11 Empty Climate Claims

Below are a series of rebuttals of the 11 most common climate alarmists’ claims such as those made in the recently released Fourth National Climate Assessment Report.[2] The authors of these rebuttals are all recognized experts in the relevant fields.  H/T Joseph D’Aleo for compiling work by many experts at his website ACRESEARCH Fact Checking Climate Claims.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

For each alarmist claim, a summary of the relevant rebuttal is provided below along with a link to the full text of the rebuttal, which includes the names and the credentials of the authors of each rebuttal.

Claim: Heat Waves are increasing at an alarming rate and heat kills.
Fact:  They have been decreasing since the 1930s in the U.S. and globally.

There has been no detectable long-term increase in heat waves in the United States or elsewhere in the world. Most all-time record highs here in the U.S. happened many years ago, long before mankind was using much fossil fuel. Thirty-eight states set their all-time record highs before 1960 (23 in the 1930s!). Here in the United States, the number of 100F, 95F and 90F days per year has been steadily declining since the 1930s. The Environmental Protection Agency Heat Wave Index confirms the 1930s as the hottest decade.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: Heat Waves (08/19/19)

Claim: Global warming is causing more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes.
Fact:  Hurricane activity is flat to down since 1900, landfalls in the US are declining

The long-term linear trend in the number and intensity of global hurricane activity has remained flat or down. Hurricane activity does vary year-to-year and over longer periods as short-term ocean cycles like El Nino/La Nina and multidecadal cycles in the Pacific (PDO) and Atlantic (AMO) ocean temperature regimes favor changes in activity levels and some basins over others.

Credible data show this is true despite much better open ocean detection than before the 1960s when many short-lived storms at sea would have been missed as there were no satellites, no aircraft reconnaissance, no radar, no buoys and no automated weather stations.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Hurricanes (10/19/19).

Claim: Global warming is causing more and stronger tornadoes.
Fact:  The number of strong tornadoes have declined over the last half century

Tornadoes are failing to follow “global warming” predictions. Strong tornadoes have seen a decline in frequency since the 1950s. The years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 all saw below average to near record low tornado counts in the U.S. since records began in 1954. 2017 rebounded only to the long-term mean. 2018 ranked well below the 25thpercentile. Tornadoes increased this spring as extreme cold and late snow clashed with southeast warmth to produce a series of strong storms with heavy rains and severe weather including tornadoes. May ranked among the biggest months and the season rebounded after 7 quiet years above the 50th percentile.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttals Tornadoes (08/20/19)

Claim: Global warming is increasing the magnitude and frequency of droughts and floods.
Fact: Droughts and floods have not changed since we’ve been using fossil fuels

Our use of fossil fuels to power our civilization is not causing droughts or floods. NOAA found there is no evidence that floods and droughts are increasing because of climate change.

The number, extend or severity of these events does increase dramatically for a brief period of years at some locations from time to time but then conditions return to more normal. This is simply the long-established constant variation of weather resulting from a confluence of natural factors.
Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttals Droughts and Floods (08/22/19

Claim: Global Warming has increased U.S. Wildfires.
Fact: Wildfires have been decreasing since 1800s. The increase in damage in recent years is due to population growth in vulnerable areas and poor forest management.

Wildfires are in the news almost every late summer and fall. The National Interagency Fire Center has recorded the number of fires and acreage affected since 1985. This data show the number of fires trending down slightly, though the acreage burned had increased before leveling off over the last 20 years.

The NWS tracks the number of days where conditions are conducive to wildfires when they issue red-flag warnings. It is little changed.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Wildfires 080719

Claim: Global warming is causing snow to disappear.
Fact: Snowfall is increasing in the fall and winter in the Northern Hemisphere and North America with many records being set.

This is one claim that has been repeated for decades even as nature showed very much the opposite trend with unprecedented snows even in the big coastal cities. Every time they repeated the claim, it seems nature upped the ante more.

Alarmists have eventually evolved to crediting warming with producing greater snowfall, because of increased moisture but the snow events in recent years have usually occurred in colder winters with high snow water equivalent ratios in frigid arctic air.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Snow (09/19/19)

Claim: Global warming is resulting in rising sea levels as seen in both tide gauge and satellite technology.
Fact: The rate of global sea level rise on average has fallen by 40% the last century. Where it is increasing – local factors such as land subsidence are to blame.

This claim is demonstrably false. It really hinges on this statement: “Tide gauges and satellites agree with the model projections.” The models project a rapid acceleration of sea level rise over the next 30 to 70 years. However, while the models may project acceleration, the tide gauges clearly do not.

