-warming.htm

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=extreme-weather-caused-by-climate-change

I don’t really understand why you doubt this.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 pagar

“It is the science of the snake oil salesman.”

Um, no. Not based on what you quoted, anyway. When it says “This includes attribution of the causes for observed climate variations that may not be unusual in a statistical sense but for which great public interest exists because they produce profound societal impacts”, you’re unilaterately assuming that the cause attributed will be climate change, because this fits your agenda.

You’re the one selling snake oil here.

The usual corporate cock suckers spinning like tops I see.

18. Robin Levett

@pagar:

OK: forget argument per Wikipediam; take on the science. Explain how pumping more energy into the climate system will not result in more extreme weather events.

19. Planeshift

“but that last thing left-wingers want to do is “nah nah nah I’m not listening” whenever anybody puts forward the case for market mechanisms on the basis that’s “right wing” thinking.”

Completely agree with you.

Its just a shame that those on the right tend to do exactly the same thing when people from other social sciences (and natural sciences as well) put forward the case that unrestricted free markets have disastrous social and environmental consequences. Look at the difference between Worstall and Pagar on this thread for a classic example – Pagar tries to derail the thread with an attempt at yet another “teh global warming is a leftie conspiracy!!!lolz”, Worstall instead explains why using a futures market is a way of solving/mitigating the problems that are being caused.

@7 Chaise: “The only Americans who might end up cutting back on food because of this are those who already don’t get enough to eat.”

BTW are there really many of those? So far it seems that the problem of poor Americans is obesity more often than not having enough food. Or then we have to get back to more conventional definitions of poverty. (Surely there are also people in America who are truly deprived and suffer from malnutrition; they exist even in welfare states – people may starve, or even die of dehydration, while under the care of the staff hired by the state).

Raising the price of foodstuffs – particularly calorie rich items like fat and sugar – might actually help the health for many of them rather than hurt it.

@ Chaise

When it says “This includes attribution of the causes for observed climate variations that may not be unusual in a statistical sense but for which great public interest exists because they produce profound societal impacts”, you’re unilaterately assuming that the cause attributed will be climate change, because this fits your agenda.

No, I’m not. You are quite wrong about this.

The alarmists are quite open that their agenda is to link weather events to man made global warming, even though no statistical or other scientific link can be made.

Event attribution seeks to explain the complex causes behind a given weather event, be it an especially cold winter, an intense heat wave or a devastating flood, with the particular aim of detecting a possible departure from “normal” conditions, and the role – if any – that human activities played.

http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/pushing-the-envelope-of-climate-science-attribution-studies/

Do some reading on this

You’re the one selling snake oil here.

and then I look forward to your honest apology.

@ Robin

Explain how pumping more energy into the climate system will not result in more extreme weather events.

Not sure there’s enough time for that. I’ve only got the rest of my life……….

22. Luis Enrique

Planeshift,

I agree plenty of right-wingers are guilty of mirror image “nah nah nah I’m not listening”

@ 12 Chaise

We take from it that real demand is increasing faster than supply which is why grain prices have increased, and speculation probably has very little to do with increasing prices.

So we can then ask what we want to do about it? Some might say that ultimately high prices make it more likely people will invest to produce more, or in a better way (say GM), which will ultimately bring prices down long term naturally. You could also look at legislation which has pushed prices up (like CAP, biofuels) and alter that. The premise though is to make the best informed decision to achieve the result you want.

As a general rule though, the law of unintended consequences often works in markets. For example, baning short-selling in government bonds and bank stocks was an attempt to prop hte prices up. After the ban came into place these markets often fell faster – not what the politicians were expecting. Anyone truly in touch with the markets would have easily been able to tell you why though. The ban was seen as a defensive move or a weak hand, which spelled out to people how bad things were and incentivised them to sell, whilst at the same time removing the only natural buyers in a distressed falling market – short sellers looking to buy back their shorts to take profit.

@ Robin

Explain how pumping more energy into the climate system will not result in more extreme weather events.

You mean like this one?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames_frost_fairs

25. White Trash

19 “Worstall instead explains why using a futures market is a way of solving/mitigating the problems that are being caused.” Erm … but is his explication wrong? If so, where and how exactly?

From my standpoint both “left” and “right” each respectively seems to be on the correct track with some of the issues but badly wrong on others … and then the whole debate is so often derailed by unquestioning ideological dogmatism from both.

11 “Economics is not ideologically neutral. The economics that you refer to is the economics of the right.”

And sure enough, here’s an example. You’ll be saying that there’s right wing science and left wing science next … or Jewish and Aryan science …

26. margin4error

It is interesting that trade across borders once served to help flatten out the troughs and spikes in domestic food production caused by local blights and weather conditions – and still does.

