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ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #200 on: May 08, 2013, 05:37:23 PM »
So long as the oil holds out we can overcome weathers inconsistencies but there will be a long term cost to the climate system. Greenhouses,refrigeration,transcontinental shipping,fertilizers,deep water pumping,and luxury foods all depend on our Faustian bargain . We can redirect some luxury,corn ethanol production, and general food waste as oil and food prices rise but restructuring the entire food production system to feed 7-8-9 billion people will take more than a new bargain with the devil and it's going to have to happen while  climate instability increases.     As a personal note I have switched from fishing to farming( a crappy financial decision ) partly because I can run all my farm tractors and rototillers for a year ( 50-60 gallons ) for what it takes to run my boat for one day. I know what Co2 will do to the oceans and I may fail as a farmer but I have to try to figure out how to decarbonize my footprint or I will drive myself nuts. My customers don't pay me extra for sweat equity but if there is anything I can do for future generations it is figuring how to reduce my carbon inputs to near zero while still producing tons of produce for market. Solar water pumping, solar powered tillers, electric transportation to market and lots of hand labor can get me most of the way there. If I ever pull it all together I will be able to die contented but until then I know I have contributed my share to the oncoming catastrophe. Trying to pull it off gives me the extra energy it takes to crawl around and pull weeds, the money part I will ignore until the bankers want the farm back.   
I'm guessing it isn't feasible any more to use a sailing boat to fish with instead?

I can agree the supply of fossil fuels (faustian though it may be) will help fight the onset of adverse climatic conditions somewhat, including in agriculture. However, I am not able to see how it can provide much more than a mild counter effect - after all - how does one cool a large region down if the heat is simply too high for the crop in question? Or how do you stop it raining if you have major flooding? Or from being too cold? The one thing I can see offhand that isn't disputable is you can pump up groundwater to irritate and counter drought (assuming groundwater is available in that region). A sufficient supply of fossil fuel doesn't historically appear to counter extreme weather in terms of crop production except in irrigation terms.

fred

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #201 on: May 08, 2013, 06:04:33 PM »
I think the idea that a market economy exists that will level food prices and restore food to everyone is wrong.

I think that ideal might exist in a single roughly homogenous economy. over the scope of the entire world, i think it is absurd.

Over on Wunderground, someone recently posted about the Indian suicides and Monsanto. Take that as you will, where was the market then? Regardless of cause, the suicides are facts. So is drought, etc.

And this will get worse, not better, as food prices go higher. Imagine the reaction in the US if we decided to contribute more money to ship food to Africa in an environment of rising prices? The GOP would go crazy as would a lot of Dems.

So a lot of third world people die, which leads to a lot of revolutions, extremism, etc. That is what I fear more than direct physical causes: our track record of solving disputes peacefully is poor at best. Look at congress today. How are they going to solve anything when situations start getting bad?


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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #202 on: May 08, 2013, 06:40:20 PM »
"when and how bad"... Now! And for the last half decade... Now! We are at and most probably beyond the initial tipping points. Out future reality is already here and now. We are living the exponential slope, which for me is an amazing thing, to have been born and to have come to understand this moment in history is simply amazing. The arctic ocean is melting before our eyes, the global climate system is already changing, and my only hope is that peak oil has already happened since 2005 which lessens our impact... too late but hopefully not the worst case scenario - our species extinction.

And hope dear friends is all we have. I hope we live to see the death of planetary empire without a nuclear holocaust, which would be far too stupid an ending to this story. Here where the wasteland grows, the saving power reigns... whatever happens for the good I would be happy to see its beginnings.

TerryM

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #203 on: May 08, 2013, 07:11:16 PM »
Fred


You echo my concerns. If we base future performance on past performance - we're toast.


Zeug


I don't see the end of our species - at least not short term, but do think the grandkids should study flintknapping ;>{


Terry

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #204 on: May 08, 2013, 07:40:00 PM »
"when and how bad"... Now! And for the last half decade... Now! We are at and most probably beyond the initial tipping points. Out future reality is already here and now. We are living the exponential slope, which for me is an amazing thing, to have been born and to have come to understand this moment in history is simply amazing. The arctic ocean is melting before our eyes, the global climate system is already changing, and my only hope is that peak oil has already happened since 2005 which lessens our impact... too late but hopefully not the worst case scenario - our species extinction.

And hope dear friends is all we have. I hope we live to see the death of planetary empire without a nuclear holocaust, which would be far too stupid an ending to this story. Here where the wasteland grows, the saving power reigns... whatever happens for the good I would be happy to see its beginnings.

Quite a pessimistic view. It's too bad that hopes are often smashed into nothing as negativity tends to populate the future.

Bruce Steele

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #205 on: May 08, 2013, 09:16:08 PM »
Ccgwebmaster, most fishing by sail was done when salted fish was popular. It is important to consider the entire Co2 footprint for foods. Some fishing methods can capture fish for 6 gallons fuel for each ton of fish protein produced. That is better than any modern farm production. Calories in calories out. Fish that can be processed with salt, or frozen and shipped by boat will always have less of a carbon footprint than fresh fish airfreighted far away. My fishery is fresh and airfreighted. There will be fishermen as long as there are humans, airplanes I'm not so sure.The huge problems with acidification and ocean heating are terrestrial issues spilling over into upcoming ocean extinctions. I haven't ignored my responsibilities to protect fish stocks while being a fisherman but nothing I can do at sea will prevent or even delay the carbon bomb lobbed into the ocean. So I have decided to change things on land. It would be wise to try to ease the transition for the upcoming bottleneck, ours.   

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #206 on: May 09, 2013, 10:15:11 AM »
Ccgwebmaster, most fishing by sail was done when salted fish was popular. It is important to consider the entire Co2 footprint for foods. Some fishing methods can capture fish for 6 gallons fuel for each ton of fish protein produced. That is better than any modern farm production. Calories in calories out. Fish that can be processed with salt, or frozen and shipped by boat will always have less of a carbon footprint than fresh fish airfreighted far away. My fishery is fresh and airfreighted. There will be fishermen as long as there are humans, airplanes I'm not so sure.The huge problems with acidification and ocean heating are terrestrial issues spilling over into upcoming ocean extinctions. I haven't ignored my responsibilities to protect fish stocks while being a fisherman but nothing I can do at sea will prevent or even delay the carbon bomb lobbed into the ocean. So I have decided to change things on land. It would be wise to try to ease the transition for the upcoming bottleneck, ours.
Is there any reason why sail power wouldn't be viable again though - at least for "smaller" fishing vessels? Am I right to think if you're bulk fishing they'd be displacement hulls and therefore not necessarily much faster than sail? (depending on the wind of course)

I guess sail won't give you enough power to trawl as deep - not sure if that's exactly a bad thing.

If one was catching a smaller number of fish to sell individually (not sure what the proper term is) you'd need a catamaran or something if speed was critical and even then you'd likely have a substantial speed penalty potentially over a fast engine driven boat (until you get into the really exotic sailing stuff).

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #207 on: May 09, 2013, 04:52:33 PM »
Cassava disease

Here is another one of the types of problems that show up in agriculture with climate change.  Note that the article indicates that this disease is now spreading to higher altitudes.  As the climate warms crop diseases migrate as well, some into new areas.  It does not take much imagination is see that the problem described in the article could have significant impacts on a large population near term.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/scientist-cassava-disease-spread-alarming-rate-19125949#.UYu19Enn8cA

another big worry is soybean rust. 
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Bruce Steele

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #208 on: May 09, 2013, 04:57:10 PM »
Ccgwebmaster , Sail will eventually be a common form of transport again but I have seen fuel rise from 25 cents to $4.00 and still not too many sail assisted fishing boats. We repowered with more efficient engines and modern weather forecasting has helped prevent failed fishing trips. I believe sail may require some management incentives. The idea of ocean wilderness areas where fishing is only allowed for non-motorized boats is one potential plan but so far I haven't heard of anyone putting one in place. Nobody in fish management has really looked acidification in the eye yet . I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record but to save the ocean we have to change what is happening on land. As a percentage of the population fishermen are a bit of a political non-entity. We have been beaten up by the NGO community ,good fishermen with the bad, and frankly we are afraid to deal with them. If I get into fish politics I may draw some unwelcome interest to this science based forum so I will desist. 

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #209 on: May 09, 2013, 05:20:46 PM »
some interesting figures that I copied from TOD.  A situation that just cannot end well.

Egypt
Population 1960: 27.8 million
 Population 2008: 81.7 million
 Current population growth rate: 2% per annum (a 35-year doubling rate)
 Population in 2046 after another doubling: 164 million

Rainfall average over whole country: ~ 2 inches per year
 Highest rainfall region: Alexandria, 7.9 inches per year
 Arable land (almost entirely in the Nile Valley): 3%
 Arable land per capita: 0.04 Ha (400 m2)
 Arable land per capita in 2043: 0.02 Ha
 Food imports: 40% of requirements
 Grain imports: 60% of requirements

Net oil exports: Began falling in 1997, went negative in 2007
 Oil production peaked in 1996
 Cost of oil rising steeply
 Cost of oil and food tightly linked

And projections of future temp and precipitation for north Africa are not such to inspire optimism.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Agres

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #210 on: May 09, 2013, 05:55:38 PM »
It will take hundreds of years for the full impacts of carbon feedback(s) to propagate through the entire climate system.

Over that period of hundreds of years, Earth will likely lose most of its species.  We have set this in motion.  Now, we need to take action to survive it.
 
Within a decade, industrial agriculture will become unstable, resulting in repeated short or even failed crops, and wide spread famine. Workers will leave jobs/cities to look for food. Without workers, the industrial products that support industrial agriculture will not be available and thus within 2 decades, industrial agriculture, as we know it, will collapse.  The bottom line is always food. 

A key problem is that today all farm equipment use computer chips. (And computer chips have long supply lines.)    That means the whole system starts to fail when factory workers in Asia cannot afford food. Then, a soybean farmer in Brazil or the US cannot get the parts to fix their tractors to produce food for factory workers in Asia. If those tractor parts are not available, then corn, wheat, cotton, rice and other crops are also affected.  If we are to maintain industrial agricultural production, we need to feed all the workers in all the supply lines that make farm equipment, farm chemicals, and all the things that a farmer needs to be productive.  Economics assumes that rising food prices will always result increased  food production.   Drought and flood make that a bad assumption in a time of global warming. Sometimes a food shortage merely leads to runaway inflation.