All data from tide gauges in areas where land is not rising or sinking show instead a steady linear and unchanging sea level rate of rise from 4 up to 6 inches/century, with variations due to gravitational factors. It is true that where the land is sinking as it is in the Tidewater area of Virginia and the Mississippi Delta region, sea levels will appear to rise faster but no changes in CO2 emissions would change that.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: Rebuttal – Sea Level (01/18/19)

Claim: Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland ice loss is accelerating due to global warming.
Fact: The polar ice varies with multidecadal cycles in ocean temperatures. Current levels are comparable to or above historical low levels

Satellite and land surface temperature records and sea surface temperatures show that both the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are cooling, not warming and glacial ice is increasing, not melting. Satellite and land surface temperature measurements of the southern polar area show no warming over the past 37 years. Growth of the Antarctic ice sheets means the sea level rise is not being caused by melting of polar ice and, in fact, is slightly lowering the rate of rise. Satellite Antarctic temperature records show 0.02C/decade cooling since 1979. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been getting sharply colder since 2006. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, reaching all-time highs. Surface temperatures at 13 stations show the Antarctic Peninsula has been sharply cooling since 2000.

Arctic temperature records show that the 1920s and 1930s were warmer than in the 2000s. Official historical fluctuations of Arctic sea ice begin with the first satellite images in 1979. That happens to coincide with the end of the recent 1945–1977 global cold period and the resulting maximum extent of Arctic sea ice. During the warm period from 1978 until recently, the extent of sea ice has diminished, but increased in the past several years. The Greenland ice sheet has also grown with cooling after an anomalously warm 2012.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland (05/19/19)

Claim: Global warming responsible for record July warmth in Alaska.
Fact:  Alaska July 2019 heat records resulted from a warm North Pacific and reduced ice in the Bering Sea late winter due to strong storms. The opposite occurred with record cold in 2012.

Alaska climate (averages and extremes) varies over time but the changes can be explained by natural variability in the North Pacific Ocean, which controls the climate regime in downstream land areas. These ocean temperature regimes (modes of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO) improves season-to-season and year-to-year climate forecasts for North America because of its strong tendency for multi-season and multi-year persistence. The PDO correlates well with tendencies for El Nino and La Nina, which have a major impact on Alaska and much of North America.

See Rebuttal: AC Rebuttal- Alaska’s hot July caused by global warming (08/21/19)

Claim: Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification, which is catastrophically harming marine life.
Fact: When life is considered, ocean acidification is often found to be a non-problem, or even a benefit.

The ocean chemistry aspect of the ocean acidification hypothesis is rather straightforward, but it is not as solid as it is often claimed to be. For one thing, the work of a number of respected scientists suggests that the drop in oceanic pH will not be nearly as great as the IPCC and others predict. And, as with all phenomena involving living organisms, the introduction of life into the analysis greatly complicates things. When a number of interrelated biological phenomena are considered, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to draw such sweeping negative conclusions about the reaction of marine organisms to ocean acidification. Quite to the contrary, when life is considered, ocean acidification is often found to be a non-problem, or even a benefit. And in this regard, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the robustness of multiple marine plant and animal species to ocean acidification—when they are properly performed under realistic experimental conditions.

Detailed Rebuttal and Author: AC Rebuttal – Ocean Acidification (02/04/19)

Claim: Carbon pollution is a health hazard.
Fact: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an odorless invisible trace gas that is plant food and it is essential to life on the planet. It is not a pollutant.

The term “carbon pollution” is a deliberate, ambiguous, disingenuous term, designed to mislead people into thinking carbon dioxide is pollution. It is used by the environmentalists to confuse the environmental impacts of CO2 emissions with the impact of the emissions of unwanted waste products of combustion. The burning of carbon-based fuels (fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – and biofuels and biomass) converts the carbon in the fuels to carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an odorless invisible gas that is plant food and it is essential to life on the planet.
Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Health Impacts (02/04/19)

Claim: CO2-induced climate change is threatening global food production and harming natural ecosystems.
Fact: The vitality of global vegetation in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems is better off now than it was a hundred years ago, 50 years ago, or even a mere two-to-three decades ago thanks in part to CO2.

Such claims are not justified; far from being in danger, the vitality of global vegetation in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems is better off now than it was a hundred years ago, 50 years ago, or even a mere two-to-three decades ago.

With respect to managed ecosystems (primarily the agricultural enterprise), yields of nearly all important food crops have been rising for decades (i.e., the Green Revolution). Reasons for these increases are manifold, but they have mainly occurred in response to continuing advancements in agricultural technology and scientific research that have expanded the knowledge or intelligence base of farming (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, crop selection and breeding, computers, machinery and other devices).

Spatial pattern of trends in Gross Primary Production (1982- 2015). Source: Sun et al. 2018.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Agriculture and NaturalEcosystems_Idso020619 (1)

Conclusion:

The well-documented invalidation of the “three lines of evidence” upon which EPA attributes global warming to human -caused CO2 emissions breaks the causal link between such CO2 emissions and global warming.

