Monday, November 12, 2012

Climate Change: Food Crisis & Future Hunger Wars

Climate Change and its Effects on Food Production
Climate change affects food production
Climate Change
In a recent post I wrote about Overpopulation: Food Crisis and future Hunger Wars. The article focused on the impact of the population explosion on food supplies – will there be enough food for a population of 9 billion in 2050? There are many interrelated and complex factors affecting worldwide food production. Climate change is singularly the most critical factor.

The “Final” Wake-up Call

There have been many so-called wake-up calls about the environmental slippery slope humanity finds itself on. The summer of 2012 – raging wildfires, drought, extreme heat, (more than 3000 high-temperature records broken)  “affecting 87 per cent of the land dedicated to growing corn, 63 per cent of the land for hay and 72 per cent of the land used for cattle” and now hurricane Sandy. Americans collectively have reached the "wow" moment. Even prior to hurricane Sandy, 70% of Americans believed that climate change is not a hoax. See previous blog - Common Sense Revolution.
The U.S. drought is having global effects as the world's biggest grain exporter struggles with shortfalls. Drought conditions affected over more than 60 percent of the lower 48 states, the government said. The same is happening elsewhere around the globe.
Centre for Strategic & International Studies report by (Johanna Nesseth Tuttle & Anna Applefield) stresses that corn prices have risen 45 per cent since mid-June as a result of the drought. Global food prices are at an all-time high. Since the United States is the world’s top exporter of both of these crops, significant disruptions in domestic production can impact global food prices. In fact, 40 percent of the wheat and soya beans traded on the global market last year were grown in the United States.
Climate change is now widely believed to be the cause of the intensification of weather patterns that disrupt food production around the globe. Human-induced climate change will intensify the geographic extent, duration and severity of storms – winds, flooding, drought, extreme heat and snowfalls.
"Perhaps the biggest single question about climate change is whether people will have enough to eat in coming decades", says Justin Gillis in the NYT Environment/Green Blog:
Rising temperatures during the growing season in many large producing countries are cutting yields below their potential, the research suggests. On top of that background factor, extreme events like droughts or torrential rains can destroy crops altogether. Extremes have always been part of the agricultural picture, of course, but they are expected to increase on a warming planet.
Extreme weather will intensify and aggravate future food crises. An article appearing in Arctic News recently highlights that:
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 volatile organic compounds to settle on snow and ice, causing albedo loss and further decline of snow and ice cover.
Arctic News also features the Diagram of Doom which pictures three kinds of warming and 10 catastrophic feedbacks.
comprehensive action plan to avert food crisis caused by climate change
Diagram of Doom

Changing extreme events

An IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (November 2011) highlights the following findings:
• Observations since 1950 show changes in some extreme events, particularly daily temperature extremes, and heat waves
• It is likely that the frequency of heavy precipitation will increase in the 21st century over many regions
• It is virtually certain that increases in the frequency of warm daily temperature extremes and decreases in cold extremes will occur...very likely—90 per cent to 100 per cent probability—that heat waves will increase in length, frequency, and/or intensity over most land areas.
• It is likely that the average maximum wind speed of tropical cyclones (also known as typhoons or hurricanes) will increase throughout the coming century
• There is evidence... that droughts will intensify over the coming century in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, central Europe, central North America, Central America and Mexico, northeast Brazil, and southern Africa.
• It is very likely that average sea level rise will contribute to upward trends in extreme sea levels in extreme coastal high water levels.

Impacts of Climate Change on Yield

The following excerpts are from a UNEP study about the impact of environmental changes on world food production – The environmental food crisis – The environment’s role in averting future food crises:
Global climate change may impact food production across a range of pathways... 1) by changing... general rainfall distribution, temperature regime and carbon; 2) by inducing more extreme weather such as floods, drought and storms; and 3) by increasing extent, type and frequency of infestations
The estimated impacts of changes in the general climate regime vary with the different models in the short to mid-term (2030–2050), but after 2050 an increasing number of models agree on rising negative impacts
Furthermore, projected changes in the frequency and severity of extreme climate events are predicted to have more serious consequences for food 2080, assuming a 4.4° C increase in temperature and a 2.9% increase in precipitation, global agricultural output potential is likely to decrease by about 6%, or 16% without carbon climate change increases, projections have been made that by 2080 agricultural output potential may be reduced by up to 60% for several African countries, on average 16–27%... these effects are in addition to general water scarcity as a result of melting glaciers, change in rainfall patterns, or overuse.
  Impact of Climate Change on world food production
Projected losses in food production due to climate change by 20 80. (Source: Cline, 2007).