Since WWII, global food production has increased as a result of a subsidy from cheap energy.  Cheap energy allowed lavish use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and irrigation. (Most of the full life cycle energy cost used to grow lettuce in California and serve it in NYC, goes to pump irrigation water.  Second largest energy cost goes to manufacture of chemicals and fertilizer used on the lettuce.)  Since WWII, global food production has also increased as a result putting increasing amounts of land under cultivation.  Today, the land  most suitable for cultivation is being cultivated. At this point, cultivating additional land would result in very little additional crop production, but would require large outlays of energy for fertilizer, chemicals, infrastructure, and irrigation.  This year, farmers are planting land that has not been planted since the Dust Bowel.  Yes, there is vacant land, but the most productive land is in use, and the vacant land for some reason is less productive.  Greenhouse/high tunnel technology changes the crop mix, it does not bring new land into production or reduce energy use. Some land in the US in 2013 is being planted more in the expectation of government crop insurance payments, than for the value of the crop. The increased production by use of marginal land has a high cost, thereby raising the average price of food. 

By and large, we have over-fished our oceans.  Today, our catches are supported by computer technology  that find the last few fish, squid, and krill.  Increased fishing is not going to replace short or failed agricultural crops caused by drought or flood. And, the price of fish protein is higher than the cost of soybean protein.  Without the supply chains that produce computer chips, fishing will collapse.  With Ocean Acidification, fishing is likely to collapse, anyway. 

Today, much of our fish comes from aquaculture. Modern aquaculture requires crop products from industrial agriculture. If the soybean or corn crop fails, then the fish crop also fails.

Within 30 years, we are likely going to be back to substance agriculture, with crops that have not widely cultivated in the US and Europe for a long time. Without the subsidies of fossil guano and cheap fossil fuels, the economics of food production will change. Most human effort will go into food production.  Civilization as we have known it for the last 200 years will no longer be tenable.  We might be back to something more like Homer's description of life, with each family dependent on the food that they grow, and most human effort going to food production (and the occasional war).

Solar might provide the energy to produce pesticides and fertilizer, but all solar technologies require huge industrial supply chains, and we are not planning to secure those supply chains in a time of social turmoil as the reality of climate change rapidly unfolds.   Large supply chains mean that somebody much produce a large surplus of food to feed the supply chain.

I would love to be proved wrong on all of the above points.  However, most rebuttals start by ignoring the physics of sea floor clathrates and the behavior of clathrates in some Arctic permafrost structures.  Rebuttals also ignore current rates of deep  ocean warming, the melting point depression of ice under pressure, and the structural changes that occur as permafrost melts. Melting permafrost tends to release carbon into the Earth's atmosphere.

Any climate model that does not include carbon feedback is best suited to teaching climate science to second graders. By the time students get to 5th grade, they need to know the truth  - carbon feedback is a long steep curve. All policy and planning  need to include risk factors such as carbon feedbacks.  It may not be too late to survive, but the situation is more dire than most admit, and urgent, aggressive action will be required just to survive.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #211 on: May 09, 2013, 06:08:48 PM »
some interesting figures that I copied from TOD.  A situation that just cannot end well.

Egypt
Does Egypt stand out though - or just one of a growing number?

It's a creeping source of social stress that is sneaking up on us, a gradual trickling of gasoline onto the firewood, if you will. Most people on focus the spark that ignites it - the vegetable seller that self immolates (for example) and largely fails to understand the invisible (as it is mostly ignored) shift that took the situation to such a volatile point.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #212 on: May 09, 2013, 06:25:06 PM »
If we are to maintain industrial agricultural production, we need to feed all the workers in all the supply lines that make farm equipment, farm chemicals, and all the things that a farmer needs to be productive.
Phosphates are a good example. Most of the exports coming from Africa (Morocco especially). If Jordan crumbles under the weight of Syrian refugees however, it contributes a useful chunk to the global market.
It may not be too late to survive, but the situation is more dire than most admit, and urgent, aggressive action will be required just to survive.
Not a lot for me to argue about in what you said - what do you think appropriate urgent and aggressive action would consist of? Do you see any signs of it happening? What is the lead time to implement it? Who implements it? What is the outcome sought?

birthmark

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #213 on: May 09, 2013, 06:39:35 PM »
Agres, that is pretty much the way I see things and on the same time scale.

ritter

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #214 on: May 09, 2013, 07:20:52 PM »
Agres,

Well said. The only thing I'd like to add is that some folk are under the misunderstanding that we can "simply" shift agriculture to where the new climate regime stabilizes. Well, that requires appropriate soil, photoperiodism, infrastructure for distribution, new water sources and new skill sets. It is not simple and is largely unfeasible in the timescale we are looking at. We have "simply" set in motion a drastic global climate change that is occurring in a timescale that does not allow for evolution and little adaptation.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #215 on: May 09, 2013, 07:42:15 PM »
Agres,

Well said. The only thing I'd like to add is that some folk are under the misunderstanding that we can "simply" shift agriculture to where the new climate regime stabilizes. Well, that requires appropriate soil, photoperiodism, infrastructure for distribution, new water sources and new skill sets. It is not simple and is largely unfeasible in the timescale we are looking at. We have "simply" set in motion a drastic global climate change that is occurring in a timescale that does not allow for evolution and little adaptation.
I think humanity can expect to evolve and adapt at least as much as most other species. What I think people tend to not appreciate is what rapid evolution looks like.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804133446.htm
http://blog.motheyes.com/2010/08/rapid-adaptation-to-temperature-change/

Now, humans aren't so different really. If placed under extreme stress, we will "evolve" in exactly the same way - a massive mortality of individuals that do not possess a suitable genetic shuffle. That is what the fastest evolution and adaptation looks like - a rapid elimination of unsuitable genetics (with extinction as a risk, but we have better odds in our favour than most species). Arguably epigenetics may also provide some input into rapid "evolution" but that only applies in cases of initial survival of organisms to a point where they can reproduce.

Before everyone rushes into the comforting delusion that wealth (rather than genetics) will determine who survives - I'd like to suggest the role of genetics in a few key factors driving people's inability to comprehend or respond to the situation:
- high proportion of individuals with "optimism bias", removing their ability to perceive reality
- any genetic traits for long term planning and aggressive preparation for such threats
- physical and mental strength in the face of adversity

Wealth only has the value people agree it is worth.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #216 on: May 09, 2013, 08:01:46 PM »
Just in case anyone is interested in the epigenetics angle (I found it fascinating when I first encountered it):
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120229091844.htm

ritter

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #217 on: May 09, 2013, 08:50:55 PM »
I think humanity can expect to evolve and adapt at least as much as most other species. What I think people tend to not appreciate is what rapid evolution looks like.

Being a large and long-lived species, we are at a decided disadvantage in the evolution game. To my mind, what you describe is a population crash with some survival at the bottom, not evolution. My fear is that the time of consequence will occur within one human generation (this one).

However, we do have an advantage in adaptation. Our technology is certainly more advanced than other species, even if our wisdom is not!

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #218 on: May 09, 2013, 09:31:29 PM »
Being a large and long-lived species, we are at a decided disadvantage in the evolution game. To my mind, what you describe is a population crash with some survival at the bottom, not evolution. My fear is that the time of consequence will occur within one human generation (this one).

However, we do have an advantage in adaptation. Our technology is certainly more advanced than other species, even if our wisdom is not!
Certainly those are our main two liabilities (reproductive cycle and body size).

But we're:
- widely distributed
- able to regular our own body temperature (within limits)
- able to extend the range of the above substantially with our opposable thumbs and brain
- omnivorous
- able to migrate long distance (even at much lower technological levels)
- proven track record at adapting to just about everything from near desert to icy wasteland

If I started to make a list of species more likely or less likely (in my opinion) to go extinct than humans - a lot more names end up in the "more likely" side. Not so many do better - cockroaches and rats both show promise though?

Maybe we ought to toss a big shiny "rosetta stone" into geostationary orbit for the future rodent super predators to retrieve and decode in however many millions (tens? hundreds?) of years time  :D

If it really were too late for us in the end, we could at least try to warn the next bunch of idiots to come along.

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #219 on: May 09, 2013, 09:36:22 PM »
Agres,

Well put.
Being a retired organic farmer (and before that a retired engineer) I have been following the issues of agricultural production, energy supplies (peak oil), climate change, and the complexities of industrial production for close to 10 years now.  In addition I have worked through the sequence of Limits to Growth books to include the most recent "2050" by Randers.  I agree that Randers is likely a little to optimistic with his dates on when the big declines in agricultural production occur (and with it population) but I come to a different conclusion on when it happens.

The 'System', I believe, is very resilient in terms of how it is possible to prioritize resources when the decline (or plateau if you will) starts to kick in.  Agriculture will get priority over many other needs and many of the high tech advances in equipment are not essential to industrial production.  Rather they facilitate doing more with less people.  We are going to have lots of people if we need them to work in agriculture.  We can prioritize fuel needs as well. And let us not forget that our societies likely response will be to double down on industrial efforts and there is lots of slack in the system to do that. Just think of how far increasing energy efficiencies could stretch out the day of reckoning if/when we finally take that path.  My reading of when likely climate destabilization will occur comes up with dates much later than yours as well.

Therefore, I do not share your conclusion of 20 years to the collapse of industrial agriculture and 30 years to subsistence levels of agriculture.  My estimated date of the big drop off in industrial ag is somewhere around mid-century followed shortly thereafter by large scale population reductions.  I don't see global subsistence agricultural occurring for the lucky few anytime in the forseeable future.  The rich and powerful countries should be able to control resources and create sufficient infrastructure to maintain a fairly robust level of complexity for at least 100 years if not permanently. This is not to say that the vast majority of the worlds peoples will fall into such a lucky position. But, as they say, life is not fair and when crunch time comes no one is going to share with anyone more than absolutely necessary.   So I don't think that wholesale population reduction means the end for everyone nor does it mean the end of technology (just a reduction in complexity).
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #220 on: May 10, 2013, 04:56:24 PM »
Like many others, I mostly agree with Agres' well worded post. (Any relation to '03 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Peter Agre?)

Few doomsteads or local areas are truly self-sufficient, and when supply chains break down as they will, repairs of crucial components (not to mention any new purchases of tech) become...problematic.

We have already seen large occasional weather extremes--mega-heat waves, mega-droughts, mega-floods, massive crop loss--some of which were arguably cemtral causes of major political disruptions (Russia heat wave '10 with consequent stoppage of wheat export--Egypt was their largest importer, iirc > Arab Spring).

These weather extremes will become essentially permanent features, with political consequences that will be predictable in being more and more disruptive to a larger and larger part of global society, but unpredictable in exactly where, when and how hard they fall.

ccg, the numbers for most of the rest of the Middle East / North Africa are comparable to Egypt's figures; some worse (Yemen, iirc), some better. South Asia is another region that has very high populations and major future problems with falling aquifers, rising sea levels, probable shifts in monsoon patters that will prove catastrophic...

Is Europe going to absorb the potentially billions of climate refugees from these regions? Russia? Canada? US?