This in turn necessarily breaks the causal chain between CO2 emissions and the alleged knock-on effects of global warming, such as loss of Arctic ice, increased sea level, and increased heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. These alleged downstream effects are constantly cited to whip up alarm and create demands for ever tighter CO2 regulation. EPA explicitly relied on predicted increases in such events to justify the Endangerment Finding supporting its Clean Power Plan. But as shown above, there is no evidence to support such claims, and copious empirical evidence that refutes them.

Climate Ideology = Bad Nutritional Advice

Climate Quakery

Media Alarms: Eating Meat Heats the Planet

You may have noticed a media theme over recent months linking meat eating with climate change. The following examples come from the usual suspects.

Eating meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet National Geographic

Huge reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’ to avoid climate breakdown The Guardian

Eating Less Meat Essential to Curb Climate Change UN University

How Your Diet Can Save the Planet Fortune

Here Comes the Meat Tax;Paying more for environmentally harmful foods may be inevitable.The Atlantic

Combat climate change by cutting beef and lamb production CNN

World must slash meat consumption to save climate Phys,org

Will China’s Growing Appetite for Meat Undermine Its Efforts to Fight Climate Change? SmithsonianMag

Skip the steak? Curb meat consumption to combat climate change Global News

Massive reduction in meat consumption and changes to farming vital to guarantee future food supply The Independent

Climate change: Report says ‘cut lamb and beef’ BBC News

A Radical Plan to Slow Climate Change: Eat Less Meat Bloomberg

Should there be a ‘meat tax’ to fight climate change? DW

Tackling the world’s most urgent problem: meat UN Environment

Your meals are speeding up climate change, but there’s a way to eat sustainably CBC

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The origin of these alarms are studies published in Lancet, once highly reputed but recently given over to climate ideology rather than objective science. Most recently is Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems  The preceding Lancet study stated this main finding:

Following environmental objectives by replacing animal-source foods with plant-based ones was particularly effective in high-income countries for improving nutrient levels, lowering premature mortality (reduction of up to 12% [95% CI 10–13] with complete replacement), and reducing some environmental impacts, in particular greenhouse gas emissions (reductions of up to 84%). However, it also increased freshwater use (increases of up to 16%) and had little effectiveness in countries with low or moderate consumption of animal-source foods. (here).

Two Major Objections

This post raises two objections to these claims. Firstly is an article exposing the Lancet biases and contradicting the the nutritional findings and recommendations therein. Secondly is an article exploding the link between raising animals and climate change.

Georgia Ede MD writes in Psychology Today EAT-Lancet’s Plant-based Planet: 10 Things You Need to Know. Excerpts in italics below with my bolds. Title is link to full text which is recommended reading.  Georgia Ede, MD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition consultant practicing at Smith College. She writes about food and health on her website DiagnosisDiet.com.

We all want to be healthy, and we need a sustainable way to feed ourselves without destroying our environment. The well-being of our planet and its people are clearly in jeopardy, therefore clear, science-based, responsible guidance about how we should move forward together is most welcome.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to look elsewhere for solutions, because the EAT-Lancet Commission report fails to provide us with the clarity, transparency and responsible representation of the facts we need to place our trust in its authors. Instead, the Commission’s arguments are vague, inconsistent, unscientific, and downplay the serious risks to life and health posed by vegan diets.

1. Epidemiology = mythology
The vast majority of human nutrition research—including the lion share of the research cited in the EAT-Lancet report— is conducted using the tragically flawed methodology of nutrition epidemiology. Nutrition epidemiology studies are not scientific experiments; they are wildly inaccurate, questionnaire-based guesses (hypotheses) about the possible connections between foods and diseases. This approach has been widely criticized as scientifically invalid [see here and here], yet continues to be used by influential researchers at prestigious institutions, most notably Dr. Walter Willett. An epidemiologist himself, he wrote an authoritative textbook on the subject and has conducted countless such studies, including a recent, widely-publicized paper tying low-carbohydrate diets to early death. In my reaction to that study, I explain in plain English why epidemiological techniques are so untrustworthy, and include a sample from an actual food questionnaire for your amusement.

Even if you think epidemiological methods are sound, at best they can only generate hypotheses that then need to be tested in clinical trials. Instead, these hypotheses are often prematurely trumpeted to the public as implicit fact in the form of media headlines, dietary guidelines, and well-placed commission reports like this one. Tragically, more than 80% of these guesses are later proved wrong in clinical trials. With a failure rate this high, nutrition epidemiologists would be better off flipping a coin to decide which foods cause human disease. The Commission relies heavily on this methodology, which helps to explain why their recommendations often fly in the face of biological reality.

