Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Friday, August 9, 2019

IPCC Report Climate Change and Land

The IPCC has just issued a special report Climate Change and Land, on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. In its new report 'Climate Change and Land', the IPCC finds that vegan is the best diet to reduce emissions. Sadly, it is yet another missed opportunity to show some integrity.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Indeed, little or nothing will change as long as the IPCC keeps downplaying the dire situation we're in.

As an example, the IPCC Report uses a very low value of 28 as Global Warming Potential (GWP) for methane, which is totally inappropriate and unacceptable given the rapidity at which the biosphere is deteriorating, given the accelerating pace at which extreme weather events are striking the land all around the world, and given the grim prospects for people worldwide in the absence of rapid and radical change.

The report finds that agriculture, forestry and other land use activities accounted for around 13% of carbon dioxide, 44% of methane, and 82% of nitrous oxide emissions from human activities globally during 2007-2016, representing 23% of total net anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. If emissions associated with pre- and post-production activities in the global food system are included, the emissions could be as high as 37% of total net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

The Report adds an image showing that annual methane emissions from agriculture had reached some 4Gt CO₂eq in 2016. The IPCC notes that this 4Gt for methane's CO₂-eq is based on a GWP for methane of 28 over 100 years and without climate-carbon feedbacks, taken from its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published in 2014.

As said, the Report calculates that net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land use were 23% of people's 2007-2016 emissions when using a GWP of 28 for methane. When using a GWP of 150, that share rises to 31%, as illustrated by the image on the right.

Instead of calculating methane's GWP over 100 years, a very short horizon is appropriate. Moreover, research published in 2016 and 2018 had already found methane to be more potent than IPCC's GWP for methane in AR5, as discussed in a recent post.

When using an appropriate GWP, the percentage of greenhouse gases coming from agriculture (in particular livestock products) increases dramatically, thus rightly highlighting the urgency for governments to act, e.g. by implementing local feebates, such as fees on livestock products and nitrogen fertilizers with revenues used to support soil supplements containing biochar, as recommended in a recent post.

Furthermore, the IPCC should have pointed the finger at the cartel of looters comprising fuel, meat, chemical and pharmaceutical industries and fuel-powered vehicle manufacturers and utilities that finances corrupt politicians and that goes hand in glove with a military-industrial complex that feeds on manufacturing conflict over resources that are the very cause of the wrath of pollution.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• IPCC special report Climate Change and Land

• IPCC special report Global Warming of 1.5°C

• IPCC keeps feeding the addiction

• How much warming have humans caused?

• Most Important Message Ever

• Feedbacks

• Extinction

• Most Important Message Ever

• How much warmer is it now?

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• Climate Plan (page)

• Climate Plan (post)

• Olivine weathering to capture CO2 and counter climate change


• Biochar

• Geoengineering

• Climate Alert

• Arctic News

• Vegan Organic Food

• Climate Plan

Saturday, May 31, 2014

How many deaths could result from failure to act on climate change?

A recent OECD analysis concludes that outdoor air pollution is killing more than 3.5 million people a year globally. The OECD estimates that people in its 34 Member countries would be willing to pay USD 1.7 trillion to avoid deaths caused by air pollution. Road transport is likely responsible for about half.

[ from an earlier post ]
A 2012 report by DARA calculated that 5 million people were dying each year from climate change and carbon economies, mostly from indoor smoke and (outdoor) air pollution.

Back in 2012, a Reuters report calculated that this could add up to a total number of 100 million deaths over the coming two decades. This suggests, however, that failure to act on climate change will not cause even more deaths due to other causes.

Indeed, failure to act on climate change could result in many more deaths due to other causes, in particular food shortages. As temperatures rise, ever more extreme weather events can be expected, such as flooding, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and subsequent crop loss, famine, disease, heat-stroke, etc.

So, while currently most deaths are caused by indoor smoke and outdoor air pollution, in case of a failure to act on climate change the number of deaths can be expected to rise most rapidly among people hit by heat stress, famine, fresh water shortages, as well as wars over who controls access to land, food, fresh water, etc.