A flood in pakistan does not lead to starvation in pakistan, but instead leads to higher food prices around the world as we all share the pain of a global shortage caused by the flood. Brilliant. No one starves and we are all in this together. (In centuries gone by – people starved locally and across a border no one saw any change in food prices or conditions – hence the potato famine)

What is growing more acute is that we have less spare capacity across borders – because the workforce has increased by around 1billion, (and by workforce – I mean workforce not people – the expansion of capitalist production in china and india and so on has raised living standards and expectations – and thus demand for food) and the land has not increased at all.

It is a reversal of the 1700s and 1800s when there was a massive increase in the land put to productive use (through empire) and no equivelent increase in the labour put to productive use.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 pagar

“Event attribution seeks to explain the complex causes behind a given weather event, be it an especially cold winter, an intense heat wave or a devastating flood, with the particular aim of detecting a possible departure from “normal” conditions, and the role – if any – that human activities played. ”

…the role – IF ANY – that human activities played.

I’m not sure whether you’re horribly dishonest or just very bad at reading your own sources.

28. Planeshift

“but is his explication wrong? If so, where and how exactly?”

No I don’t think it is, – a little simplistic perhaps but this is a blog comments thread rather than an doctoral thesis so he can be forgiven for that.

But the more general point was about the difference in tone between 2 people with generally similar philosophies. One denied that there was an issue (the ‘people are making it up approach’), the other explained a way of solving/mitigating the issue. It’s a vastly different sales tactic if you like, but I would suggest one that it is likely to be far more succesful.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ pjt

“BTW are there really many of those? So far it seems that the problem of poor Americans is obesity more often than not having enough food.”

I don’t know the figures. Based off the UK I’d imagine that malnutrition is a bigger problem – which includes obesity but also people who eat enough to be sated, but don’t get important vitamins and so on.

“Raising the price of foodstuffs – particularly calorie rich items like fat and sugar – might actually help the health for many of them rather than hurt it.”

Sure. To be honest I was more annoyed at the “ha ha take that fat Yanks” undertone of Steven’s post. The people who would be hurt most, and have the least ability to redress the balance, would be those who are undereating, not overeating.

I’ll also note that obesity-inducing foodstuffs are often cheaper than healthy alternatives, so to be effective in the way you describe price rises would have to be specifically targeted. Otherwise it could be counterproductive.

@ Robin

“argument per Wikipediam”

I’m stealing that.

@ Chaise

I’m…the role – IF ANY – that human activities played.

I’m not sure whether you’re horribly dishonest or just very bad at reading your own sources.

Stop trying to dance on a pinhead.

It is quite clear from the link I posted that “attribution science” is about tying weather “events” to global warming (which is what I said it was).

Now get over yourself and admit that is correct.

I’ll forego the apology for calling me a snake oil salesman………

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 pagar

“Stop trying to dance on a pinhead.

It is quite clear from the link I posted that “attribution science” is about tying weather “events” to global warming (which is what I said it was). ”

The two quotes you’ve used to support your argument so far have contradicted you. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my nose and drink that snake oil, but instead ask to be pointed to the section you think is relevant.

“Now get over yourself and admit that is correct. ”

LOL. Stop stamping your feet.

“I’ll forego the apology for calling me a snake oil salesman………”

Even if you do manage to eventually find a quote that doesn’t do the opposite of what you want, why on Earth would I be apologising? My point was that your quote @14 did not back up your accusation but in fact contradicted it, which is true as a simple statement of fact. I don’t apologise for being factually correct, weirdly enough. Even when those inconvenient facts make pagar grumpy.

@ Chaise

My point was that your quote @14 did not back up your accusation but in fact contradicted it, which is true as a simple statement of fact.

How did it contradict it?

Luis agrees that the statement is dubious but suggests they may be trying to explain “normal” weather and you are suggesting they might be trying to pin the blame for freak weather incidents on something other than AGW. So what is anyone trying to attribute freak weather events to other than global warming?

The allegation is clear in the OP.

Weather events that we used to think of as extreme are becoming normal as climate change unravels.

You can agree or disagree with this according to your personal prejudices but you cannot argue for the proof of a connection between, say, the severity of the Thai floods and climate change when there is real evidence that the two are, almost certainly, unconnected.

It’s not inconvenient facts that get pagar grumpy but debating with someone denying he has a nose on his face whilst looking at it.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 pagar

“How did it contradict it?”

Oh, wait. Your first quote didn’t contradict you, it just didn’t do what you said it did.

Your second quote contradicted you. My bad.