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2. Red meat causes heart disease, diabetes, cancer…and spontaneous combustion
The section of the report dedicated to protein blames red meat for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer and early death. It contains 16 references, and every single one is an epidemiological study. The World Health Organization report tying red meat to colon cancer was also mentioned, and that report is almost entirely based on epidemiology as well. [Read my full analysis of the WHO report here]. The truth is that there is no human clinical trial evidence tying red meat to any health problem. I certainly haven’t found any—and if there were, I think this Commission surely would have mentioned it.

3. Protein is essential…but cancerous
The commissioners write:

“Protein quality (defined by effect on growth rate) reflects the amino acid composition of the food source, and animal sources of protein are of higher quality than most plant sources. High-quality protein is particularly important for growth of infants and young children, and possibly in older people losing muscle mass in later life.” [page 8]

Translation: Complete proteins are good because they contain every essential amino acid. All animal proteins are naturally complete, whereas most plant proteins are incomplete. Watch how the authors wriggle their way out of this inconvenient truth in the next sentence:

“However, a mix of amino acids that maximally stimulate cell replication and growth might not be optimal throughout most of adult life because rapid cell replication can increase cancer risk.” [page 8]

Translation: Complete proteins are bad because they cause cancer.

The sole reference for this absurd suggestion that complete proteins cause cancer is a paper about mutations causing cancer in which the terms “protein,” “amino acid,” and “meat” each occur a grand total of zero times, suggesting that the Commission’s suggestion is pure…suggestion. Furthermore, if obtaining all of the essential amino acids we need causes cancer, shouldn’t we also worry about complete proteins from plant sources like tofu or beans with rice?

4. Omega-3s are essential…good luck with that
“Fish has a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many essential roles…Plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid [ALA] can provide an alternative to omega-3 fatty acids, but the quantity required is not clear.” [page 11]

If the Commission doesn’t know how much plant ALA a person needs to consume to meet requirements, then how does it know that plants provide a viable alternative to omega-3s from animal sources?

The elephant in the room here is that all omega-3s are not created equal. Only animal foods (and algae, which is neither a plant nor an animal) contain the forms of omega-3s our bodies use: EPA and DHA. Plants only contain ALA, which is extremely difficult for our cells to convert into EPA and DHA. According to this 2018 review, we transform anywhere between 0% and 9% of the ALA we consume into the DHA our cells require.

Instead of being vague, why not responsibly warn people that trying to obtain omega-3 fatty acids from plants alone may place their health at risk?

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5. Vitamins and minerals are essential…so take supplements
The drumbeat heard throughout the report is that animal foods are dangerous and that a vegan diet is the holy grail of health, yet EAT-Lancet commissioners repeatedly find themselves in the awkward position of having to acknowledge the nutritional superiority of the very animal foods they recommend avoiding.

If the commissioners are concerned that red meat is dangerous (which is only true on Planet Epidemiology), why not recommend other naturally iron-rich animal foods such as duck, oysters, or chicken liver for these growing young women, as these foods would also provide the complete proteins needed for growth? What about the 10-22% of non-teen reproductive age women in the U.S. who suffer from iron deficiency? And why a “multimineral preparation” rather than a simple iron supplement? Are they implying that other minerals may be lacking in their plant-based diet?

Unfortunately, the nutritional inadequacy of plant-based diets goes beyond B vitamins. Plant foods lack several key nutrients, and some of the nutrients they do contain come in less bioavailable forms. Furthermore, many plant foods contain “anti-nutrients” that interfere with nutrient absorption. This means that just because a plant food contains a nutrient doesn’t mean we can access it.

An important example is that grains, beans, nuts and seeds—the staple foods of plant-based diets—contain phytate, a mineral magnet which substantially interferes with absorption of essential minerals like zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium. And thanks to oxalates—mineral-binding compounds found in a wide variety of plant foods—virtually none of the iron in spinach makes it into Popeye’s muscles.

Only animal foods contain every nutrient we need in its proper, most accessible form. To learn more about nutrient availability and how it affects brain health, read this article.

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6. Making up numbers is fun and easy
How did the commissioners arrive at the recommended quantities of foods we should eat per day…7 grams of this, 31 grams of that? Numbers like these imply that something’s been precisely measured, but in many cases, it’s plain that they simply pulled a number out of thin air.

The commissioners attempt to defend themselves from criticism on this issue by stating:

“We have a high level of scientific certainty about the overall direction and magnitude of associations described in this Commission, although considerable uncertainty exists around detailed quantifications.” [page 7]

If they are this uncertain about the details, how can they in good conscience prescribe such specific quantities of food? Why not say they don’t know? Most people will not read this report—they will interpret the values in this table as medical advice.