Jim, you may be right, but those projections seem a tad optimistic to me. Most of the plains states in the US are already in long-term drought. Perhaps they will get some relief later this year. But at some point the stalled systems that caused this drought will stall even longer, and will remain in place for more than one growing season over much of the most productive ag areas of the US (and elsewhere). As a former farmer, perhaps you can enlighten us city-dwellers about what happens when farm fields get essentially no rain for over two years.

A larger point we might consider is whether we as a species have earned the right to be one of the few species to squeeze through the mass extinction bottle neck we have created. Do we deserve to survive the sh!t storm we have created?

These are not questions we generally want to consider, of course.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #221 on: May 10, 2013, 05:47:58 PM »
A larger point we might consider is whether we as a species have earned the right to be one of the few species to squeeze through the mass extinction bottle neck we have created. Do we deserve to survive the sh!t storm we have created?
Members of the species that didn't actively cause this problem in any substantive measure, particularly those who have lived in harmony with their respective landscapes for thousands of years (or tried to - in some cases industrial society has actively destroyed their way of life) - why shouldn't they deserve to survive?

For anyone to ask such a question they should first ask themselves if they, individually, deserve to survive.

As with the causes of this problem, it's comfortable to delegate individual responsibilities to the collective or to the leadership - but not necessarily morally correct to do so.

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #222 on: May 10, 2013, 08:09:07 PM »
Wili,

One of the things that makes a blog a good read is having folks post that have a wide range of knowledge and experiences.  Since only about 1% of folks in the industrialized world still work as farmers I would have expected that the perspective of one who has been a commercial farmer might be valuable.  But your mileage may vary as they say.

Few doomsteads or local areas are truly self-sufficient, and when supply chains break down as they will, repairs of crucial components (not to mention any new purchases of tech) become...problematic.

Part of the reason I do not think that supply chains will break down as quick as many seem to think they will is I think folks underestimate how priorities on supplying crucial components can be reorganized in a reasonable timeframe.  After all, what we are talking about here is supply chains that support industrial farming.  These are not anywhere near as fragile as one might think.  Computerization of large farm equipment primarily is oriented towards reducing labor requirements and secondarily oriented towards increasing productivity.  There are a limited number of countries that both design and build such equipment.  They are all amongst those countries which are rich and powerful.  Such countries can go a long way towards ensuring that they get what resources they need and, if necessary, they can pull production back from the peripheral countries that they have shifted production to during globalization.  Those secondary countries (Turkey for example builds a lot of small to midsized tractors, 90-200hp, for the big US manufacturers) can always trade production for bulk grains as times get harder.  We can do without the computerization with little real loss.  Farm equipment lasts a LONG TIME and is not hard to maintain as it is pretty simple stuff.  I had neighbors who were using tractors made in the 1950's. 

These weather extremes will become essentially permanent features, with political consequences that will be predictable in being more and more disruptive to a larger and larger part of global society, but unpredictable in exactly where, when and how hard they fall.

The difference in what we think here is in our readings of the literature on when this occurs.  The numbers I see from the peer reviewed literature and comments by those who are doing that research seem to indicate that we will not see that for 40 or so years yet.  Earlier estimates seem to be based upon assuming conditions will deteriorate more rapidly than the literature indicates. I admit it is a concern of mine as well, but I am not the expert so I am accepting the science as published that's all.

Is Europe going to absorb the potentially billions of climate refugees from these regions? Russia? Canada? US?

This is something that I have commented on before.  My contention is that none of the industrialized/powerful countries are going to accept any meaningful amount of refugees at all.  I am certain that it will not occur in North America as a thing will be prevented by force (extreme force if necessary).  Plus, due to geography, it is extremely difficult to get here on a large scale.  When European countries are truly threatened by mass immigration they will act violently as well. But, once again, they are in pretty good position geographically.  Africa, sometime in the future, is simply toast (I am not being cruel, it is just unavoidable), but it is clear that they are not going anywhere in mass numbers.  I include Egypt in this group as well.  Their only path would be to proceed counterclockwise around the Med and it is not hard to guess what difficulties would be entailed there.  I could go on as there are equal arguments for pretty much anywhere.  I just simply do not think that one can logically present a scenario where there are large global scale migrations.  Those that have the better situation just will not permit it and those wanting to move will be very debilitated by the time they come to the conclusion it is time to move and just will not be able to make it happen.  Life is cruel and it is going to get a lot crueler.  There is simply no way to reduce population quickly other than mass deaths.

Most of the plains states in the US are already in long-term drought. Perhaps they will get some relief later this year. But at some point the stalled systems that caused this drought will stall even longer, and will remain in place for more than one growing season over much of the most productive ag areas of the US (and elsewhere). As a former farmer, perhaps you can enlighten us city-dwellers about what happens when farm fields get essentially no rain for over two years.

Once again, we differ on when we think this will happen.  But you should take a look at how much food was grown over the last 2 years in those very areas you refer to up above.  There were big shortfalls but there was no complete collapse.  Until the Ogalla Acquifer goes dry the American Midwest will grow huge amounts of food drought or not.  And let's not forget that America grows food far in excess to its own needs and we will still be exporting food in large volumes even if we had a drop in overall production of a third.  Not to mention we have vast acreages of mediocre to poor arable land that is not being farmed at all we could put back into production (for instance the land I farmed in Virginia was not cropped for probably 60 years before I started raising vegetables on it.  It had just been used for grazing cattle and had not even had corn grown on it for 20+ years.  There are millions of acres just like this in the eastern US that are not being used.
   
A larger point we might consider is whether we as a species have earned the right to be one of the few species to squeeze through the mass extinction bottle neck we have created. Do we deserve to survive the sh!t storm we have created?


A philosophical point to discuss over a few beers perhaps, but not relevant to the real world situation.  Our species will do everything possible to survive just like all others.  There is no thought in it as it comes from our DNA and evolution.  It doesn't matter what we deserve or what would be humane.  It just is what it is.  I think it highly likely we survive as a species and that we will maintain some semblance of civilization in the process.  That being said, 200-300 years from now there will probably not be more than 500 million to a billion of us and those who stand the ground will be hard men and few of us today would fare well in a competition with them.

I fully agree that we are heading for the cliff and the time to hit the brakes is in the past.  I am convinced we are going to crash big time.  I do not think we have it in us to do the smart thing as it flies in the face of our nature.  We need a miracle at this point and it is always possible we will invent our way out of this mess.  Personally I think this is exactly what those in charge are banking on.  They better be right is all I can say.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #223 on: May 11, 2013, 04:33:04 AM »
Jim, I hope you're right about timing and resilience. Old farm equipment can be quite long lasting and easily repaired. Is this also true of most modern equipment?

The Ogallala is already running low in some areas, irrc. The last two years were only a tiny taste of the mega-droughts that are on our doorstep.

Keep in mind that, contrary to what denialists may say, most scientists are extremely reticent, and tend to down play dire predictions. Also, in some famous cases, models of future developments turned out to be universally and enormously optimistic--Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral, anyone?

Specifically, models have not been incorporating a soon-to-be essentially ice free Arctic. Nor do they factor in carbon cycles. So there is plenty of reason to assume that most published projections of time-frames for an increasingly chaotic climate are optimistic.

ccg, please don't assume that I consider my self worthy of pretty much anything. And certainly, the young and the poor generally don't deserve what we have handed to them. But as a species, we certainly seem to have done a remarkably effective job of smashing everything up. Perhaps it should be posed as whether Industrial Civilization has deserved the right to be perpetuated.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

Bruce Steele

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #224 on: May 11, 2013, 06:12:21 AM »
JimD, If I hear you correctly you are saying the weather will hold together till ~2050 and Agres says we will be back to subsistence within 30 years. This isn't a spread that should give anyone confidence in stability. From what I know about ocean acidification the very first places ( the polar seas and the U.S. west coast )will have annual  surface undersaturation cycles by 2050 but the big hits to the ocean are beyond 2050. A very large part food production ,both fishing and farming , is dedicated to luxury foods, airfreight and frankly energy that can be redirected to staples if necessary . I would support the 2050 horizon as a problem more than the short term .For fishing and farming both. Pacific  west coast fishstocks are very healthy with almost zero overfishing ( overfishing defined at fishing stocks below 25% of virgin biomass). I am confident we will find a way to keep society running and push the throttle down, that is the trend that will get us. That is what will push Co2 past 570 and beyond and that is also what will precipitate a change in ocean pH that surpasses the PETM. So the stability of the system ,the ability of technology to extract the hydrocarbons, and the truculence of the powers that be , scare me more than subsistence .     

Laurent

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #225 on: May 11, 2013, 10:33:41 AM »
As a member of that specie, I want to say, if I had known that earlier (at max 2007) I would have done differently and I guess a lot of people would fall from their chair when they will understand the consequences ! We need not to stop science and technology but rethink them completely so that we abandon fossil fuels ! The problem is bigger than the fossil fuel, it is also the quantity of energy that we are dumping in the atmosphere (nuclear power...). We should stop shitting us by not counting all the energy and CO2 (chemicals) necessary to make any particular stuff  (farming stuff especially). In reality that mean that everything the world will make should be done locally (97 % less than 10km,  2% less than 100km, 0,95% less than 1000km, 0,5% less than 20.000km). Coming back to sailing boat would be a good idea, it doesn't have to be a complete return, we may modernize the system ! There is a lot of stuff where that does seem to be impossible ! I don't know if it is possible but we have to try !
This a war, we have to redirect all the means of the society toward that goal (reducing CO2, sequestring in fact (CH4,NO2...) and energy), autonomy of the populations, decentralization (how to remain united ? hum, hum...)

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #226 on: May 11, 2013, 05:21:24 PM »
Wili,

Well a lot of the high tech computer controls and sensors can be worked around by someone with knowledge and time (which would be available), but it would also not take the John Deere engineers more than a few months of work to design an older style wiring and control system to replace the state of the art types.  Afterall we used to make all the equipment with that type of wiring and controls and it is just a matter of updating designs.  Just like we could throw away all the modern electronic doodads found on the 2013 cars and replace them with 1970 technology without too much pain and suffering.  And then anyone could fix them again.  This is just the ratcheting back of technology that a decrease in complexity requires. As to how long the equipment can last it is more due to how badly you need to keep it running.  Tax law and loan rates are the driving factor on when folks buy new equipment, not whether it is worn out.  All moving parts are repairable in general and the others can be welded.  For example, my neighbor last fall brought over to my shop a 100 HP IH that was made in the 70's that had a transmission failure.  He is 63 and, other than a couple of pieces that were too heavy or awkward to lift by himself, he dismantled the tractor, figured out what was wrong, ordered parts (parts to all farm equipment made since circa 1950 are still almost universally available and you can even find parts for much of the horse drawn equipment made after 1900), replaced them and reassembled in a week.  All  with hand tools. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the way farm equipment is going to go for a time is towards even larger more sophisticated machines.  Not simpler.  An example of this are the modern robotic large tractors.  A company in Minn is building a robotic tractor to compete in the largest category of machines.  These tractors do not even have a  seat for a driver.  One sets up a farm based geolocating (not GPS) system and the tractor is programed what function it is to do where and off it goes.  There are going to be corn/soybean/wheat farmers out there who are farming 2000+ acres all by themselves other than at harvest time in the near future.  This ability leads to interesting discussions on what our future food production needs are and what options are available to those making decisions.  There is no guarantee that large numbers of people will be required to grow the bulk of the basic food items.

