"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rather Terrifying News

A new report in the journal Science by an international panel of scientists warns that in the next 50 years, crop yields of various staple crops, including wheat, are expected to decline by 20 - 30 percent across the entire tropical and sub tropical zones of the planet - home to half of humanity. This is due to mean average growing season temperatures rising above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, a kind of upper limit for many crops. During the same time period, world population is expected to grow to somewhere over 9 billion. The group is "urging world leaders to dramatically alter their notions about sustainable agriculture to prevent a major starvation catastrophe by the end of this century among the more than 3 billion people who live relatively close to the equator."

I don't have the studies to show you, but I've read newspaper reports that a large percentage of California's central valley, historically one of the most productive agricultural areas on the planet, is no longer suitable for orchards. Fruit and nut trees are failing to bear because they no longer undergo the necessary chill in winter to make them go dormant. Some nut crops, if I remember right, are down more than 80%.
Having just planted a number of fruit trees which were specifically selected for my climate, I can't help but wonder if perhaps I should have planted some trees that were selected for a slightly different climate. Maybe I should be planting trees that are on the very northernmost edge of their range here - things like grapes, kiwis, peaches, and figs.

Below I have posted an excerpted version of the article ... to read the entire thing, go to http://www.sciencedaily.com

"I grow increasingly concerned that we have not yet understood what it will take to feed a growing population on a warming planet," said Federoff (science and technology advisor to Hilary Clinton), who also is a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University.

The challenge is becoming more difficult, the scientists said, because the world's population is likely to have increased more than 30 percent, to 9 billion people, by 2050.

Even without climate change, feeding all of these people will require doubling the grain production in the tropics, Battisti said, but a warmer climate will reduce yields because the temperature will be too high to achieve the most efficient photosynthesis. That factor, combined with less rainfall in major food-producing regions and increasing pressure from pests and pathogens, is likely to cut major food crop yields a minimum of 20 percent to 30 percent.


....


Battisti noted that the so-called green revolution in agriculture produced a 2 percent increase in yields per year for 20 years, primarily through development of new grain varieties and use of fertilizer and irrigation. But there is little, if any, new land available for farming, and such yield increases cannot be sustained without further innovation. In addition, there already are 1 billion people, mostly in the tropics, who do not have enough food for a healthy life.

"We're really asking for yield gains comparable to those at the peak of the green revolution, but sustained for an unprecedented length of time, 40 years, and at a time when climate change is acting against us," he said.


....


By combining direct observations with data from 23 global climate models that contributed to Nobel prize-winning research in 2007, Battisti and Naylor determined there is greater than a 90 percent probability that by 2100 the lowest growing-season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics will be higher than any temperatures recorded there to date.

They used the data as a filter to view historic instances of severe food insecurity, and concluded such instances are likely to become more commonplace. Those include severe episodes in France in 2003 and the Ukraine in 1972. In the case of the Ukraine, a near-record heat wave reduced wheat yields and contributed to disruptions in the global cereal market that lasted two years. "I think what startled me the most is that when we looked at our historic examples there were ways to address the problem within a given year. People could always turn somewhere else to find food," Naylor said. "But in the future there's not going to be any place to turn unless we rethink our food supplies."




50 comments:

AnyEdge said...

Sounds like the same doomsday scenarios that were very popular in the 1960s, by similarly distinguished professors and scientists. Global population was supposed to have halved by 1985 (Ehrlich).

Human beings almost ALWAYS underestimate exponential growth,both population and increased yields.

Color me unimpressed. Was there no commentary that uncultivated fields in the two lagest nations on the planet will be warming to levels that might make them into a breadbasket the likes of which the world has never seen? Siberia alone has tundra fields that have never been exploited the size of the USA and Europe put together. There is a forest in Siberia that is larger than Alaska.

Finding places to grow food will be easy.

Q said...

Climate change is here indeed.
Perhaps humans will become responsible stewards of the land.
I do hope the animals survive us!
Planting trees is so very hopeful.
Happy Valentine's Day,
Sherry

AnyEdge said...

No statistically significant warming for 15 years, from a premier AGW scientist, and reported in the Daily Mail, which is a standard british paper with a bit of a left wing bias.

The fact is, we don't have a clue what's going to happen.

Kim said...

Now that we know that data was changed to suit the desired ends and then conflicting data destroyed, we don't know what is happeneing. When I see articles saying no matter what the weather is, it proves global warming, I am just about sure global warming is a sham. When Al Gore says lying is justified because he needs to get peoples attention, I am less inclined than ever to listen to him. Don't panic.

Aimee said...

Bro,do your eyes hurt? They should with your head so far in the sand

AnyEdge said...

No, actually, I've read the science rather than the media reports. All predictions are highly qualified, by the scientists who make them. The IPCC has recently gotten in trouble for falsifying documents. The dire predictions that you quote are selective media quotes of far more judicious and careful and qualified statements by scientists, many of whom have been proven wrong in the past.

You are the one who is running around like Chicken Little. Are there problems? Yes. Do we need to be FAR FAR better stewards of our environment? YES. But the sky is not likely falling.

AnyEdge said...

Now: new energy sources for when we're out of oil? THAT'S a big problem. The carbon issue will take care of itself: we're running out of fossil fuels to burn.

Aimee said...

It's obvious to me you didn't even read what I posted. This an Rticle from science magazine, not earth first. It is in no way popular media. Furthermore you hourself cited science quite recently. The east anglia dudtup ( the article you sent incidentally is from a newspaper - huh?) does not touch the core science of global warming at all. It's a case of sloppy recordkeeping and a bumbling ass covering. You know well that I have been making serious study of this subject for well over a year now and peer reviewed science is my source, not the pop press. If you simply want to deny without reading my sources, I find that a boring debate.

AnyEdge said...

And as I've said before, and as any scientist worth his salt will agree, extrapolations are inherently unstable even for well known, infinitely differentiable processes. No specific 50 year prediction in climate science is anything like responsible.

AnyEdge said...

Until someone invents aethod of extrapolation that is immune to the laws of mathematics, there will never be a 50 years in the future prediction in this field worth debating. Because they're all nonsense. No matter what they say.

Aimee said...

Well a lot of serious mathematicians must disagree with you because a lot of serious mathematicians are involved in developing predictive models

Jerry said...

Personally, I no longer have the energy to debate which looming catastrophe, all of which we have had some hand in creating, is most likely to strike first or hardest or whatever. The path that we are walking is wrong on so many levels that picking on to argue about seems ridiculous to me. I do struggle with the fact that we seem so focused on carbon dioxide when we face so many OBVIOUSLY man-made predicaments.

I am concerned about climate change but I am AS concerned about the frightening pace of diminishing genetic diversity, global environmental and atmospheric toxification, potentially crippling energy shortages, drastic freshwater shortages despite destructive flooding in some areas, and the overall ruination of the oceans. If we faced those issues, and managed to find solutions, I think climate change would eventually revert back to a much slower and more natural process.

Aimee said...

Jerry you ate absolutely right. Which of the horsemen will get here first is almost immaterial. More to say but writing from phone

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