How high could figures rise? Below is an update of an image from the earlier post Arctic Methane Impact with a scale in both Celsius and Fahrenheit added on the right, illustrating the danger that temperature will rise to intolerable levels if little or no action is taken on climate change. The inset shows projected global number of annual climate-related deaths for these two scenarios, i.e. little or no action, and also shows a third scenario of comprehensive and effective action that instead seeks to bring temperature rise under control.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
For further details on comprehensive and effective climate action, see the ClimatePlan.


• The Cost of Air Pollution | OECD analysis, published May 2014

• DARA Climate Vulnerability Monitor

• 100 mln will die by 2030 if world fails to act on climate - report | REUTERS

• Arctic Methane Impact

• Is death by lead worse than death by climate? No. | by Paul Beckwith

• Climate Plan

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Do We Act in the Face of Climate Chaos?

Guy McPherson

Guy R. McPherson is Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at University of Arizona.
Below are some (slighly edited) extracts from a post at Guy
McPherson's website: 
summary and update on climate change.

The Warning

As described by the United Nations Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases in 1990, temperature rise “beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage”.

We’ve clearly triggered the types of positive feedbacks the United Nations warned about in 1990. Yet my colleagues and acquaintances think we can and will work our way out of this horrific mess with permaculture (which is not to denigrate permaculture, the principles of which are implemented at the mud hut). Reforestation doesn’t come close to overcoming combustion of fossil fuels, as pointed out in the 30 May 2013 issue of Nature Climate Change. Furthermore, forested ecosystems do not sequester additional carbon dioxide as it increases in the atmosphere, as disappointingly explained in the 6 August 2013 issue of New Phytologist.

Here’s the bottom line: On a planet 4 C hotter than baseline, all we can prepare for is human extinction (from Oliver Tickell’s 2008 synthesis in the Guardian).

John Davies concludes: “The world is probably at the start of a runaway Greenhouse Event which will end most human life on Earth before 2040.” He considers only atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, not the many self-reinforcing feedback loops described below. 