I am aware that scientists are professional conservative about predictions and that we may be over taken by events earlier than I expect.  I am sure a factor in my thinking relates to when I first got interested in environmental issues in HS.  I participated in the first Earth Day demonstrations because I had decided that we only had about 20-25 years before there were going to be catastrophic problems if we didn't act.  Well, largely, we didn't.  And where are we now over 40 years later?  Still waiting for those building problems to over take us.  We are closer now of course, but I think there is a lesson there.  An awful lot of things have to go wrong at once to have a quick climate collapse and I just don't see it happening that way.  To turn philosophical a bit.  If  we deserve the fate approaching us then it would be more appropriate that we suffer for a long time rather than get it over with quickly :)

Bruce.  I agree.  We are arguing about angels on pin heads.  Both views
are describing disaster and we are doubling down as a society and will be truly sorry about it in time.  Would we could have the ability to think our way out of the problem.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #227 on: May 11, 2013, 09:58:27 PM »
Having hit the 400 PPM mark with Carbon Dioxide along with increasing the chances of certain feedbacks (Albedo, Permafrost etc) coming into play, there is a chance that a large amount of Climate Catastrophes could happen all at once, but that is possibly just a sensationalist prediction. 

LurkyMcLurkerson

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #228 on: May 11, 2013, 10:05:11 PM »
I just wanted to add that I have grown up and spent much of my time in farm country, too, and know many farmers very closely. And utterly disagree with your perspective there, Jim D.

A lot of land in the southern San Joaquin Valley of CA has been fallow on and off over the last ~5 years because _there isn't enough water_ to farm it. That's not really solvable with just a dam or two. The snowmelt that made much of this state farmable is in huge decline. There is nowhere else we can magically get the water, if it fails. Our reservoirs will save us this year, but if next winter is dry, CA is totally agriculturally screwed. There are many places in this position. There _isn't_ more water to simply capture well, regardless of the rest of the impacts of dams.

Add to that that much of the land that is currently _not_ in production is nowhere near as productive in terms of soil nutrition, seasonal (light!) cycles, etc.

But the real elephant in the room as regards food production, as far as I'm concerned, isn't even just about that. I think the point that many have missed -- and I missed it myself for years, figuring we had more time before this really bit us as regards food production -- is that _all_ farming, in _any_ climate or soil type, and with any method, absolutely requires some reasonably predictable set of seasonal shifts in temperature, precipitation, etc.

What we're seeing now doesn't seem to me to be a steady shift to a new climate state. What we're seeing now seems to me to be total disequilibrium, the whole climate system flying around hither and yon until it can find a set of circumstances that satisfies the laws of physics in a stable way. Until that happens -- and I don't predict that it will soon, we're not even stable in terms of ice and snow, etc -- we're looking at a completely chaotic mess of a system, droughts followed by floods, wildfires out of control, rains or huge temp anomalies at completely abnormal times of year.

As a farmer, I'm sure you're also aware that it doesn't take very long of totally weird weather to ruin entire crops in a huge area. That has happened in the past from time to time and here and there, but it's happening _everywhere_ right now, frequently. In the past, a bad wheat crop in one part of the world could be made up for by a good one somewhere else -- that was the strength of our markets. What do you do when almost all of the wheat is bad?

Flooding one place, drought elsewhere, freezes at times nobody was prepped for. That is _very hard farming_.

I highly recommend poking around at the USDA crop reports over time before discussing agriculture's adaptations: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=AGENCY_REPORTS

Because there is a lot more to this than land and averaged temps, and even _there_ we're skipping some things (seen what's happening with pests lately? Lots of bugs and fungi are really digging the progression toward warmth.)

Ag is one of the places where averaging everything becomes weird, because a few days of extreme anomaly can really make a huge difference. A lot of this thread is assuming a steady change over the next while. What we're _seeing_, and what is looking more and more likely from the actual real-life data we're getting, is a destabilized system full of huge anomalies, with a trend overall going hotter globally, but with a totally chaotic localized set of weather patterns basically _everywhere_.

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #229 on: May 11, 2013, 10:58:19 PM »
I just wanted to add that I have grown up and spent much of my time in farm country, too, and know many farmers very closely. And utterly disagree with your perspective there, Jim D.

A lot of land in the southern San Joaquin Valley of CA has been fallow on and off over the last ~5 years because _there isn't enough water_ to farm it. That's not really solvable with just a dam or two. The snowmelt that made much of this state farmable is in huge decline. There is nowhere else we can magically get the water, if it fails. Our reservoirs will save us this year, but if next winter is dry, CA is totally agriculturally screwed. There are many places in this position. There _isn't_ more water to simply capture well, regardless of the rest of the impacts of dams.

Add to that that much of the land that is currently _not_ in production is nowhere near as productive in terms of soil nutrition, seasonal (light!) cycles, etc.

But the real elephant in the room as regards food production, as far as I'm concerned, isn't even just about that. I think the point that many have missed -- and I missed it myself for years, figuring we had more time before this really bit us as regards food production -- is that _all_ farming, in _any_ climate or soil type, and with any method, absolutely requires some reasonably predictable set of seasonal shifts in temperature, precipitation, etc.

What we're seeing now doesn't seem to me to be a steady shift to a new climate state. What we're seeing now seems to me to be total disequilibrium, the whole climate system flying around hither and yon until it can find a set of circumstances that satisfies the laws of physics in a stable way. Until that happens -- and I don't predict that it will soon, we're not even stable in terms of ice and snow, etc -- we're looking at a completely chaotic mess of a system, droughts followed by floods, wildfires out of control, rains or huge temp anomalies at completely abnormal times of year.

As a farmer, I'm sure you're also aware that it doesn't take very long of totally weird weather to ruin entire crops in a huge area. That has happened in the past from time to time and here and there, but it's happening _everywhere_ right now, frequently. In the past, a bad wheat crop in one part of the world could be made up for by a good one somewhere else -- that was the strength of our markets. What do you do when almost all of the wheat is bad?

Flooding one place, drought elsewhere, freezes at times nobody was prepped for. That is _very hard farming_.

I highly recommend poking around at the USDA crop reports over time before discussing agriculture's adaptations: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=AGENCY_REPORTS

Because there is a lot more to this than land and averaged temps, and even _there_ we're skipping some things (seen what's happening with pests lately? Lots of bugs and fungi are really digging the progression toward warmth.)

Ag is one of the places where averaging everything becomes weird, because a few days of extreme anomaly can really make a huge difference. A lot of this thread is assuming a steady change over the next while. What we're _seeing_, and what is looking more and more likely from the actual real-life data we're getting, is a destabilized system full of huge anomalies, with a trend overall going hotter globally, but with a totally chaotic localized set of weather patterns basically _everywhere_.

This comment highlights my worries for now and the foreseeable future. At the moment Ireland is already stuck in a pattern of cool temperatures and heavy rainfall which damaged the agriculture in the country last summer and with regards plant growth there was very little of it during the spring on account of the cloudy skies and the abnormally low temperatures.

A pandemonium of extremes in weather just decimating agriculture, making for difficulties in food production. When these extremes will eventually push society off the cliff into the abyss of social collapse is unknown, but I fear we might be staring at death's door, which is partially open and it only takes a small amount of wind to finally swing it open. We are past the tipping point where we can mitigate upcoming disasters. The best people can do at this stage I guess is prepare and hope for the best.

LurkyMcLurkerson

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #230 on: May 11, 2013, 11:17:15 PM »


This comment highlights my worries for now and the foreseeable future. At the moment Ireland is already stuck in a pattern of cool temperatures and heavy rainfall which damaged the agriculture in the country last summer and with regards plant growth there was very little of it during the spring on account of the cloudy skies and the abnormally low temperatures.

A pandemonium of extremes in weather just decimating agriculture, making for difficulties in food production. When these extremes will eventually push society off the cliff into the abyss of social collapse is unknown, but I fear we might be staring at death's door, which is partially open and it only takes a small amount of wind to finally swing it open. We are past the tipping point where we can mitigate upcoming disasters. The best people can do at this stage I guess is prepare and hope for the best.

I kinda figure the only thing I can honestly say at this point is that I have no idea.

I suspect that in the "first world," we're looking at more expensive food going forward, by and large, for this decade, and increasingly in the next. That will mean more hunger here, too, unless we massively change our economic situation or so on.

The effects of the hunger likely to land on the rest of the world will absolutely effect us, too, but it's too hard to predict political change, IMO. At some point, people are desperate, and they roll various sets of sociopolitical dice, more or less, and there's just no knowing how that goes from there.

I will say that the farmers I still know -- no small number, actually -- are very worried. They don't know how to farm this chaos. I can't blame them, I haven't had a really _successful_ backyard garden in several years running now, just because there has always been something really bizarre to throw it all off. Figuring out when to plant etc is nearing guesswork. And the pest problems coming alongside weakened plants is a real problem, honestly.

Details, but all ag lives or dies on the details.

I also live in a relatively poor neighborhood, and I have more than a couple of neighbors struggling to eat ok at current food prices. They'll fluctuate, but until we even all know what we're adapting _to_, the trend is likely up.

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #231 on: May 12, 2013, 12:36:33 AM »
Lurky,

I have to disagree with you.  Not to be snide but Central Valley AG is not an example of I would use of great farmland.  You are farming in a desert that is only productive as long as you have access to the full and unimpeded range of industrial agriculture as well as vast amounts of non-natural water.  In terms of basic land productivity there is far more farm land lying fallow east of the Mississippi then all of the farm land in Calif put together.  We could (if we had to) replace all CA vegetable production with unused capacity (at a much lower profit margin of course). On top of that, the poor choices in farm land use in CA (rice production for instance) use up a lot of the available water in an inefficient fashion.  Another example: I was reading last year about a 20,000 acre farm operation in CA that converted AWAY from drip irrigation back to center pivot spraying due to lack of immigrant labor as it takes 10 times as much labor to operate large drip operations compared to center pivot.  So our politics gets in the way of efficiency. 