7. Epidemiology is gospel…unless we don’t like the results
Any researcher will tell you that clinical trials—actual scientific experiments—are considered a much higher level of evidence than epidemiological studies, yet Willett’s group not only relies heavily on epidemiological studies, it favors them over clinical trials when it suits their agenda:

“We have used an intake of eggs at about 13 g/day, or about 1.5 eggs per week, for the reference diet, but higher intake might be beneficial for low-income populations with poor dietary quality.” [page 11]

Why recommend only 1.5 eggs per week when epidemiological studies found that 1 egg per day was perfectly fine? And why skew your recommendations against low-income people, which make up a significant portion of the global population?

There is a remarkable paragraph on page 9 (too long to quote here) arguing that red meat was found to increase risk of death in epidemiological studies conducted in Europe and the USA, but not in Asia, where red meat (mainly pork) was associated with a decreased risk of death. Rather than grappling with this seeming contradiction, they simply dismiss the Asian findings as invalid, wondering if perhaps Asian countries haven’t been rich long enough for the risk to show up yet.

Wait, what?

8. Everyone should eat a vegan diet, except for most people
Although their diet plan is intended for all “generally healthy individuals aged two years and older,” the authors admit it falls short of providing proper nutrition for growing children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, aging adults, the malnourished, and the impoverished—and that even those not within these special categories will need to take supplements to meet their basic requirements.

Sadder still is the fact that the majority of people in this country and in many other countries around the world are no longer metabolically healthy, and this high-carbohydrate plan doesn’t take them into consideration.

For those of us with insulin resistance (aka “pre-diabetes”) whose insulin levels tend to run too high, the Commission’s high-carbohydrate diet—based on up to 60% of calories from whole grains, in addition to fruits and starchy vegetables—is potentially dangerous. . . If the Commission read its own report it would find support for the notion that those of us with metabolic damage could be better off increasing our meat intake and decreasing our carbohydrate intake.

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9. Pay no attention to the money behind the curtain
As an advocate of meat-inclusive diets, I have often been assumed to have financial ties to the meat industry (which I do not), but how many people stop to question the financial (and professional) incentives that may influence doctors promoting plant-based diets? We all have personal beliefs and we all need to make a living, but honesty with oneself and transparency with the public should be paramount. The Nutrition Coalition has compiled a list of Dr. Willett’s potential conflicts of interest here.

The EAT Foundation, which collaborated with The Lancet to produce this report, was founded by Norwegian billionaire and animal rights activist Gunhild Stordalen. EAT recently helped to launch “FReSH” (Food Reform for Sustainability and Health), a global partnership of about 40 corporations, including Barilla (pasta), Unilever (meat alternatives and vegetable oils), Kellogg’s (cereals) and Pepsico (sugary beverages). Make of this what you will.

10. No to choices, yes to taxes?
How does EAT-Lancet propose to achieve its dream of a plant-based world? Many suggestions are put forth, but two are worth emphasizing: the elimination or restriction of consumer choices, and taxation. The EAT Foundation describes itself as:

“a non-profit startup dedicated to transforming our global food system through sound science, impatient disruption and novel partnerships.”

Sound science? Clearly not. But impatient disruption—what does that mean?

Regardless of how you feel about taxation as a tool for social change, consider the Commission’s own numerous exceptions to the plant-based rules, including pregnant women, children, the malnourished and the impoverished. Should we really support making animal foods—the only nutritionally complete foods on the planet—even more expensive for vulnerable populations? The notion of taxation is followed by a vague reference to the possibility of “cash transfer” social safety nets for women and children. This section of the report is representative of its overall elitist and paternalistic tone.

I believe, because I’m convinced by the science, that animal foods are essential to optimal human health. This is an uncomfortable biological reality we all have to wrestle with as creatures of conscience. Finding ways to support excellent health and quality of life for the creatures we depend on for our sustenance and vitality is one of our most important callings as caring stewards of our planet and all of its inhabitants. But I’m also a firm believer in personal choice. We each need to become experts in what works best for our own bodies. Eat and let eat, I say. It seems clear that EAT-Lancet commissioners are neither supporters of personal choice nor the transparent distribution of accurate nutrition information that would empower people to weigh the risks and benefits of various diets for themselves.

Summary on EAT-Lancet

The EAT-Lancet report has the feel of a royal decree, operating under the guise of good intentions, seeking to impose its benevolent will on all subjects of planet Earth. It is well worth challenging the presumed authority of this group of 37 “experts,” because it wields tremendous power and influence, has access to billions of dollars, and is likely to affect your choices, your health, and your checkbook in the near future.

Capitalizing on our current public health and environmental crises, the EAT-Lancet Commission pronounces itself as the authority on the science of nutrition, exploits our worst fears, and seeks to dictate our food choices in accordance with its members’ personal, professional and possible commercial interests.