Positive feedbacks
Positive feedbacks
Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean (Science, March 2010). According to NASA’s CARVE project, these plumes were up to 150 kilometers across as of mid-July 2013. Whereas Malcolm Light’s 9 February 2012 forecast of extinction of all life on Earth by the middle of this century appears premature because his conclusion of exponential methane release during summer 2011 was based on data subsequently revised and smoothed by U.S. government agencies, subsequent information — most notably from NASA’s CARVE project — indicates the grave potential for catastrophic release of methane. Catastrophically rapid release of methane in the Arctic is further supported by Nafeez Ahmed’s thorough analysis in the 5 August 2013 issue of the Guardian as well as Natalia Shakhova’s 29 July 2013 interview with Nick Breeze (note the look of abject despair at the eight-minute mark).
Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic as it shoots through the Fram Strait (Science, January 2011).
Siberian methane vents have increased in size from less than a meter across in the summer of 2010 to about a kilometer across in 2011 (Tellus, February 2011)
Drought in the Amazon triggered the release of more carbon than the United States in 2010 (Science, February 2011). In addition, ongoing deforestation in the region is driving declines in precipitation at a rate much faster than long thought, as reported in the 19 July 2013 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Peat in the world’s boreal forests is decomposing at an astonishing rate (Nature Communications, November 2011)
Invasion of tall shrubs warms the soil, hence destabilizes the permafrost (Environmental Research Letters, March 2012)
Methane is being released from the Antarctic, too (Nature, August 2012). According to a paper in the 24 July 2013 issue of Scientific Reports, melt rate in the Antarctic has caught up to the Arctic.
Russian forest and bog fires are growing (NASA, August 2012), a phenomenon consequently apparent throughout the northern hemisphere (Nature Communications, July 2013). The New York Times reports hotter, drier conditions leading to huge fires in western North America as the “new normal” in their 1 July 2013 issue. A paper in the 22 July 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates boreal forests are burning at a rate exceeding that of the last 10,000 years.
Cracking of glaciers accelerates in the presence of increased carbon dioxide(Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, October 2012)
The microbes have joined the party, too, according to a paper in the 23 February 2013 issue of New Scientist
Summer ice melt in Antarctica is at its highest level in a thousand years: Summer ice in the Antarctic is melting 10 times quicker than it was 600 years ago, with the most rapid melt occurring in the last 50 years (Nature Geoscience, April 2013). Although scientists have long expressed concern about the instability of the West Atlantic Ice Sheet (WAIS), a research paper published in the 28 August 2013 of Nature indicates the East Atlantic Ice Sheet (EAIS) has undergone rapid changes in the past five decades. The latter is the world’s largest ice sheet and was previously thought to be at little risk from climate change. But it has undergone rapid changes in the past five decades, signaling a potential threat to global sea levels. The EAIS holds enough water to raise sea levels more than 50 meters.
Surface meltwater draining through cracks in an ice sheet can warm the sheet from the inside, softening the ice and letting it flow faster, according to a study accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface (July 2013). It appears a Heinrich Event has been triggered in Greenland. Consider the description of such an event as provided by Robert Scribbler on 8 August 2013:
In a Heinrich Event, the melt forces eventually reach a tipping point. The warmer water has greatly softened the ice sheet. Floods of water flow out beneath the ice. Ice ponds grow into great lakes that may spill out both over top of the ice and underneath it. Large ice damns (sic) may or may not start to form. All through this time ice motion and melt is accelerating. Finally, a major tipping point is reached and in a single large event or ongoing series of such events, a massive surge of water and ice flush outward as the ice sheet enters an entirely chaotic state. Tsunamis of melt water rush out bearing their vast floatillas (sic) of ice burgs (sic), greatly contributing to sea level rise. And that’s when the weather really starts to get nasty. In the case of Greenland, the firing line for such events is the entire North Atlantic and, ultimately the Northern Hemisphere.
Breakdown of the thermohaline conveyor belt is happening in the Antarctic as well as the Arctic, thus leading to melting of Antarctic permafrost (Scientific Reports, July 2013)
Loss of Arctic sea ice is reducing the temperature gradient between the poles and the equator, thus causing the jet stream to slow and meander. One result is the creation of weather blocks such as the recent very high temperatures in Alaska. As aresultboreal peat dries and catches fire like a coal seam. The resulting soot enters the atmosphere to fall again, coating the ice surface elsewhere, thus reducing albedo and hastening the melting of ice. Each of these individual phenomena has been reported, albeit rarely, but to my knowledge the dots have not been connected beyond this space. The inability or unwillingness of the media to connect two dots is not surprising, and has been routinely reported (recently including here with respect to climate change and wildfires) (July 2013)
Earthquakes trigger methane release, and consequent warming of the planet triggers earthquakes, as reported by Sam Carana at Arctic-news (October 2013)
Arctic drilling was fast-tracked by the Obama administration during the summer of 2012
Supertankers are taking advantage of the slushy Arctic, demonstrating that every catastrophe represents a business opportunity, as pointed out by Professor of journalism Michael I. Niman and picked up by Truthout (ArtVoice, September 2013)
As nearly as I can distinguish, only the latter feedback process is reversible at a temporal scale relevant to our species. Once you pull the tab on the can of beer, there’s no keeping the carbon dioxide from bubbling up and out. These feedbacks are not additive, they are multiplicative. Now that we’ve entered the era of expensive oil, I can’t imagine we’ll voluntarily terminate the process of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic (or anywhere else). Nor will we willingly forgo a few dollars by failing to take advantage of the long-sought Northwest Passage.

Robin Westenra provides an assessment of these positive feedbacks at Seemorerocks on 14 July 2013. It’s worth a look.

Earth-system scientist Clive Hamilton concludes in his April 2013 book Earthmasters that “without [atmospheric sulphates associated with industrial activity] … Earth would be an extra 1.1 C warmer.” In other words, collapse takes us directly to 2 C within a matter of weeks. 

Several other academic scientists have concluded, in the refereed journal literature no less, that the 2 C mark is essentially impossible (for example, see the review paper by Mark New and colleagues published in the 29 November 2010 issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A). 

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs concluded 2 June 2013 that a 2 C rise in global-average temperature is no longer feasible (and Spiegel agrees, finally, in their 7 June 2013 issue), while the ultra-conservative International Energy Agency concludes that, “coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017 … without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.” 

Image from: The two epochs of Marcott, by Jos Hagelaars

At the 11:20 mark of this video, climate scientist Paul Beckwith indicates Earth could warm by 6 C within a decade. 