Impacts of Water Scarcity

Water is essential not only to human survival but in food production. The UNEP study reports that:
Agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of the water consumption, with some estimates as high as 85% (Hanasaki et al., 2008a,b). Water scarcity will affect over 1.8 billion people by 2025 (WHO, 2007).
Projections suggest that water demand is likely to double by major factor beyond agricultural, industrial and urban consumption of water is the destruction of watersheds and natural water towers, such as forests in watersheds and wetlands, which also serve as flood buffers.
It is evident that in regions where snow and glacial mass are the primary sources of water for irrigation, such as in Central Asia, parts of the Himalayas Hindu Kush, China, India, Pakistan and parts of the Andes, melting will eventually lead to dramatic declines in the water available for irrigation, and hence, food production...of great importance, therefore, is the effect of climate change on the extent of snow and glacial mass and on the subsequent supply of water for irrigation. Climate change could seriously endanger the current food production potential, such as in the Greater Himalayas Hindu Kush region and in Central Asia. Currently, nearly 35% of the crop production in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan is based on irrigation, sustaining over 2.5 billion people. Here, water demand is projected to increase by at least 70–90% by 2050.
Projected losses in food production due to climate change by 2080
Projected losses in food production due to climate change by 2080
The wars of the future will be 'Hunger Wars' fought over the resources that are left.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Great US Unpresidential Election Campaign

Mitch Potter of the Washington Bureau has summed up this US presidential election campaign as - miserably unpresidential. His article, U.S. election — It’s all over but for the rage, describes this campaign as the "the longest, ugliest, most expensive, most lie-infested campaign ever."

A perfect theme for UPRAGE

This campaign has been an incredible trip, falling further and faster down the rabbit hole of American political Wonderland, where
where things are not always always what they seem.
  In this case it's a land of incredible fiction far removed from reality. It's no wonder the American voter is so cynical, because the main American political attraction has been made a most devious distraction.  
Perhaps democracy would be better served if the candidates were hooked up to lie detectors in their debates. At least a running record of the lies could be kept (they are so blatant in most cases). I dare say Obama would gain the least lies advantage.  

"It’s been dreadful — in many ways the worse campaign I’ve ever lived through,"
said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar who served four different White House teams in remarkably bipartisan fashion. 

Hess describes them as "Mad Men, really — who said tying themselves in intellectual and moral knots was the way to win."

Americans are peed off with the affair, claims the article. The voters, like Alice, feel belittled and are reluctant guests to the Mad Hatter's tea party, invited by the Cheshire cat grinning candidates. 

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. "We're all mad. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

Who is the Mad Hatter? 

The article quotes media observer Robert Thompson: "You didn’t need Saturday Night Live to satirize it. The comedy was built in to the real thing."

The centerpiece of the American election circus is called the "presidential debates," though they were not presidential and certainly not debates. They were the worst kind of insults to the real world situation of American citizens today, dragged down from their former security by corrupt American politics, representing moneybags instead of people. "It’s sinful, how much money was spent," says a quote from David Biette.

The article says that the poison from this campaign will be followed by the rage of the sore, barely losing side. This is rabbit hole talk. That rage will be just more drama.

The losing side is the American public who would be right to rage because, as the article points out, nothing much is going to change. That makes the loser the citizenry of the world because corrupt PR-spun American politics is dragging us all down. Here is where the joke ends.

America was once the nation that could take on the most overwhelming logistical challenge and win. Today there are nearly 1 million homes and businesses still without power in New Jersey, and about 650,000 in New York City. Their governments cannot even afford to cope with Hurricane Sandy and the main candidates for power maintain their guilty silence on climate change, condemning them to many more much worse Frankenstorms. 