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a human clinical trial designed to test the health effects of simply removing animal foods from the diet, without making any other diet or lifestyle changes such as eliminating refined carbohydrates and other processed foods. Unless and until such research is conducted demonstrating clear benefits to this strategy, the assertion that human beings would be healthier without animal foods remains an untested hypothesis with clear risks to human life and health. Prescribing plant-based diets to the planet without including straightforward warnings of these risks and offering clear guidance as to how to minimize them is scientifically irresponsible and medically unethical, and therefore should not form the basis of public health recommendations.

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And What About the Environmental Benefits

Frank M. Mitloehner is Professor of Animal Science and Air Quality Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis.  He writes at the Conversation Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

My research focuses on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. In my view, there are many reasons for either choosing animal protein or opting for a vegetarian selection. However, foregoing meat and meat products is not the environmental panacea many would have us believe. And if taken to an extreme, it also could have harmful nutritional consequences.

Many people continue to think avoiding meat as infrequently as once a week will make a significant difference to the climate. But according to one recent study, even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6 percent. According to our research at the University of California, Davis, if the practice of Meatless Monday were to be adopted by all Americans, we’d see a reduction of only 0.5 percent.

Moreover, technological, genetic and management changes that have taken place in U.S. agriculture over the past 70 years have made livestock production more efficient and less greenhouse gas-intensive. According to the FAO’s statistical database, total direct greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. livestock have declined 11.3 percent since 1961, while production of livestock meat has more than doubled.

Removing animals from U.S. agriculture would lower national greenhouse gas emissions to a small degree, but it would also make it harder to meet nutritional requirements. Many critics of animal agriculture are quick to point out that if farmers raised only plants, they could produce more pounds of food and more calories per person. But humans also need many essential micro- and macronutrients for good health.

The world population is currently projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. Feeding this many people will raise immense challenges. Meat is more nutrient-dense per serving than vegetarian options, and ruminant animals largely thrive on feed that is not suitable for humans. Raising livestock also offers much-needed income for small-scale farmers in developing nations. Worldwide, livestock provides a livelihood for 1 billion people.

Climate change demands urgent attention, and the livestock industry has a large overall environmental footprint that affects air, water and land. These, combined with a rapidly rising world population, give us plenty of compelling reasons to continue to work for greater efficiencies in animal agriculture. I believe the place to start is with science-based facts.

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Background:  Previous Post on The Rise of Climate Medicine

With Bonn COP23 set to start next week, the media is awash with claims that climate change is an international public health crisis.  For example, in just one day from Google news:

Climate change isn’t just hurting the planet – it’s a public health emergency–The Guardian

Climate change’s impact on human health is already here — and is ‘potentially irreversible,’ report says –USA TODAY

Climate Change Is Bad for Your Health–New York Times

From heat stress to malnutr­ition, climate change is already making us sick–The Verge

As Richard Lindzen predicted, everyone wants on the climate bandwagon, because that is where the money is.  Medical scientists are pushing for their share of the pie, as evidenced by the Met office gathering on Assessing the Global Impacts of Climate and Extreme Weather on Health and Well-Being (following Paris COP).  Not coincidentally, the 2nd Global Conference on Health and Climate was held July 7-8, 2016 in Paris.  Now we have the American Public Health Association declaring:

2017 is the Year of Climate Change and Health

“We’re committed to making sure the nation knows about the effects of climate change on health. If anyone doesn’t think this is a severe problem, they are fooling themselves.” — APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, in The Washington Post

The new field of Climate Medicine is evidenced by a slew of new organizations and studies.  In addition to numerous agencies set up within WHO and the UN, and governmental entities (such as the Met Office), there are many NGOs, such as:

Health Care Without Harm
Health and Environment Alliance
Health and Climate Foundation
Climate and Health Council
United States National Association of County and City Health Officials
Care International
Global Gender and Climate Alliance / Women’s Environment and   Development Organization
International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations
Climate Change and Human Health Programme, Columbia U.
Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard
National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANC Canberra
Centre for Sustainability and the Global Environment, U of Wisconsin
Environmental Change Institute, Oxford
London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, London, UK
International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change, US National Academies of Science
US Climate and Health Alliance
Etc, etc., etc.

Of course, they are encouraged and abetted by the IPCC.

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From the Fifth Assessment Report:

Until mid-century, projected climate change will impact human health mainly by exacerbating health problems that already exist (very high confidence). Throughout the 21st century, climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions and especially in developing countries with low income, as compared to a baseline without climate change (high confidence). By 2100 for RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is expected to compromise common human activities, including growing food and working outdoors (high confidence). {2.3.2}

In urban areas climate change is projected to increase risks for people, assets, economies and ecosystems, including risks from heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea level rise and storm surges (very high confidence). These risks are amplified for those lacking essential infrastructure and services or living in exposed areas. {2.3.2}

Feared Climate Health Impacts Are Unsupported by Scientific Research

NIPCC has a compendium of peer-reviewed studies on this issue and provides these findings (here)

Key Findings: Human Health
• Warmer temperatures lead to a decrease in temperature-related mortality, including deaths associated with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and strokes. The evidence of this benefit comes from research conducted in every major country of the world.