If you think his view is extreme, consider: 
  1. the 5 C rise in global-average temperature 55 million years ago during a span of 13 years (reported in the 1 October 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences); and also 
  2. the reconstruction of regional and global temperature for the past 11,300 years published in Science in March 2013. One result is shown in the above figure.

How Do We Act in the Face of Climate Chaos?

Below is a video of a recent presentation by Guy McPherson. 

Presentation by Guy McPherson in Boulder, Colorado on October 16, 2013.

Below are some extracts from the video, again slightly edited.

Malcolm Light in 2012 concluded, based on data from NOAA and NASA, that methane release had gone exponential and was leading to the demise of all life on Earth, not just human extinction, by the middle of the century.

So 3.5 C to 4 C is almost certainly a death sentence for all human beings on the planet, not because it'll be a warmer planet, but because the warming of the planet will remove all habitat for human beings. Ultimately we're human animals like other animals, we need habitat to survive.

Changes we see in three or four decades happen as a result of what we do today. There's a huge lag between our actions today in the consequences down the road in terms of the Earth's planetary systems.

Without plankton in the ocean, there goes roughly half the global food supply. The ability to lose land plants is growing rapidly and there goes the other half for the food supply for human beings. If we have up to 5 C by 2050, that'll certainly do the trick.

Why is this happening? It's civilization that drove us into population overshoot. We cannot go back anymore since 1939, since we invented nuclear armageddon. There's no going back. If we ceased the set of living arrangements at this point, the world's 400 or so nuclear power plants melt down catastrophically and we're all dead in a month. We cannot terminate industrial civilization until we decommission all nuclear power plants. It takes at least 20 years to decommission a nuclear power plant.

The bad news is that means that the world's four hundred or so nuclear power plants meltdown catastrophically in a short period of time. Fukushima represent a major threat to humanity. If they fail in moving the spent fuel rods next month, according to nuclear researcher Christina Consola, if one of those MOX fuel rods is exposed to the air, one of the 1565, it will kill 2.89 billion people on the planet in a matter of weeks, so nuclear catastrophe is right there on the horizon. 

People ask me: Why are you presenting this horrible information?

Action is the antidote to despair even if the action is hopeless. When a medical doctor knows that somebody has cancer, it's malpractice if they don't tell that. So I'm doing that. I think Bill McKibben and James Hansen and a whole bunch of climate scientists are guilty of malpractice. Because they know what I know. Almost every politician in the country knows what I know. All the leaders of the big banks know what I know. And they're lying to us.

I'm just presenting the information from other scientists here. I'm trying to the widest extent possible not to infuse my opinion in the situation. It's John Davies who on September 20, 2013, taking into account only carbon dioxide, says there will be few people left on the planet by 2040. It's Malcolm Light, writing in February 2012, who assesses the methane situation. And so on.

Yes, I agree with them, and that agreement is illustrated by me showing you that information.

I promote resistance against this omnicidal culture, not in the hope that it will save our species, but in the hope that it will save other species. Because as E.O. Wilson, biologist at Harvard, points out, it only takes 10 million years after a great extinction event, before you have a blossoming full rich planet again. That's what we're working toward. We're saving habitat for other species at this point.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Arctic melt hits food security in bitter taste of life on a hotter planet

by David Spratt
Arctic melt has pushed the Jet Stream into a more
meandering, S-shape pattern, dragging 
down and
stalling cold and wet conditions 
over Europe

A wet summer and autumn, followed by a cold winter and spring, in the UK and Ireland have hit wheat and potato production and cattle feed, a foretaste of how climate change can affect food security, even in the developed economies.

And the culprit in this drama is rapid Arctic melting, which has destabilised the Jet Steam and brought extreme weather – unusual cold, heavy snowfall, record rain and hot spells — to much of northern Europe and North America, and record heat to the Arctic. Following Superstorm Sandy’s battering of the US north-east coast in 2012, flooding in June across central Europe was the worst in 400 years.

Rapid Arctic melting – sea-ice volume in September 2012 was down by four-fifths compared to the summer average 30 years ago – has help change the Jet Stream, the river of high altitude air that works to separates Arctic weather from that of northern Europe, Russia and Canada, and which governs much northern hemisphere weather.