But I do take  most of your points.  I think you misdescribe the overall   situation by extrapolating your specific situation to imply that it is applicable to all farming.  I disagree there.  Marginal farming situations - like most of CA - are going to suffer the worst and will fall out of production first.  But there will still be lots of food produced in CA (maybe a different mix of crops) until all the available water has to go to the cities. The same with the mid-west in that when the Ogalla runs dry the land will still produce a vast amount of food, of a different crop mix, due to natural rainfall.

You mention wheat production.  Here is an example on production that shows some of what I was trying to say above.  We have been in drought in the mid-west for a couple of years now, but here is the status of wheat production from this link.

http://enidnews.com/localnews/x508499169/Drought-late-freezes-cut-wheat-estimates

From article:
USDA forecasts Oklahoma’s wheat harvest to total 114 million bushels, down from 154.8 million bushels last year. The prolonged drought and several late freezes are to blame for the decrease in production, according to experts.

Kansas, the nation’s biggest wheat producer, is forecast to harvest 299.7 million bushels, down 22 percent from last year’s 382.2 million bushels. It’s also below the forecast of 313 million bushels estimated by participants in the Kansas wheat quality tour earlier this month.

Nationwide, USDA expects the winter wheat crop to be down to 1.49 billion bushels, a drop of 10 percent from last year.


This shows what I mean when I say the 'overall' system is very resilient and that we have lots of capacity.  Down only 10% overall.  Similar numbers can be shown for corn/soybeans.  We are not in any danger for some time in running out of the ability to feed 'ourselves'.  People can grow a significant amount of their vegetable requirements in their back yards if they actually need to, and we can grow vast amounts of bulk grains - even in the face of significant climate effects.  And think how much grain we would have available for human consumption if we stopped growing corn and soybeans for feed for animals and reserved it for ourselves.  If CAFO operations were banned we could grow enough food for 10 billion people today.  Not that we will do that, but it shows the possibilities.

This situation will not last forever of course.  But for sometime to come.

Your points about weather variability are very valid and the issue of pests and weeds are growing.  As you well know our evil buddies at Monsanto and Cargill have plans to deal with these issues (for a price of course- first born sons anyone).  They will churn out new GMO's and fun chemicals to maintain BAU as long as possible.  All stops will be pulled out to maintain the system.  They will not be ineffective in a short term sense.  Long term they will probably kill us all off.  Collapse in a sense might save us in that, if it happens soon enough, we might not be poisoned to death. Just joking. 

I think that the first indicator of agricultural collapse will be when we start to see significant malnutrition and hunger in first and second world countries.  In other words those counties who grow and/or can afford to purchase bulk food.  I do NOT count 3rd world countries in this metric as they will suffer food crises and starvation due to climate/weather effects and inability to afford available bulk grains long before the industrial agriculture system breaks down and substantial collapse is underway.


 
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #232 on: May 12, 2013, 01:51:38 AM »
Your points about weather variability are very valid and the issue of pests and weeds are growing.  As you well know our evil buddies at Monsanto and Cargill have plans to deal with these issues (for a price of course- first born sons anyone).  They will churn out new GMO's and fun chemicals to maintain BAU as long as possible.  All stops will be pulled out to maintain the system.  They will not be ineffective in a short term sense.  Long term they will probably kill us all off.  Collapse in a sense might save us in that, if it happens soon enough, we might not be poisoned to death. Just joking. 
I think the unpredictability of the weather is also a critical issue. I don't think it really matters so much what region you take any more - the increasing extreme weather has affected so much of the globe over the last few years. Look at the UK last year? Significant shortfall in some crops due to lack of daylight and excess rain - coming on the back of a severe (for the UK) drought. That's usually good farmland?

A pattern multiplied globally.

It should be noted that further intensification of extreme weather and variability should probably be expected on a timescale of only years as the Arctic feedback escalates. Impossible to prove but intuitively it seems to be rather probable. Rapidly worsening conditions year on year for at least a decade or two - likely longer if other feedbacks are triggered in that time (far from impossible).

Crops have thresholds past which yield loss is not proportionate to the stressor - ie a small increase in heat can cause major yield damage, as can frost at the wrong time, or numerous other things. I find it somewhat ridiculous to assume agriculture can continue basically as is for decades in light of what seems to be happening with the weather currently.
I think that the first indicator of agricultural collapse will be when we start to see significant malnutrition and hunger in first and second world countries.  In other words those counties who grow and/or can afford to purchase bulk food.  I do NOT count 3rd world countries in this metric as they will suffer food crises and starvation due to climate/weather effects and inability to afford available bulk grains long before the industrial agriculture system breaks down and substantial collapse is underway.
Malnutrition and hunger are already here in first and second world countries.

I think that needs emphasised as too many more affluent people sit in their cosy little bubble ignoring the poorer section of their own first world society.

Just because you don't see corpses in the streets yet doesn't mean people aren't going without meals, reducing the nutritional quality of their diet, sending kids to school hungry, flocking to food banks or government benefits, etc. etc.

So when is that significant?

46 million Americans on food stamps? Food bank use in the UK tripling over the last year?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/19/breadline-britain-hungry-schoolchildren-breakfast
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/look-back-in-hunger-britains-silent-scandalous-epidemic-7622363.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21636723

The regime changes in the Arab spring started with the hungry angry poor. The creeping decay of collapse by this measure is already infecting many of even the richer developed nations - fuel building up waiting for the spark.

LurkyMcLurkerson

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #233 on: May 12, 2013, 02:29:38 AM »
Eh, we'll have to agree to disagree on some of this, JimD. I was using the San Joaquin as an example, but CA farmland broadly is anything but marginal. We're a huge market, and one of the biggest export markets for many crops in the US. Ag is the reason this state's economy is so large, fundamentally.

Rice is one of the few crops that has been doing _better_ with the climate. The flooding of the rice fields is on the increase partly from the Sacramento river plain, both as flood control -- because we face both drought and flood frequently, sometimes in the same year, but that's getting really specific -- and partly as an attempt to increase the available wetland on the pacific flyway. Which is aside but only sorta. I can give _huge_ depth of details to that, frankly, and it's actually far less inefficient than one might think. Rice is a massive crop here, one of the biggest. We export rice all over the world.

I agree on the efficiency of water _use_ in much farmland, but the reality is that even with much more efficient use of water here, the held capacity of all of that Sierra snow cannot be replicated by reservoirs and will not be tackled through conservation alone, should it die out. Drip isn't possible easily for all crops, really, but I do get miffed when I see pivot spraying during drought here -- there are ways to increase efficiency, but not on the scale of what we're facing. That isn't just CA specific. I'm using CA as an example -- we're a huge ag state, believe me, you'd miss it. But water issues are going to become a huge problem for much of the country's agricultural lands, and you can't really make up for the loss _at the scale_ we're talking, any way we know.

10% down in production is serious from last year. Last year was unpleasant for a lot of crops. I'm far less sanguine than you are that we're not going downhill rather swiftly, frankly, nationwide and globally. There will be years of improvement in some crops, and it'll fluctuate around, but weather variability is seriously a problem of a huge chunk of farming across the entire globe right now. If you tell me what the year is likely to be like, I can find something I can successfully grow to eat, probably. If the year is totally variable and divorced from all historical understanding, divorced even from developing a new understanding, because it's unstable, that becomes far less true.

And backyard gardeners, by and large, are having no easier a go of that than larger commercial farms are. It takes a fair space and a lot of work to produce enough to make much of a dent, really, beyond "yay I grew these tomatoes." If the weather is screwed, your whole set of foodstuffs struggles like crazy whether you're a commercial farmer or an everyday schmuck like me now, with my .15 acre lot.

I have to agree with ccgwebmaster above. I live in a poorish neighborhood. I have hungry neighbors. I deliver them food from my garden and eggs from my chickens. They struggle to eat. No, we don't have masses dying on the street corners yet, but that's seldom how hunger actually works, at least at the beginning of hunger. They are priced out of many foodstuffs, they're living on rice and pasta, for the most part, other than our donations from this house.

Have you seen the rate of growth in SNAP? There are a lot of hungry people here, or at least people who can afford _some_ food, but not varied or nutritionally solid food, especially those who are working and therefore don't have time to do massive from-scratch preparation all the time, or grow a garden very well. Growing food is _hard work_.

I think that food insecurity is going to be the first, and nastiest, thing that hits in all of this. I think that farmers are struggling, I think that a huge chunk of our pasturelands are rated "very poor" to "poor," coinciding with very high hay prices due to drought, to the point that ranchers have started liquidating their entire herds, because they can't afford to feed them. Meat aside, I think that I huge number of crops are sketchy as hell, year to year, here and elsewhere. I wasn't aiming to make it about CA (but find calling it "marginal farmland" a little hilarious, frankly) specifically, but find many of the problems facing us here to be repeated all over the country, particularly the unpredictability of seasonal shifts and planting/harvesting times.

ggelsrinc

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #234 on: May 12, 2013, 03:38:06 PM »
I don't put faith in computer models for the Earth's climate, but I do put faith in science and common sense. A warmer Earth is a wetter Earth and the Earth has the most deserts during the height of glaciation. Even with global warming, the fact is the Earth is in an Ice Age. There is data about past interglacials which shows if the Earth warms more we can kiss our coastal cities goodbye and that includes cities like London and Washington DC. The data also shows the Earth will not lose net areas to produce food, but the areas will change, because major climate patterns will change. Consider the Neolithic Subpluvial which lasted about 4,000 years and the Abbassia Pluvial which lasted about 30,000 years. Obviously turning the Sahara green requires major changes in climate patterns, so if the Earth did so during the Holocene thermal maximum and the Eemian, why wouldn't it eventually happen again? The best model for a warmer Earth is the past Earth that was warm.

To me it isn't a safe assumption that a warmer planet - even if able to support a similar or greater vegetated area - will have exactly the right climatic regions for the crops we've spent thousands of years matching to existing locations and conditions?

America - being both large and agriculturally important - is demonstrating the sort of issues already, even before the sea ice has started to melt out in the summer. With a persistent jet stream part of the country appears to be dry and hot - and the other damp and cool. In neither side are the farmers especially happy with their lot - and yet (ironically) if you just added up the annual data for rainfall or temperature and smoothed it out enough, you probably wouldn't even see any effect in the figures. Overall - it isn't necessarily hotter or colder or wetter or dryer - but each condition is becoming more extreme. If you measured the increase in extremes, you might start to see something (as Hansen did for extremes of heat).