• In the United States the average person who died because of cold temperature exposure lost in excess of 10 years of potential life, whereas the average person who died because of hot temperature exposure likely lost no more than a few days or weeks of life.

• In the U.S., some 4,600 deaths are delayed each year as people move from cold northeastern states to warm southwestern states. Between 3 and 7% of the gains in longevity experienced over the past three decades was due simply to people moving to warmer states.

• Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics. Coronary and cerebral thrombosis account for about half of all cold-related mortality.

• Global warming is reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases related to low temperatures and wintry weather by a much greater degree than it increases the incidence of cardiovascular diseases associated with high temperatures and summer heat waves.

• A large body of scientific examination and research contradict the claim that malaria will expand across the globe and intensify as a result of CO2 -induced warming.

• Concerns over large increases in vector-borne diseases such as dengue as a result of rising temperatures are unfounded and unsupported by the scientific literature, as climatic indices are poor predictors for dengue disease.

• While temperature and climate largely determine the geographical distribution of ticks, they are not among the significant factors determining the incidence of tick-borne diseases.

• The ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content is not only raising the productivity of Earth’s common food plants but also significantly increasing the quantity and potency of the many healthpromoting substances found in their tissues, which are the ultimate sources of sustenance for essentially all animals and humans.

• Atmospheric CO2 enrichment positively impacts the production of numerous health-promoting substances found in medicinal or “health food” plants, and this phenomenon may have contributed to the increase in human life span that has occurred over the past century or so.

• There is little reason to expect any significant CO2 -induced increases in human-health-harming substances produced by plants as atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise.

Source: Chapter 7. “Human Health,” Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2014).
Full text of Chapter 7 and references on Human health begins pg. 955 of the full report here

ambulance chasers

Summary

Advances in medical science and public health have  benefited billions of people with longer and higher quality lives.  Yet this crucial social asset has joined the list of those fields corrupted by the dash for climate cash. Increasingly, medical talent and resources are diverted into inventing bogeymen and studying imaginary public health crises.

Economists Francesco Boselloa, Roberto Roson and Richard Tol conducted an exhaustive study called Economy-wide estimates of the implications of climate change: Human health

After reviewing all the research and crunching the numbers, they concluded that achieving one degree of global warming by 2050 will, on balance, save more than 800,000 lives annually.

Not only is the warming not happening, we would be more healthy if it did.

Oh, Dr. Frankenmann, what have you wrought?

Footnote:  More proof against Climate Medicine

From: Gasparrini et al: Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study. The Lancet, May 2015

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published in The Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK. “Our findings, from an analysis of the largest dataset of temperature-related deaths ever collected, show that the majority of these deaths actually happen on moderately hot and cold days, with most deaths caused by moderately cold temperatures.”

Now in 2017, Lancet sets the facts aside in order to prostrate itself before the global warming altar:

Christiana Figueres, chair of the Lancet Countdown’s high-level advisory board and former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said, “The report lays bare the impact that climate change is having on our health today. It also shows that tackling climate change directly, unequivocally and immediately improves global health. It’s as simple as that.’’

 

 

 

Famine Forecasts Foiled: Climate Increasing Food Production

Gregory Whitestone has the story at CNS Famine Forecasts Foiled: Climate’s Projected Food Production to Increase  Excerpts below with my bolds.

The latest dose of “fake news” about global warming comes from two forecasts of famine due to human activity. Both drew on estimates of extremely high temperatures predicted by the same flawed climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to predict other climate calamities. The climate models used in the studies are estimated to overpredict temperature by 2.5 to 3 times as compared to actually measured temperatures, and both rely on the highest estimates of maximum temperature increase.

The first of the reports warned that future production of vegetables and legumes would decrease by more than 30 percent with an expected rise of 4C. Even the alarmist IPCC says that the most likely case is a rise of about half that.

The primary reason for the prediction of famine is a sharp decrease in water availability, even though recent reports indicate that previously arid portions of the Earth are experiencing a significant net increase in soil moisture due to a combination of increasing precipitation and CO2 fertilization — both effects of our changing climate.

Buried in the report is an admission that contradicts the hysteria engendered by the headlines. According to the authors, a 250-ppm increase in CO2, without the exaggerated temperature increase, would boost crop production by an average of 22 percent! That’s correct, more food as a result of increasing CO2.