The ice loss has added to ocean and atmospheric heat, pushing the Jet Stream into a more meandering, S-shape pattern, dragging down and stalling cold and wet conditions over Europe, and bringing record heat to the Arctic, as was dramatically experienced in Alaska last month.

Professor Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science, says the Arctic-driven changes to the Jet Stream allows “the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south. The pattern can be slow to change because the [southern] wave of the jet stream is getting bigger… so whatever weather you have now is going to stick around”.

In March, new research found that “the severe loss of summertime Arctic sea ice — attributed to greenhouse warming — appears to enhance Northern Hemisphere jet stream meandering, intensify Arctic air mass invasions toward middle latitudes, and increase the frequency of atmospheric blocking events like the one that steered Hurricane Sandy west into the densely populated New York City area”.

And a recent study by Liu et al found that “the recent decline of Arctic sea ice has played a critical role in the recent cold and snowy winters” across the northern hemisphere.

Last September, Francis warned that 2012′s record sea ice melt could lead to a cold winter in the UK and northern Europe. And so it turned out, with farmers copping the consequences:

WET SUMMER AND AUTUMN: Six out of the last seven summers in the UK (since the record-smashing Arctic melt of 2007) have seen below-average temperatures and sunshine, and above-average rainfall. 2012 was the UK’s second wettest year on record, with autumn rain almost 50% higher than long-term average. In Ireland, twice the average amount of rainfall was recorded in many parts of the country during the three summer months of 2012. People across the UK and Ireland will readily tell you that “We haven’t had a summer in four or five years”, and unusually, for them, complain of “bitter” and “terrible” winters, with temperatures dropping as low as –18C in Northern Ireland.

COLD WINTER AND SPRING: “It’s been the longest winter on record in this country. Not since the records began 70 years ago has there been a March as cold as this year’s. It’s been followed by the coldest April in 25 years in some areas of the country,” reported the Irish Examiner on 9 May 2013. The Irish spring in 2103 was coldest in 62 years across most of country, and dull and windy. Spring in the UK this year was the coldest in 50 years.

BAD COMBINATION: This combination of events has wrecked farmer’s schedules. Less growth in a dull 2012 summer – combined with water-logged crops and pastures in autumn – reduced yields, and some crops had to be left in the ground. The spring 2013 growing season, including for apples and pears as well as pasture, started up to six weeks late due to the cold, dull conditions. And waterlogged fields meant that across Ireland cattle were still being kept in their winter sheds in the first week of June, ostensibly a summer month. The consequences – whilst mild compared to climate-change impacts on vulnerable communities in the developing world from the African Sahel to Asia’s changing monsoons – show how easily the security of food production can be disrupted:

WHEAT: In the UK, a wet autumn, hard winter and cold spring has resulted in one of the smallest wheat harvests in a generation, 30% below normal. Britain, generality the third biggest wheat grower in the EU, will be a net importer for the first time in 11 years. Charlotte Garbutt, a senior analyst at the industry-financed Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board says: “Normally we export around 2.5m tonnes of wheat but this year we expect to have to import 2.5m tonnes.” The latest analysis from the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says total farming income decreased by £737million in 2012 to £4.7bn, as farmers faced both crop losses and higher feed costs.

STOCK LOSSES: Late snowstorms across England, Sotland, Wales and Ireland March 2013, with drifts of up to 5 metres, killed an estimated 40,000 newborn lambs. In ireland’s west, one-quarter more animals died in the first three months of 2013 compared to 2012, with some vets trained to look for suicidal behaviour in farmers.

POTATO SHORTAGE: A wet autumn and poor season in 2012 prevented many crops being harvested in Ireland. Supermarket price-squeezing has also driven some farmers out of the industry, together resulting in reduced yields of at least 30 per cent in 2012. By spring 2013, potato prices had almost tripled in many parts of Ireland, with supplies exhausted and a reliance on imports from central Europe.

Limavady farmer, James Wray, told UTV News that said the changing weather in recent weeks had forced the price up: “This year has been a terrible growing season with loads of crops lost and loads of crops not harvested and any crops that have been harvested have produced low yields. There just isn’t any potatoes left in the country, there are no farmers with potatoes left, so whatever potatoes are about, are very, very expensive. If you go to any of the major supermarkets most of their potatoes are coming in from Europe just to bridge the gap.”