We don't have a problem with agriculture or technology, but we have a problem with economics and politics. Mankind hasn't wised up enough to feed starving people in the past, so why would they wise up in the near future as areas designed to produce food for past climates are changed. People aren't able to migrate away from bad areas like they were allowed in the past. As the climates change in various areas of the world, there will be unfortunate people who will benefit, but history tells me mankind will let the people who don't have something of monetary value to offer die of starvation, even with a world capable of producing enough food.
Yes, I think economics and politics definitely have issues. As illustrated earlier - agricultural decline hasn't demonstrably started yet (however strong the suspicions in some quarters (including mine) that it will soon).

Agricultural production is based on marketing and not the ability to grow a crop. I'm sure vast areas in Canada and Russia have become more productive for wheat, because the wheat belt is traveling northwards. The farmers around here grow winter wheat and soybeans to build up nitrogen for a switch to corn. The climate in my area is better now than it was in the past and plenty of farmers are paid not to grow crops in America. Many American farmers have expanded operations in Brazil, because the land prices are cheaper. Farmers work to get paid for the crops they grow and they adjust production to the demand of the market.
I'm somewhat confused how production is based on marketing? I'm also not sure large areas in Canada and Russia have opened up - it's about a lot more than just average temperature in those locations. Is the growing season long enough? Are the plants photosensitive? Is the soil suitable - and easy to cultivate? (or do you need to cut down a bunch of trees...?) Etc.

I seem to recall the idled farmland in the USA as a proportion of harvested cropland was around 10%? That's not a massive amount to bring back into play considering the growth of per capita demand and population every year competing for the food.

I've seen plenty of doomsday world maps that don't represent palynological data of past warm periods. The maps are based on computer models and my maps are based on fossil evidence. Even local areas of the world contain data from the recent geological past. The climatic record of an area during past thermal maximums is the best prediction of it's future, if viewed as a final picture. That doesn't mean it represents the full trip of getting there, which can be a long and winding road.

As drug enforcement cut profits, the drug cartels just produced and shipped more drug to compensate for what was lost. That's how economics works and farmers only mostly profit from a crop that is sold. Governments get involved to stabilize prices to keep farming going and it's not a purely free market. Your concepts appear to be based on the premise that we are near our maximum food production. I've looked at world production maps of the major agricultural commodities and the general theme is: the food is produced around people and cold stops the northern production of both food and people in the Northern Hemisphere. I do not see evidence of future cropland lose for the world on the net. I see climate instability that only cuts production by enough to compensate by producing more. Whether the world has wisdom to properly deal with future instability is it's choice. I would anticipate the price of food increasing for crop loses, but only by a modest amount. We already have major investment banks involved in the commodities trading, so there is an opportunity for insurance to expand more into food production, whether government or private insurance.

I think the UN should work on a worldwide program of starvation insurance and surplus crop storage connected with famine relief. The reality is even if going to a warmer world is a net plus for food production, it's putting whole civilizations into a probability game of climate change fortune. When people are subsisting only on what they can produce and they experience bad climate times, they can't afford foreign food and starve without a relief effort. Where our pessimism should be focused is what will happen to the losers in a game they may not even have participated in. We are heading towards an Eemian Earth and since hippos and water buffalo aren't in the UK and northern Europe; we aren't there yet. The Northern Hemisphere treeline was farther north during the Holocene Thermal Maximum, which means the permafrost still has a way to go to reduce the amount of tundra to even the most recent warm period levels.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2013, 07:24:57 PM by ggelsrinc »

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #235 on: May 12, 2013, 05:37:47 PM »
Lurky,

I am not unfamiliar with CA ag.  I am also aware of the production statistics there.  I think you know about  lot of the issues related to what mix if crops are being grown there and that a lot of them are chosen for profit reasons and not what would be most ecologically appropriate.  There are a lot of poor decisions being made there (if we take pure profit motive out of the equation).

You and I have different definitions of what constitutes marginal land.  Think what the Central Valley is like in the absence of the effects of man.  It is almost entirely a desert.  Very little grew there before irrigation.  This is true of many areas in the west (for example the winter growing land around Yuma).  There are many areas of farm around Phoenix where my daughter lives.  But this is marginal land.  It exists as farm land due to human intervention with nature.  That is part of the definition of being marginal.  Where I grew up in Wyoming there is some of the best land in the country for growing alfalfa.  Providing you find a source of irrigation water and pour large amounts of fertilizer, soil amendments, and chemicals onto it.  But in the absence of humans that land grow a spare grass and sagebrush of which it takes about 40 acres to  graze each cow.  Marginal land.

East of the Mississippi all the land would be covered with a gigantic forest if humans were not preventing it.  Vegetation grows like wildfire there.  There are also vast tracts of land west of the Mississippi in the mid-west and south into Texas that this generally applies to.  This land is inherently more productive in a natural sense.  You can grow food on it and live on it via natural farming means.  There are 10's of millions of acres of this land that were farmed in the early years of our Country that are out of production for various reasons.  This land could replace all of CA if we needed to.  This is just a fact.

As to hunger and malnutrition I once again think we have different definitions.  I spent a lot of time in West Africa when I was younger.  It is not possible to describe what it is like there at times.  But, we in the rich countries, really don't understand, in general, what real hunger and malnutrition are really like.  I have pointed out to people here in the US a lot of times that the folks sleeping the grates in the winter in NYCA and DC are middle class by African standards (I get a lot of uncomprehending looks).  We have hungry and malnourished people in the rich countries because of political issues only. We are not going to have significant governing issues here for a LONG time because there is no material limits to fixing the issue if necessary.
 
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Shared Humanity

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #236 on: May 12, 2013, 07:52:22 PM »

There are many areas of farm around Phoenix where my daughter lives.  But this is marginal land.  It exists as farm land due to human intervention with nature.  That is part of the definition of being marginal.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this discussion and have not commented because I do not have a great deal of knowledge about farming (disregarding 30 years of organic gardening, producing hundreds of pounds of produce annually). I would just point out this definition of marginal farmland applies to every acre of land ever put into agriculture by any human society.

I also would like to point out the nature and behavior of margins as it plays a critical function in economics where I do consider myself fairly well informed. I have a degree in economics and MBA from the University of Chicago. Margins exist everywhere and every actionable decision made by individuals and businesses (any organization actually) is made at these margins. As individual consumers we adjust our purchases, make every choice, based on them.

Farmland is marginal, not because of its productive capacity, but due to its relationship to the markets it serves. Consumers buy beef if the prices, relative to substitutes (chicken, pork, beans and rice) are priced in a way that consumers choose beef. Ranchers reduce herds when the cost of feed causes the price to climb, driving increases in beef prices and driving consumers to substitutes. The effect of rising beef prices on consumption are well understood and are based on marginal (that word) rates of substitution.

One other observation on the conversation here and in a couple of other threads.....

Many have expressed a faith in the "markets" ability to solve the impacts of warming. This faith in "markets" is not unlike the faith that evangelicals place in God. Neither God nor the magical operation of markets will protect us from the worst effects of warming. Fortunately, while God's actions are inscrutable, the behavior of markets have been well studied and are fairly predictable when the system is operating within normal bounds. Within these normal bounds and without interventions outside of normal market behavior, poor people starve to death. They live on the margins (that word again) and the magical market is simply not responsive to their need for food. In wealthy societies, these interventions are subsidies for food (food stamps in the U.S.). In poor regions of the earth, wealthy nations ship foodstuffs to keep deaths by starvation at acceptable levels (66 million in 2011 with another 975 million suffering from chronic malnutrition, a U.N. euphemism for slowly starving)

All systems (e.g. markets, capitalism) behave in predictable ways when operating within normal limits. All systems become highly unpredictable and are prone to failure when they are forced to operate on the margins (there it is again). AGW will be forcing our system (capitalism) to operate well outside the normal conditions in which the system developed. We should not be surprised when it behaves unpredictably, even irrationally. The markets will fail us (humanity). This system failure will require massive interventions from outside the markets. It will require a high degree of coordination across the planet, this coordination being an expression of our collective wisdom.

I remain skeptical of our ability to have wisdom drive our responses to the challenges presented by AGW. Nothing regarding our response to date would suggest my skepticism is unwarranted. To a large extent, this is due to our misplaced faith in the market.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2013, 08:12:31 PM by Shared Humanity »

J.R.

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #237 on: May 12, 2013, 09:42:26 PM »
A warmer Earth also means a drier earth in many locations. Flooding and drought will be the new normal. Many of those locations are our current best producing regions, soon to be lost.

Modern crop production is also now at maximum capacity, requiring adequate soil, sunlight, temperature, biological activity, fertilizers and so forth.  Moving north is actually not an option, a study was conducted that showed infertile soils in northern regions. Nothing can be done about the insufficient solar radiance or shorter seasons either, even in a wetter warmer world.  You cannot re-tilt the world. The notion that we can "move north" for food production has already proven to be false.

The only gains to be made are in efficiencies, but even these are not limitless. Crop losses due to drought and flood will have a large impact on anything we do. Heat stress, vectors and disease will also continue to increase.

However, all this becomes moot with wet bulb temperatures exceed adaptive capacity of plant respiration. Just a few degrees from today and this will happen.

The whole notion of "producing more" then goes right out the window. We will actually be producing far less. A warming world equates to a starving world.

Modern agriculture is a GHG contributer. Emitting Peter to feed Paul will no longer work as well as it once did, having now exceed the natural resiliency of the Earth.

Of course, we'll keep doing it anyway, ensuring our collapse and destruction. Modern humans actually are not as adaptable as ancestors, nor as resilient. We are more adept at invention and ideas, but this is a Faustian bargain that winds up costing us far more then expected.

Now we pay.

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #238 on: May 13, 2013, 07:39:36 AM »
A warmer Earth also means a drier earth in many locations. Flooding and drought will be the new normal. Many of those locations are our current best producing regions, soon to be lost.

Modern crop production is also now at maximum capacity, requiring adequate soil, sunlight, temperature, biological activity, fertilizers and so forth.  Moving north is actually not an option, a study was conducted that showed infertile soils in northern regions. Nothing can be done about the insufficient solar radiance or shorter seasons either, even in a wetter warmer world.  You cannot re-tilt the world. The notion that we can "move north" for food production has already proven to be false.

The only gains to be made are in efficiencies, but even these are not limitless. Crop losses due to drought and flood will have a large impact on anything we do. Heat stress, vectors and disease will also continue to increase.

However, all this becomes moot with wet bulb temperatures exceed adaptive capacity of plant respiration. Just a few degrees from today and this will happen.

The whole notion of "producing more" then goes right out the window. We will actually be producing far less. A warming world equates to a starving world.

Modern agriculture is a GHG contributer. Emitting Peter to feed Paul will no longer work as well as it once did, having now exceed the natural resiliency of the Earth.

Of course, we'll keep doing it anyway, ensuring our collapse and destruction. Modern humans actually are not as adaptable as ancestors, nor as resilient. We are more adept at invention and ideas, but this is a Faustian bargain that winds up costing us far more then expected.

