January 8, 2009

Science Fiction Down on the Farm

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture

The January 9th, 2008 issue of Science, the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, contains a remarkable article by University of Washington atmospheric scientist David Battisti and Stanford co-author Rosamond Naylor. Science reputedly is the world’s most prestigious refereed science journal in the world.

Not in this case. The article is remarkably bad. A colleague of mine, looking at an advance copy asked, in all seriousness, if this was an editorial rather than a scientific paper. Sorry, I replied, it’s the real deal.

Actually it’s pretty bad science fiction. Good science fiction is at least plausible.

Battisti’s argument seems straightforward. Take all 23 of the climate models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Over a substantial portion of the moist tropics and desert subtropics, there is a 90% chance that average summer (June-August) temperatures in 2100 will exceed today’s record values, resulting in massive rises in commodity prices as a result of extreme food shortages.

You know the paper’s going to be bad from the first sentence: “The food crisis of 2006-2008 demonstrates the fragile nature of feeding the world’s human population.”

Never mentioned is that this “crisis” was largely due to a knee-jerk political reaction—huge ethanol mandates—in response to climate science alarmism. That crisis was caused by papers like this.


March 5, 2008

Want to Increase Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions? Use Biofuels!

Filed under: Agriculture, Climate Politics

In almost every essay we feature at World Climate Report, our focus is on climatic phenomena and the general disagreement between observations and what numerical models of climate tell us should be happening given the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gases. We draw heavily from the professional scientific peer-reviewed literature, and our journals of choice range from highly specialized journals in the climate community to far more generalized, but very highly respected journals such as Science and Nature.

A recent article in Science really caught our eye with the title “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change.” This article is not going to be well received by a lot of people given 1000s of websites telling us to switch to biofuels in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – it looks like those darn “unintentional consequences” are about to bite another great-sounding idea squarely in the butt.


April 2, 2007

Global Warming and California Agriculture

Filed under: Agriculture

The latest news continues to be full of stories about global warming, and one of the constant pillars of the apocalypse is that agricultural yields will substantially decline due to higher temperatures, increased drought, spread of diseases, invasion of weeds, destruction of soil nutrients, and … you name it! We did a quick search of the internet for “Global Warming and Agriculture” and found more than 5,000,000 websites, and as we began sampling the sites, we encountered an overwhelming amount of bad news. Occasionally, we would find sarcastic comments about “growing barley in Iceland,” but overall, we found gloomy news about our agricultural future. Of course, within the first two sites visited, we learned that “the region likely to be worst affected is Africa, both because its geography makes it particularly vulnerable, and because seventy percent of the population rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods.”

We at World Climate Report have long questioned such a pessimistic view of our future. Literally thousands of experiments have been conducted showing that agricultural plants benefit enormously in environments of higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide – they increase their rate of photosynthesis, increase water use efficiency, and increase yields. Furthermore, hundreds of experiments have shown that many agricultural plants benefit from higher temperatures, particularly higher temperatures at night. Believe it or not, most agricultural plants benefit from less frost! With all the gloom and doom about increased drought in the future, we note that all climate models predict increased precipitation on a global scale with little ability to predict changes in precipitation at local or even regional scales. Finally, can you name any important agricultural crop that has seen a reduction in yield per unit area over the past century? You cannot, because years of agricultural research have improved both the plants and the farming practices. Our guess is that the research in the future will produce even greater increases in yields, despite any changes that occur to the climate.


December 13, 2006

Happy Holidays, Thanks to CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

Like many of you, we have a Christmas tree here decorated with candy canes with a cute little coal train running around the base. The smell of pine is terrific and we are looking forward to eating the candy canes after the holidays. We are all planning a great holiday season and we are looking forward to a bright future. We hope you and your family share our optimism during this fun time of the year.

Today, we will turn out attention to the state of affairs for the tree and the candy canes, and we searched the literature for any updates on how pine trees and sugar cane will fare in a world of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. Given that the literature contains literally thousands of articles on the positive effects of elevated CO2 on plants, we were optimistic that recent material could be found. Of course, three articles were located within minutes dealing with elevated CO2, pine trees, and sugarcane.


September 6, 2006

In Vino, non Veritas?

Filed under: Agriculture

Today’s (September 6th, 2006) Washington Post, features Ben Giliberti’s Wine of the Week—a Tamar Ridge 2005 Pinot Gris from Tasmania. After extolling the virtues of this rich white, peary, with a hint of almond and French oak, Giliberti proclaims it to be “one of the most exciting pinot gris I have tasted from anywhere lately” adding “global warming…appears to working in Tasmania’s favor.”

Let’s guess that there’s a post-it note stuck to the editor’s monitor when it comes to global warming: “No Fact Checks, Please.”


July 2, 2004

Little White Exaggeration

Filed under: Agriculture

New study claims rice yields will decline as temperatures warm. But bushels of evidence show otherwise.

A recent study promising that rice yields will decline due to global warming fails to take into account the hundreds of articles showing myriad benefits of higher temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations.

June 17, 2004

AAAS “all-stars” lead biased discussion

On June 15, 2004, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convened what they described as an “all-star” panel of U.S. climate scientists to discuss climate change. Never before has such a biased look at the issue been put together by a group that supposedly represents the purest ideals of science.

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