Potato shortages have a particular cultural resonance in Ireland as a consequence of the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century, which killed a million people and forced another million to emigrate.

FEED SHORTAGE: In the last week of May (the final week of spring), farmers in Ireland’s west were queuing for hay and silage imports from England, France and Netherland as their winter feed became exhausted and a lack of pasture growth in spring due to cold and overcast conditions, and wet fields, prevented cattle from being moved from their winter sheds. More than 13000 tonnes of feed was imported, but even so farmer Enda Stenson said local farmers “have neither money nor fodder”. Many had sold down their herds to be able to buy feed for the remainder.

BEES IN TROUBLE: Bad weather and disease is also threatening honey production, with some beekeepers expecting to produce no honey as bees have been unable to mate and hives are decimated. And bees play a crucial role in pollinating many crops.

Jim Donohoe, of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations, told the Irish Independent that the problem was weather related: “We’ve had bad summers before, but because of the wind, rain and lack of sunshine, we’ve had serious problems with colonies wanting to swarm, but the queens being unable to mate with drones which refused to fly because there wasn’t calm conditions. This year, we had a delayed winter where bees couldn’t fly. The flowers were delayed coming out, and that crucial period meant bees died from old age. All of this combines to about 50pc of colonies being lost. If we don’t get milder weather, the losses will be closer to 75pc.

These stories may seem trivial compared to the devastating impact of climate change on global food security and prices, and their political consequences. Writing on Egypt’s new political turmoil, Nafeez Ahmed notes that:

“Food price hikes have coincided with devastating climate change impacts in the form of extreme weather in key food-basket regions. Since 2010, we have seen droughts and heat-waves in the US, Russia, and China, leading to a dramatic fall in wheat yields, on which Egypt is heavily dependent. The subsequent doubling of global wheat prices – from $157/metric tonne in June 2010 to $326/metric tonne in February 2011 – directly affected millions of Egyptians, who already spend about 40% of their income on food. That helped trigger the events that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but the same configuration of factors is worsening.”

And Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, has warned that grain harvests are already shrinking as US, India and China come close to ‘peak water’. He says that 18 countries, together containing half the world’s people, are now over-pumping their underground water tables to the point – known as “peak water” – where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year.

Together these stories paint a compelling picture of the threat to food security from climate change, not just in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, but in the heart of the developed world too.

David Spratt studied at Australian National University.
David co-authored the book Climate Code Red (2008).  

David frequently posts at the Climate Code Red website.
Above article was first posted at


- Polar jet stream appears hugely deformed - by Sam Carana, December 20, 2012

- The Threat of Wildfires in the North - by Sam Carana, June 27, 2013

Friday, October 26, 2012

Open Letter to Canadian MPs

Paul Beckwith
Food is the new oil. Land is the new gold.

The world food situation is deteriorating. Grain stocks have dropped to a dangerously low level. The World Food Price Index has doubled in a decade. The ranks of the hungry are expanding. Political unrest is spreading.

On the demand side of the food equation, there will be 219,000 people at the dinner table tonight who were not there last night. And some 3 billion increasingly affluent people are moving up the food chain, consuming grain-intensive livestock and poultry products.

At the same time, water shortages and heat waves are making it more difficult for farmers to keep pace with demand. As grain-exporting countries ban exports to keep their food prices down, importing countries are panicking. In response, they are buying large tracts of land in other countries to grow food for themselves. The land rush is on.

Could food become the weak link for us as it was for so many earlier civilizations? This slideshow presentation, based on Lester Brown's latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, explains why world food supplies are tightening and tells what we need to do about it.

My video clip filmed about 3 weeks ago on Parliament Hill explains the clear connections between crop failures/droughts/floods/extreme weather/sea ice/greenhouse gases/climate change...

This is my presentation on Parliament Hill (Center blog) a few months ago at the All-Party Climate Change Caucus meeting.

This is a longer version of the linkages between food shortages and declining sea ice.

Please let me know what your plan is to deal with this coming turmoil.
I look forward to your response.