Now we pay.

Can't even move North, not even with the greening of areas further north?

In that case I guess humanity is stuck in a rut with regards it's agriculture, relying on lucky seasons where the conditions are perfect for growth, but we don't seem to have much luck and so we could pay quite soon, perhaps even sooner than the most pessimistic predictions put forward by certain people in the thread because if conditions are bad for agriculture everywhere, then price rises are out the window and the fact that there is no food to produce, export or import will be the issue.

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #239 on: May 13, 2013, 11:20:43 AM »
I agree with SH that this is a great discussion and I'm learning a lot. Just a couple whiny nit-picks for now :)

Above Jim said:

"I had decided that we only had about 20-25 years before there were going to be catastrophic problems if we didn't act.  Well, largely, we didn't."

The logic of:

"Because something didn't happen in the past at them quick pace one thought it would, means that it won' happen soon in the future"

...isn't...really...logic.

"Still waiting for those building problems to over take us."

As others have pointed out, this depends largely on who we mean by "us."


"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

TerryM

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #240 on: May 13, 2013, 06:39:12 PM »
Shared Humanity


I'm suddenly in the process of transforming my preconceived notions of what it means to be an economist with a degree from the University of Chicago. I had assumed that all were in lockstep with a Straussian world view that I personally find flawed.


Hearing any economist equate faith in market forces with faith in God is at a minimum refreshing. Do you have any thoughts re. the fragility of the transportation maze when looking at a future that may require large infrastructure expenses just to keep port structures functional?


Terry

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #241 on: May 13, 2013, 10:25:49 PM »
Wili,
Fair enough, but my intent was to describe experiences in my past that impact my thinking today.  It was not an attempt at logic, rather an attempt to provide insight into factors impacting my thinking (sort of a form of full disclosure).  None of us are logical in any meaningful sense.  Everyone's thought process is driven by past experiences as we all know.  The more we understand how other's derive their opinion's the better we can understand what they are trying to say. 

J.R. & fishmaboi
What fish wrote is almost identical to posts I have written in the past.  And no J.R, moving north is not going to help us much at all.  We can delay the inevitable by bringing more land into production to offset losses elsewhere and by increasing the use of industrial techniques.  Until we can't anymore.  A big part of this ongoing discussion has been over when different posters think that can't anymore point will be reached.  My opinion (guess?) is somewhere around 2050.  Most others seem to think sooner with some thinking as short as 5 years.  I have seen projections the other way as well with some folks thinking we are not even close to our limits (they may be living in an alternate universe from ours however).

Shared Humanity
Very articulate.  I could have used some of those words to better describe some of my thoughts earlier.  This kind of logic (the functioning of margins) is behind many of my thoughts on how I think collapse will proceed. We are not all going down with the ship at the same time because we are not all on the same ship.  We may all end up going down, but that is not certain and I do not think it will happen that way.  People are resilient and ...ruthless.  Sometime in the future food will no longer be given away because we will have reached a point where those who have the food to give  will decide that they MUST have something of equal value in return, or because they must maintain reserves sufficient to guarantee their own survival.   Capitalism and a somewhat freely functioning market (I choke somewhat on that last phrase) are not likely going to be survivors in the economic structure of the future if my understanding of such things is anywhere near accurate.  In a non-growing or shrinking economy due to resource limits I expect we will transition to some form of authoritarian/command structure resembling a modern version of a feudal society.  It would be interesting to read your thoughts on what you think our economic structure might be like in 40-50 years.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #242 on: May 14, 2013, 12:19:46 PM »
The fact is that you were right the first time. If we had seriously rethought and right-scaled modern society after the first earth day, that was likely about the last time we could have put any kind of effective breaks on the juggernaut we are now riding into hell. Just because it wasn't visible to you, doesn't mean the following decades were benign. They set in place the dynamics--especially in the oceans and in the Arctic, for changes that are now profound and unstoppable.

As Hansen pointed out in his TED talk, we are now dropping the equivalent of nearly a half a million Hiroshima-obliterating atomic bombs of energy on the planet every day. Most of that energy is going into the ocean. It is not possible to get that energy back out of the oceans, nor to de-acidify it. It is not possible to stop the melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet or the permafrost or the Arctic sea ice or the seabed clathrates....in spite of some pretty wild schemes that have been proposed.

It might have been possible to avert these things if we really started thirty, forty, fifty years ago to mightily scale back the amount of carbon (and other nasties) we were spewing into the system.

But instead we spewed ever more every year and every decade.

Now there is no way of putting the genie back in the bottle, and there is lots more global heating to come just from the CO2 and methane we've already crammed into the system. As Richard Alley put it, Greenland is still responding to the level of CO2 increases from decades ago.

In a way, the fact that the system has this lag time from cause to consequence has helped trick us into thinking that we can just merrily go on crapping in our own nest and nothing bad will happen, at least not within our life time.

But as others have pointed out, bad things now are happening.

Modern industrial civilization has grown by dumping most of it's problems onto future generations--essentially it has been a society at war with its own future, a war it has overwhelmingly 'won.'

We are now in the process of moving from the side that won the war against the future, into that conquered, decimated, annihilated future.

It's not getting any prettier from here.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #243 on: May 14, 2013, 04:50:42 PM »
Here is a quote from another interesting (depressing too) paper.  From Skeptical Science
 
Quote
Yang and Cui (2012) have written a carefully researched Paper detailing the funding and increased use of coal likely over the next decade.  They show that growing demand for and use of coal seems assured by availability of funding, much of it on concessional terms, to build 1,199 new coal burning power plants.  None of these new plants includes carbon capture and sequestration in their design because present technology is prohibitively expensive to use.  Consequently all will emit carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, accelerating growth in its concentration and global warming.

It is not known how many of these power plants (some may) include flue scrubbers able to effectively prevent aerosol emissions but it seems likely that their operation could significantly increase aerosol pollution.  Of concern is that aerosol emissions could result in soot deposits on ice and frozen land surfaces, increasing absorption of solar energy and speeding up melting.  This would result in speedier loss of albedo and carbon emissions from degrading permafrost and rise in average global sea level.

There is lots more at this link:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/whos-paying-for-gw.html

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #244 on: May 14, 2013, 05:19:50 PM »
Future Food Production

Here is a thought provoking article on future global food production and food security.  I have read it a couple of times and admit that I have some strong arguments with some of the assumptions and conclusions (the authors are using the UN population projections for 2050 of 10 billion).  In light of our recent discussions I think that many would find it interesting and have comments.  I will write some comments later when I have time.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/08-3
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Shared Humanity

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #245 on: May 15, 2013, 06:39:59 AM »
Do you have any thoughts re. the fragility of the transportation maze when looking at a future that may require large infrastructure expenses just to keep port structures functional?


Terry

I am certainly not an expert with regards to the infrastructure (primarily ports and associated rail and river traffic) that supports world trade. I can say that, as this infrastructure becomes threatened by the effects of AGW (sea level rise, damaging storms, drought effecting barge traffic etc.) the effects will not be uniform. The decisions will again be driven by the margins. Some ports will simply be abandoned ( due to cost of mitigation or the value of the products moving through a port) while others that deliver critical items will require large repetitive expenditures. In 2007, the U.S. imported 10.5 million barrels of oil per day. 60% of these imports came through Gulf port facilities. Of the 13 major Gulf ports, 6 are in Texas and 5 are in Louisiana. I am sure each port is unique regarding vulnerabilities to sea level rise and hurricanes. It took nearly a year to repair the damage caused by hurricane Katrina. U.S. refineries struggled with shortages for months.

In the U.S. Midwest last summer, there was a fierce battle regarding the release of water from Missouri river dams. Lower Mississippi barge traffic had come to a virtual halt due to low water levels. A release of water would have allowed barge traffic carrying wheat, corn and soybeans to New Orleans for export. The alternative is highly expensive rail traffic. Meanwhile, the agricultural industry in states bordering the Missouri River fought to prevent the release because they needed the water for irrigation. As these kinds of droughts continue to occur, dredging the lower Mississippi becomes an expensive ongoing task.

While the upper Mississippi has rebounded with a lot of winter and spring moisture, the drought for the Missouri River watershed is forecast to worsen.

OldLeatherneck

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #246 on: May 15, 2013, 08:47:08 PM »
Do you have any thoughts re. the fragility of the transportation maze when looking at a future that may require large infrastructure expenses just to keep port structures functional?


Terry

I am certainly not an expert with regards to the infrastructure (primarily ports and associated rail and river traffic) that supports world trade. I can say that, as this infrastructure becomes threatened by the effects of AGW (sea level rise, damaging storms, drought effecting barge traffic etc.) the effects will not be uniform. The decisions will again be driven by the margins. Some ports will simply be abandoned ( due to cost of mitigation or the value of the products moving through a port) while others that deliver critical items will require large repetitive expenditures. In 2007, the U.S. imported 10.5 million barrels of oil per day. 60% of these imports came through Gulf port facilities. Of the 13 major Gulf ports, 6 are in Texas and 5 are in Louisiana. I am sure each port is unique regarding vulnerabilities to sea level rise and hurricanes. It took nearly a year to repair the damage caused by hurricane Katrina. U.S. refineries struggled with shortages for months.

Having spent nearly twenty years, of my career, in and around shipyards world wide and now living several hours away from the Texas Gulf Coast, I'll give you my perspective on the infrastructure vulnerability of seaports.  Any seaport that is located in a bay of an ocean is by definition at sea level, although the docking facilities may vary in height above the high tide levels.  Seaports located upriver from an ocean, such as Philadelphia are less vulnerable at least for a period of 2-3 decades.  Another factor for those seaports located at sea level is the surrounding topography.  If the surrounding topography is flat low level marsh/swamp land the costs of infrastructure improvements are greatly increased by several orders of magnitude.  Many of the gulf Coast seaports such as Houston and  Port Arthur, TX, Houma and New Orleans, LA as well as Pascagoula, MS are thusly situated.  A similar situation exists in the San Francisco Bay where many of the port facilities have been built on landfill.  Seaports built in harbors surrounded by mountainous terrain will require only (ha-ha) elevating the docking facilities.  I can think of Nagasaki and Maizuru Japan as examples of seaports surrounded by mountains where much of the supporting infrastructure is located on the side of the mountains.

I wrote a brief essay, "A Journey Through Cajun Country", in my post(#51) on Global Impacts, describing a recent trip my wife and took through southern Louisiana.  I've described not only the vulnerability of port facilities but the impact upon the local culture and an entire way of life.

http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,30.50.html
"Share Your Knowledge.  It's a Way to Achieve Immortality."  ......the Dalai Lama

Lewis C

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #247 on: May 17, 2013, 07:14:57 AM »
It seems to me the proper answer to "When and how bad?" has to be "Depends - on the problem's scope, and on what we do about it." That there are things to be done that are commensurate with the problem seems to me obvious - though I accept this may be a minority view on ASI at present.