“Luis agrees that the statement is dubious but suggests they may be trying to explain “normal” weather and you are suggesting they might be trying to pin the blame for freak weather incidents on something other than AGW.”

Nice try, but no I’m not. I’m not saying they’re trying to pin the blame for anything on anything. You’re the one claiming, baselessly thus far, that they’re ignoring facts in pursuit of an agenda. I’m saying that nothing you’ve quoted thus far suggests that they’re being unscientific. “Find out whether X is responsible” is very different from “pin the blame on X, bwahahaha”.

“So what is anyone trying to attribute freak weather events to other than global warming? ”

I’m not a meteorologist, do your own research. I do know that explanations for freak weather other than global warming exist, hence the existence of freak weather since forever.

“The allegation is clear in the OP.

Weather events that we used to think of as extreme are becoming normal as climate change unravels.

You can agree or disagree with this according to your personal prejudices but you cannot argue for the proof of a connection between, say, the severity of the Thai floods and climate change when there is real evidence that the two are, almost certainly, unconnected. ”

Good thing that I’m not arguing for that, isn’t it? Why on earth are you suddenly making out like I’m supporting the OP? The only time I’ve addressed the OP is in comment #2. Go take a look at it now. Does that look like someone who’s giving the OP his full support?

“It’s not inconvenient facts that get pagar grumpy but debating with someone denying he has a nose on his face whilst looking at it.”

Project much? I’m not the one basing my argument on 1) a quote that doesn’t back me up and 2) a quote that actively contradicts me, then getting grumpy when people don’t bow down and agree I must be right. Yeesh.

34. Robin Levett

@pagar:

Since it is intuitive that pumping more energy into a climate system will cause more extreme weather – it’s a bit like putting petrol on a fire – I presumed you had already done the research and thinking necessary to explain why it doesn’t. I’m still waiting.

As for the Wikipedia article you are using as a source, you really ought to read beyond the first paragraph; try this passage for a refutation of your claim that “The alarmists are quite open that their agenda is to link weather events to man made global warming, even though no statistical or other scientific link can be made.”:

According to the IPCC Third Assessment Report, the attribution requirements for a detected change are:

1. a demonstrated consistency with a combination of anthropogenic and natural external forcings
2. an inconsistency with “alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.”

For attribution to be established, the relationship between the observed climate state and the proposed causal mechanism needs to be demonstrated, and alternative explanations need to be determined as unlikely. In the case of attributing the cause of a climate condition to internal variations, for example, due to El Niño-related tropical east Pacific sea surface conditions, the influence of alternative modes of internal climate variability also must be assessed. Before attributing a climate condition to anthropogenic forcing, it is important to determine that the climate condition was unlikely to have resulted from natural external forcing or internal variations alone.

Note the part that I have emphasised.

Best blog I have seen here in ages, and very informative comments. Thankyou! My plan as usual is to run around screaming “We are all going to die!” Am just waiting for someone to say go.

36. White Trash

This is so typical. A thread about the food crisis gets completely hijacked by the single issue of climate change when humanity is facing so many desperate problems that all contribute to the nutritional cliff, including overpopulation, urbanisation, loss of local farming know-how, the wealth gap, agrofuels, soil erosion, degradation and overconsumption of freshwater as well as the ongoing loss of agricultural biodiversity to start with a few.

But no, it always seems so much easier to keep going round and round in circles on the one single issue, thus conveniently diverting attention.

37. Dissident

@ White Trash

you are right, there are all the problems you describe too…

38. Thornavis

@34

Citing intuition in support of your argument won’t do, intuition is often wrong. There is a further problem here, what is an extreme weather event ? It rather assumes some kind of state of equilibrium unchanged for a long period that is suddenly interrupted away from the norm, where is the evidence that the world’s climate is anything like that ? As pager has already alluded to the Little Ice Age perhaps you can tell us whether this was caused by a big change in energy input, the evidence seems inconclusive as they say and if it was it obviously wasn’t man made.

39. Robin Levett

@White Trash #36:

Yabbutt…

The potential effects of climate change make even overpopulation pale into insignificance. Imagine moving the USA’s breadbasket 1,000 miles north, and imagine what that would do to their production.

(Hint: shield soils don’t support much grain production).

40. Robin Levett

@Thornavis #38:

Citing intuition in support of your argument won’t do, intuition is often wrong.

It is indeed; that’s why I didn’t cite intuition in support of my argument.

Just read an interesting article in the New Scientist magazine, which states that attributing weather events to global warming is becoming increasingly feasible. And that the weather is becoming more extreme than they predicted.