Paul Beckwith (B.Eng. Engineering Physics, M.Sc. Physics, presently working on Ph.D. in climatology)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to avert an intensifying food crisis

As extreme weather intensifies, the food crisis intensifies. Storms and floods do damage to crops and cause erosion of fertile topsoil, in turn causing further crop loss. Similarly, heatwaves, storms and wildfires do damage to crops and cause topsoil to be blown away, thus also causing erosion and further crop loss. Furthermore, they cause soot, dust and volitale organic compounds to settle on snow and ice, causing albdeo loss and further decline of snow and ice cover.

Extreme weather intensifies as the Arctic warms and the polar vortex and jet stream weaken, which is fueled by accelerated warming in the Arctic. There are at least ten feedbacks that contribute to further acceleration of warming in the Arctic and without action the situation looks set to spiral away into runaway global warming, as illustrated by the image below.

Diagram of Doom, with Comprehensive Plan of Action added  (credit: Sam Carana, October 9, 2012)

To avert an intensifying global food crisis, a comprehensive plan of action is needed, as also indicated on the image. Such a plan should be comprehensive and consider action in the Arctic such as wetland management, ice thickening and methane management (methane removal through decomposition, capture and possibly extraction).

- Threat to global food supply makes comprehensive action imperative

- Comprensive Plan of Action

- Diagram of Doom

- Opening further Doorways to Doom

- Terraforming Earth

- Changes to Polar Vortex affect mile-deep ocean circulation patterns

- Arctic sea ice loss is effectively doubling mankind's contribution to global warming

The certain catastrophic effects of allowing the Arctic snow summer sea ice to melt away

Image by Peter Carter of the Climate Emergency Institute

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Threat to global food supply makes comprehensive action imperative

Climate change is strongly affecting the Arctic and the resulting changes to the polar vortex and jet stream are in turn contributing to extreme weather in many places, followed by crop loss at a huge scale.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a September 6, 2012, forecast that continued deterioration of cereal crop prospects over the past two months, due to unfavourable weather conditions in a number of major producing regions, has led to a sharp cut in FAO’s world production forecast since the previous report in July.

The bad news continues: Based on the latest indications, global cereal production would not be sufficient to cover fully the expected utilization in the 2012/13 marketing season, pointing to a larger drawdown of global cereal stocks than earlier anticipated. Among the major cereals, maize and wheat were the most affected by the worsening of weather conditions.

The image below shows the FAO Food Price Index (Cereals), updated to October 2012.

Apart from crop yield, extreme weather is also affecting soils in various ways. Sustained drought can cause soils to lose much of their vegetation, making them more exposed to erosion by wind, while the occasional storms, flooding and torrential rain further contribute to erosion. Higher areas, such as hills, will be particularly vulnerable, but even in valleys a lack of trees and excessive irrigation can cause the water table to rise, bringing salt to the surface.

Fish are also under threat, in part due to ocean acidification. Of the carbon dioxide we're releasing into the atmosphere, about a third is (still) being absorbed by the oceans. Dr. Richard Feely, from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, explains that this has caused, over the last 200 years or so, about a 30% increase in the overall acidity of the oceans. This affects species that depend on a shell to survive. Studies by Baumann (2011) and Frommel (2011) indicate further that fish, in their egg and larval life stages, are seriously threatened by ocean acidification. This, in addition to warming seawater, overfishing, pollution and eutrification (dead zones), causes fish to lose habitat and is threatening major fish stock collapse.

Without action, this situation can only be expected to deteriorate further, while ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years. This means that, to save many marine species from extinction, geoengineering must be accepted as an essential part of the much-needed comprehensive plan of action.

Similarly, Arctic waters will continue to be exposed to warm water, causing further sea ice decline unless comprehensive action is taken that includes geoengineering methods to cool the Arctic. The image below shows the dramatic drop in sea ice extent (total area of at least 15% ice concentration) over the past 7 years, compared to the average 1972-2011, as calculated by the Polar View team at the University of Bremen, Germany. This illustrates that a firm commitment to a comprehensive plan of action can now no longer be postponed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Temperature rise projections

The Climate Emergency Institute recently produced the image below. For more background, see the institute's page on the warming that Earth's is already committed to even if people's emissions were suddenly stopped. Also see the institute's warning on Food Security.