The problem's scope is already daunting for many, and while it is not an elephant at six inches, I'd well agree it's an elephant not very far away. My perception of it is from two main perspectives.
First as an activist, having attended and infiltrated the first UNFCCC COP in Berlin, and first being accredited for the following year's COP in Geneva to deliver a paper to delegates on "The Migration of Rainfall" for GCI.
Second as a countryman, with a particular interest in forestry taken to the extent of first consulting to government in '87, and also in farming, which led to my taking on a hill farm in Wales in 2006 of about 120 acres of pasture and 40 of coppices and a couple of square miles of mountain grazing rights.

As a countryman I'd say that the British temperate climate began to decay noticeably in the '70s, and has been destabilizing at a varying pace ever since. As a farmer I've seen several extreme droughts and have been unable to make hay here for the last three summers owing to deluges starting before it was ready to cut, and lasting into September. Previously, losing a hay crop was a once in a generation misfortune up here. A further pressure on traditional farming (which is little more resilient than the 'subsistence' version) is that feed prices have gone from extortionate towards ruinous, to the point that keeping a ewe through winter costs more than the profit from her lamb next autumn.

The latest blow to hill farming was the cold wave that hit in late March as a blizzard and deep frost, and lasted through much of April. When it hit officialdom admitted that 250,000 ewes were killed across Wales alone, with many more expected once the drifts melted. This figure was then withdrawn and replaced with 50,000 overall. The consensus locally is that around 500,000 ewes were killed in Wales, and more than that of their lambs.

Hits on this scale, that rarely attract international media, are occurring with increasing frequency worldwide.  And for every such hit there are a number of poor to bad years that lack their drama, and so are discounted. But this is the real decay of global agriculture, in which a Thai flood or a Russian heatwave are the punctuation marks that attract grudging media attention, and no integrated analysis of the trend.

As an activist, I'd point out that a decent regional analysis was provided in the recent study by a Leeds Uni team, led by an IPCC lead author, called "Food Security: Near future projections of the impact of drought in Asia" which is available online in the 'reports' section at: www.lowcarbonfutures.org.

Quotes from the press release:

"Research released today shows that within the next 10 years large parts of Asia can expect increased risk of more severe droughts, which will impact regional and possibly even global food security. On average, across Asia, droughts lasting longer than three months will be more than twice as severe in terms of their soil moisture deficit compared to the 1990-2005 period. This is cause for concern as China and India have the world’s largest populations and are Asia’s largest food producers.

Dr Lawrence Jackson, a co-author of the report, said: "Our work surprised us when we saw that the threat to food security was so imminent; the increased risk of severe droughts is only 10 years away for China and India. These are the world’s largest populations and food producers; and, as such, this poses a real threat to food security."


The fact that Munich Re's 40yr database of catastrophic weather impacts shows that they're rising faster in the USA than any comparable region of the planet, to me implies that without commensurate mitigation we are around a decade away from the start of mega-famines - and the geopolitical destabilization that will generate. NCAR's report on global PDSI to 2090 by Algui Dai gives a timeline of the changes and a graphic that I wish I could post (if anyone else can, I'd be grateful). It projects that by the 2030s agriculture is finished around the Med, and has largely stopped in the US, with various other regions also hard hit.

The certainty of mass migration can be seen in the fact that it has already begun, first from crushed subsistence farms to shanty towns worldwide, and thence to wealthy nations. Notably Central America and Mexico are worse hit than the US, meaning that a proportion of 160 million people are heading north. Just how angry US Latinos get at talk of mining the border is an open question, but I rather doubt the US people would tolerate famine camps and mega-deaths just beyond the fence.

Personally I'd put the start of the climatic destabilization of geopolitics much earlier than the Arab Spring, and perhaps earlier than the grinding multi-year Afghan drought that drove myriads of farm boys into the Taliban to try to support their families. That geopolitical destabilization is clearly progressing, and the further it does so, the more fraught the difficulty of achieving the global collective effort that is pre-requisite for the commensurate mitigation of AGW.

By my count we are many years past the point where Emissions Control alone could resolve the problem. With 0.8C realized, and 0.7C timelagged in the pipeline, and at best 0.6C from emissions' phase-out by 2050, we're committed to 2.1C of warming. But Hansen and Sato found that ending our cooling fossil sulphate emissions unveils another 110% (+/-30%) which would thus give around 4.4C in the 2080s after the 30yr timelag. This in turn would allow about 70yrs of continuous anthro-warming for the interactive feedbacks to accelerate beyond the possibility of control. This is plainly a terminal outcome, despite the successful operation of a quite stringent Emissions Control treaty.

Deploying a global Carbon Recovery program in addition is entirely feasible, but even on a maximum practical scale (limited by the 1.6GHa.s of non-farmland available for native afforestation for biochar) the lead time implies that we'd be doing well to peak airborne CO2 in the 2040s with a slow fall to 280ppm early next century. While this would reduce the peak and duration of ocean acidification, it would do nothing effective to halt the loss of agriculture, and of forestry, or to halt the acceleration of the feedbacks.

The essential complement is thus Albedo Restoration, which Prof Salter (with 30 yrs of Wave Energy tech design and 15yrs of Cloud Brightening research) points out would restore the pre-industrial temperature within two to three years. The three options of Emissions Control, Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration can neither function effectively individually nor as any pair in combination; only the three options operating in concert can provide a commensurate mitigation of our predicament. Strangely some of the opponents of Geo-E insist on ignoring this very obvious fact, however often it gets repeated.

The international politics of climate have been thoroughly veiled from the public from the outset, not least by the lie that the IPCC (whose advice the UNFCCC must negotiate from) provides the scientific consensus - when in truth it yields the lowest common denominator of national govts' preferences for public information. Numerous myths have been pushed as received wisdom - that renewables can save the planet (despite any fossil fuel displaced being bought and burnt elsewhere) that the fossil lobby dictates US climate policy (despite providing just 8% of US GDP) and that the denialists fetter Obama from taking action (despite his steadfast obstruction of the treaty being far beyond their reach).

Seen from within the negotiations it is very bloody obvious that US govts since 2000 put maintaining global economic dominance before climate mitigation, knowing that delay raises the threat to China of crop failure, shortages and civil unrest leading to regime change. It might be claimed that this effect is only accidental, but if so, then America is perhaps the first empire in history to be destabilizing its rival's food supply by accident.

Yet with the US getting hammered by climate impacts to the extent that last year they cost most of US GDP, and with finances so tight that the budget for fighting wildfires is cut even as fire projections rise, the outcome of the superpower rivalry is far from settled. It is perfectly feasible that diehards will be ejected due to a mutual realization by cooler heads that the brinkmanship is a lose-lose game.

In that event, the long propaganda since 2000 that "negotiations can't resolve anything" will be exposed as a lullaby for the gullible. With Carbon Recovery offering an equitable and verifiable means of nations clearing their historic emissions by an agreed date, the primary obstruction to agreement is removed. With the prospect of Albedo Restoration (after duly supervised research) rapidly ending climate destabilization, the global South is no longer facing open ended catastrophic climate impacts, and the global North is no longer facing open ended liability for its majority share in the causation of those impacts. The prospect for the adoption of an equitable and efficient framework for mutual commitments is thus transformed.

An unusual feature of the two polar outcomes possible - collective global mitigation or general global collapse - is that there is so little chance of intermediate outcomes. If we fail to halt the famines we lose the geopolitical stability essential to the operation of a climate treaty. If we fail to halt the feedbacks, we lose the possibility of any organized food production.

Getting the decision made to overturn the brinkmanship of inaction will in my view take implacable public pressure on the centres of power. Raising that public pressure is assisted by rising climate impacts, but massively undermined by those who feel the need to declare their defeatism. If they actually give a damn for other people or for the ecosphere they'll recognize that in time of war voicing defeatism is called 'giving aid and succour to the enemy', and they will learn to conceal their doubts while talking up the chances of success.

And that is really the bottom line - if we pull together, globally, as committed ordinary people, we can still resolve the predicament. If we leave it to nationalist politicians and their corporate backers, we shall almost certainly lose the planet's habitability.

Regards,

Lewis



« Last Edit: May 17, 2013, 07:21:31 AM by Lewis C »

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #248 on: May 17, 2013, 07:55:31 AM »
Well said!

Quotes from the press release:

"Dr Lawrence Jackson, a co-author of the report, said: "Our work surprised us when we saw that the threat to food security was so imminent; the increased risk of severe droughts is only 10 years away for China and India. These are the world’s largest populations and food producers; and, as such, this poses a real threat to food security."

I'm curious if they factored in the recent research tying jet stream changes to increasing mid latitude extreme weather into that? (I'll see if I can figure it out from the report)

The fact that Munich Re's 40yr database of catastrophic weather impacts shows that they're rising faster in the USA than any comparable region of the planet,

Partly because they're affluent and have insurance? I'd hesitate to say the US is truly experiencing an excess of climate change related weather impacts when you factor in how big it is - and how well represented in the global media (compared to any number of poor countries).

The essential complement is thus Albedo Restoration, which Prof Salter (with 30 yrs of Wave Energy tech design and 15yrs of Cloud Brightening research) points out would restore the pre-industrial temperature within two to three years. The three options of Emissions Control, Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration can neither function effectively individually nor as any pair in combination; only the three options operating in concert can provide a commensurate mitigation of our predicament. Strangely some of the opponents of Geo-E insist on ignoring this very obvious fact, however often it gets repeated.

A sad sad story, Stephen Salter's cloud brightening idea. The last estimate I heard was that it would take around 18 months from receiving funding to get to a point where we might have stuff we could deploy (if memory serves). The amount of funding needed? Small enough that one goddamn banker could fund it out of their bonus (again if memory serves).

It must be nearly 18 months since I heard that timescale and those numbers. In that time - nothing - and it's the most benign and controllable idea I've seen as far as the geo-engineering stuff goes.

Lewis C

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #249 on: May 17, 2013, 03:39:34 PM »
CCG - re Munich Re, the link below is to the press release of the report in question, which gives two key quotes:

http://www.munichre.com/en/media_relations/press_releases/2012/2012_10_17_press_release.aspx

"Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways."

The Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, Prof. Peter Höppe, commented: "In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.”


Re Salter, did you hear just what the nuclear lobby did to his Osprey wave energy vessel ? Utterly brazen.

The present lack of petty cash funding for his critical research of cloud brightening points to the same influence as can be seen behind the widespread, shrill and irrational astroturf opposition to Geo-E - So Qui Bono ?

Regards,

Lewis