Unfortunately you have to be a subscriber to read the whole article. But this introduction gives you the idea:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528723.500-as-freak-weather-becomes-the-norm-we-need-to-adapt.html

“‘Extreme’ floods in Thailand in 2011 wiped out 14% of the crops of the world’s largest exporter of the stuff.”

Perhaps so, but it is a poor example to use in an argument for or against global warning.

Massive mismanagement of water resources resulted in dams having to be opened, creating unusually high levels in the network of ways to the sea. A choice was made: do we flood Bangkok (where most of the Elite live), or shall we flood the rice farmers up country. It never needed 3 guesses…

hmmm TJON just like the 2007 floods in this country then….

44. margin4error

#35

go!

I went a little while back will update with new info! http://youtu.be/DOvRniwdKkc

46. Thornavis

Robin Levett @ 40

This is what you said,
@pagar:

Since it is intuitive that pumping more energy into a climate system will cause more extreme weather – it’s a bit like putting petrol on a fire – I presumed you had already done the research and thinking necessary to explain why it doesn’t. I’m still waiting.

Unless you want to play with words that reads to me as though you are countering pagar’s claims with a loaded metaphor and an appeal to intuition.

47. Robin Levett

@Thornavis #46:

Unless you want to play with words that reads to me as though you are countering pagar’s claims with a loaded metaphor and an appeal to intuition.

Then you’d be wrong.

If one position is intuitive, then it is a fair assumption that someone with the contrary position would have thought more about it before reaching that position than someone adopting the intuitive position. That being the case, someone adopting the counter-intuitive position shoudl be able readily to articulate their reasons for doing so.

If you look back, you’ll see that my comment is a response to pagar saying it would take too long to explain; it is not a response to the substance of his claim.

48. Robin Levett

@Thornavis #38:

As pager has already alluded to the Little Ice Age perhaps you can tell us whether this was caused by a big change in energy input, the evidence seems inconclusive as they say and if it was it obviously wasn’t man made.

The LIA was an example of a somewhat cooler climate, rather than extreme weather; but leaving that aside: the current best guess, as I understand it, is that both the MCA and the LIA were multicausal. Vulcanism seems to have played a significant part in both (lower in the MCA, higher in the LIA).

the current best guess, as I understand it, is that both the MCA and the LIA were multicausal.

Brilliant.

Perhaps everything in the chaotic system that is climate might be multicausal?

And what’s the current best guess on the divergence problem with tree ring proxies?

And should we be basing global policy on the current best guesses of scientists with a vested interest in bigging up their area of research?

And should we really decide that, if we are entering another warm period, our society should become mediaeval again?

50. Dissident

pagar

Multiple causes, all to do with our population, eating habits, our bad habit of squandering resources, the accelerating rate of biodiversity loss, topsoil loss, freshwater loss. On top of that is the elephant in the room, AGW triggering chaotic weather patterns worldwide!

http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/extreme-weather-ticker-2012.asp

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120325173206.htm

If you want to continue with Charles Koch’s dinosaur rants it’s up to you. However there are partial solutions to lack of food caused by a combination of 7billion people and steadily more extreme weather events.

http://www.ruaf.org/node/961

Read through it, hardly a recipe for medieval living. Solving this crisis is hitech and been a lot less feckless with the world, in other words, do you really need to eat a slab of steak every day? I for one appreciate meat more if it is eaten less frequently. My body is far healthier on a largely vegetarian diet too!

http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/vegetarian_diets_health_benefits.php/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071008130203.htm

Of course, you will sneer that scientists are lying to secure a big fat research grant, that people who want to improve our cities want to push us into medieval living conditions, that a largely veggie diet is somehow freaky as you tuck into the upteenth cancer, obesity & heart attack causing slab of steak!

51. Robin Levett

@pagar #49:

Such a pity you can’t read to the end of even a moderately short paragraph. I’m not surprised you haven’t got time to explain why pumping energy into a climate system won’t cause more extreme weather events. You’re too impatient to read/write beyond the first sentence.

52. Charlieman

@36. White Trash: “This is so typical.”

I know exactly what you mean. My arms are defiantly crossed over my breast, in the fashion of teenage daughter; I can pout too.

“A thread about the food crisis gets completely hijacked by the single issue of climate change when humanity is facing so many desperate problems that all contribute to the nutritional cliff…”

What is a ‘nutritional cliff”? Do they exist at Beachy Head?

If you mean that people will die as a consequence of rising tides and flood waters, you may have come to the wrong place. I have argued for donkey’s years that the most realistic or consequential problems of global warming will affect small, low lying settlements. For people living in those places, a short term decision is to move or die.