America once led the world to defeat the evil of Nazi fascism. Now it leads the world in bullying and trashing other nations for world fossil fuel dominance. The American corporate corruption of Iraq's reconstruction is legendary, the rebuilding a dismal failure. The living conditions in Iraq, "liberated" by the US's illegal invasion, remain far worse than under the much publicized evil of Saddam Hussein. The governance is a human rights nightmare but the oil is freely flowing under private corporations. 

Under Obama, the use of unmanned assassinator drones has become standard military practice in Middle East oil regions. Only this is much more and much worse than assassination. It's a hi tech version of Hitler's secret weapon V rocket or "buzz bomb."  Obama personally signs off on the kill list. 

A 2012 study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law found the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- about 2%. It's an American terror weapon killing, maiming, and traumatizing civilian populations. From June 2004 to mid-September 2012, available data showed that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children. These strikes also injured an additional 1,228 - 1,362 individuals.

This strategy can only breed a generation in these regions enraged against America. It's a strategy that makes any US president a war criminal. Only this isn't war- it's a US reign of terror ordered by the oil industry. These are not smart weapons and it's not smart, legal, or humane foreign policy. It's inhuman and was once un-American.  It's more blood letting more oil flow.  

America leads the world in obstructing any chance of nations honouring the UN climate convention. Once the US fought the enemy of civilization. Now it leads the world on a heading to end all civilization by catastrophic end of the world atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution.   

Whichever candidate is elected, business as usual will go on, only it will be much worse for most Americans and for the world than has been usual in the past. 

This election with all its fanfare is a fictional distraction from who really makes the decisions. It is the "Money Power" (as Thomas Jefferson called it) held by the big banksters that makes the decisions, under whomever is the next president. The president signs off on the decisions of the big bankers. Everyone knows this, but the televised election smoke-and-mirrors show pretends it's not. This is the biggest lie behind all the belittling lies of the battling candidates.

Who is the Mad Hatter in top hat? The banker -- mad with making money out of money no matter what the cost.  

The Economy, the great American deception, is uneconomic. It does not distribute wealth amongst the nation. It redistributes wealth to the increasingly wealthy. Fossil fuel energy is vastly uneconomic if fully costed, even excluding the greenhouse gas pollution costs. All the human and environmental costs of fossil fuel pollution continue to be excluded -- "externalized" the economist lackeys of the banks call it.

The suicidal fossil fuel subsidies survive in the US to this day even as the crops wither from the great American grain belt drought and deathicanes pound the Atlantic coast.    

The show keeps any candidate who might change business as usual out of public attention.In the TV circus, there are always only two contenders in the ring and they are the stars paid to perform. This is not democracy. 

Cast back to the last election in which Hope and Change were sold to the American people. What was the last act and the first act of that electoral revolving White House door? At the last US presidential power takeover, the big banksters made off with many trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, in the greatest bank robbery of all time. Their timing was perfect. The robbers were the robber baron bankers and they stole, by the grossest fraud ever, trillions in the biggest and fastest transfer of public funds ever, by far. The reverse heist amounted to at least $20 trillion. 

The outrageous fraud was permitted and the money handed over, with no accountability whatsoever, by the outgoing GOP and the incoming Dem president. The bankers blackmailed the US government, but it was a criminal act of presidential treason that paid them off, and was rapidly repeated in all wealthy nations. America is leading the world to economic ruin.

As a result we have the insanity of both today's candidates saying, directly and indirectly, that America cannot afford to do anything to prevent global climate catastrophe. The climate policies of both are no policy: business as usual, increasing dependence on fossil fuels for the US economy. That is a global death sentence making the next American president committed to global treason.

No doubt it would all be worse under Romney, but it is all still a most terrible crime under Obama. We are still left hoping for a great change in America and the world deserves so much better. 

The main message from this election comes from an unsaid oxymoron. America and the world must be ruined for The Economy. Remember the image in Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth -- the scale with the planet and the bars of gold? On today's tospy turvy scale, the planet goes down as the gold goes up. 

What are the big mad robber bankers doing behind the scenes of this presidential election distraction, I wonder?