Fluffy environmentalists here perpetuate the argument that “we can save the world”. It is a nice try but is an incomplete argument; it is detached from reality.

@ Robin

Such a pity you can’t read to the end of even a moderately short paragraph.

You mean this bit?

Vulcanism seems to have played a significant part in both (lower in the MCA, higher in the LIA).

Interesting theory but I’m not buying it.

“Much of its surface consists of deserts and mountain ranges, and large areas are set aside as wilderness preserves. It is much hotter, it has a stronger surface gravity, and its atmosphere is thinner than that of Earth.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_(Star_Trek)

pagar@4

The days when you’ll end up in prison for eating fillet steak are not far off……….

dissident @50

do you really need to eat a slab of steak every day? I for one appreciate meat more if it is eaten less frequently. My body is far healthier on a largely vegetarian diet too!

And you’d like to make sure mine is too, wouldn’t you?

charlieman
what would you have us do, give up, slink off home and wait to starve? there are already solutions, and partial solutions, why not at least try them?

pagar

is it ok to reduce others to starvation so you can eat steak every day? what about their freedom to live, is it rescinded in favour of yours?

56. Robin Levett

@pagar #49:

Perhaps everything in the chaotic system that is climate might be multicausal?

Climate, as opposed to weather, is not particularly chaotic.

Newsflash: there are a lot of factors that come together to affect our cimate. Take our current situation. There is no particular volcanic forcing, in contrast to the LIA and MCA. The orbital forcings are cooling. The solar forcing is neutral. The CO2 forcing is strongly positive; so the current warming is explicable in terms of that forcing.

And what’s the current best guess on the divergence problem with tree ring proxies?

Do your own research; but here’s a hint. There is no divergence problem with “tree ring proxies”. There is a divergence problem with high latitude tree-ring proxies, where other environmental stresses (than temperature) are more significant than elsewhere.

And should we be basing global policy on the current best guesses of scientists with a vested interest in bigging up their area of research?

Judging by the current inaction over CO2 mitigation, that is exactly what we are doing. It might be more sensible for governments to pay more than lip-service to the climatologists’ pretty unanimous views, but there we are.

And should we really decide that, if we are entering another warm period, our society should become mediaeval again?

Have you yet adjusted your views to take account of the fact that your estimate of the lifetime of fossil-fuels is/was out by a factor of 1,000? That there are only 40 years’, not 40,000 years’, supply left at current rates of consumption?

57. White Trash

@39 yabbut, what you are missing here is that it is overpopulation that is a major cause of climate change in the first place. If we didn’t breed so goddamn irresponsibly we’d have the leeway to guzzle as much gas as we wanted, but being as we have, we now have to learn how to live on a shoestring to share it round all of us billions. And maybe leave a little for the rest of our fellow species, who have just as much right to be here as we do.

Whatever the Doctor Panglosses, Cornucopians and assorted economic fantasists like to kid themselves, humanity is in deep shit, but, to extend the metaphor, a lot of that shit could be turned into compost if we’d just educate ourselves and learn a bit of hunmility to start behaving decently on this Earth. Climate change is just another one of our many problems, and would be solved by the same behavioural changes that we need to do anyway for all these problems.

@52 yeah yeah very funny, you’re really hurting me with your sarcastic wit.

Anyway, to actually stay on the topic of the Food Crisis, those complacent types – presumably well fed and with plenty of money and investments – who try to pretend this stuff isn’t happening might like to argue it out with someone on your own wavelength perhaps:

“Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist at Boston-based asset management firm, Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo and Company (GMO), warned investors in his most recent quarterly letter that long-term investors should position their portfolios for a resource-scarce world and decades of rising commodity prices.”

“In his broad-ranging quarterly letter to investors, Grantham drew from analyses of climate, agriculture and water resources to make the case that the world is five years into a severe – and likely ongoing – food crisis.
He predicts these food shortages will threaten poor countries with increased malnutrition, starvation and even collapse.”

“Resource squabbles and waves of food-induced migration will threaten global stability and global growth, this threat is badly underestimated by almost everybody and all institutions, with the possible exception of some military establishments,” Grantham says.

“He warns that the commonly held assumption of a minimum 60-per-cent increase in food production is needed by 2050 to feed the forecast world population of 9 billion is unachievable.”

http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/20868

Suck on that!

“Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist”

Yeah but the idea that Jeremy Grantham is an eco-alarmist is hardly news. He did after all fund the Grantham Institute at the LSE….

59. White Trash

Interesting.

So he’s wrong then?

For someone who gets it wrong he seems to have a lot of money entrusted to him. Surely the wealthy must know better than us ordinary folk or how come they’ve got all the dosh and we’ve got sod all?


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