The second report projects decreases in corn (maize) production due to increasing heat waves. This increase in extreme heat was based on the same exaggerated 4oC increase in temperature as the first study.

According to the USDA, corn is the largest component of the global grain trade, and the United States is the world’s largest producer. Corn is thus one of the country’s most important agricultural products, processed as sweet corn, cornmeal, tortillas and, thankfully, bourbon. It also is the primary feedstock to fatten cattle, chickens and hogs.

Fortunately, despite a continuing rise in temperatures, the world and America have set new corn records on an annual basis. The world’s remarkable ability to increase food production year after year is attributable to mechanization, agricultural innovation, CO2 fertilization and warmer weather. World grain production figures show that crop and food production has steadily increased, with only positive effects from our changing climate.

World grain production, consumption (LHS) and stocks (RHS) IGC (International Grain Council) data, Momagri formatting

Historically, crop growth has ballooned in times of high temperatures and declined drastically during cold periods. Over the last 4,000 years we find that previous periods of much warmer temperatures coincided with increasing food and prosperity leading to the rise of great civilizations that were relatively rich and well fed. Prosperous periods were interrupted by times of great despair as the Earth plunged into global cooling. With names like the Greek Dark Ages, the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age, intervening cool periods featured crop failure, famine and mass depopulation.

Corn production in the U.S. presents a conundrum for environmental activists. On the one hand, they engage in fear mongering with predictions of famine based on questionable climate models. On the other hand, as enemies of fossil fuels, the activists promote ethanol production to replace our oil-based transportation fuels. Every acre of corn diverted to ethanol production is an acre that is no longer feeding the world’s hungry. In 2008, Herr Jean Ziegler, the United Nations’ Rapporteur for the Right to Food, claimed that “to divert land from food production to biofuels is a crime against humanity.”

In 2000, the United States imposed the first ethanol mandate, dictating the level of ethanol that must be incorporated into American fuels. At that time, 90 percent of corn production was used for food. Today, only 60 percent of corn produced is used for food, driving up the cost of corn as food. The climate alarmists who claim to care about the world’s hungry could improve their lot overnight by simply canceling the ethanol mandate.

Rising temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide are leading to multiple benefits and perhaps the most important of those is increasing crop production. Sleep well users of fossil fuels; you aren’t causing famine.

Gregory Wrightstone is author of the new book, “Inconvenient Facts: The Science That Al Gore Doesn’t Want You To Know.” Wrightstone is a geologist with more than 35 years of experience researching and studying various aspects of the Earth’s processes. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America.

See also:  Adapting Plants to Feed the World

Alarmists Fret, while Farmers Adapt

 

Update April 18 at End

This latest alarm is about the eastward shift of the above climate zone boundary, which historically was located upon the 100th meridian. The narrative by alarmists is along the lines of “OMG, we are screwed because drylands are replacing wetlands. There goes our food supply.” Some of the story headlines are these:

As World Warms, America’s Invisible ‘Climate Curtain’ Creeps East

The arid US midwest just crept 140 miles east thanks to climate change

America’s Arid West Is Invading the Fertile East

A major climate boundary in the central U.S. has shifted 140 miles due to global warming

From USA Today

Both population and development are sparse west of the 100th meridian, where farms are larger and primarily depend on arid-resistant crops like wheat, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies said. To the more humid east, more people and infrastructure exist. Farms are smaller and a large portion of the harvested crop is moisture-loving corn.

Now, due to shifting patterns in precipitation, wind and temperature since the 1870s — due to man-made climate change — the boundary between the dry West and the wetter East has shifted to roughly 98 degrees west longitude, the 98th meridian.

For instance, in Texas, the boundary has moved approximately from Abilene to Fort Worth.

According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Seager predicts that as the line continues to move farther East, farms will have to consolidate and become larger to remain viable.

And unless farmers are able to adapt, such as by using irrigation, they will need to consider growing wheat or another more suitable crop than corn.

“Large expanses of cropland may fail altogether, and have to be converted to western-style grazing range. Water supplies could become a problem for urban areas,” the Earth Institute said.

The studies appeared in the journal Earth Interactions, a publication of the American Meteorological Society.

What They Didn’t Tell You:  Context Makes All the Difference

This is another example of misdirection to push FFF (Fear of Fossil Fuels) by ignoring history and human ingenuity, while kowtowing to climate models as infallible oracles. The truth is, we didn’t get here by being victims, and lessons from the past will serve in the future.

First, the West Was Settled by Adaptive Farmers

One of the best researchers and historians is Geoff Cunfer, who with Fridolin Krausmann wrote Adaptation on an Agricultural Frontier: The Socio-Ecological Metabolism of Great Plains Settlement, 1875-1936.  Excerpts with my bolds.

The most important agricultural development of the nineteenth century was a massive and rapid expansion of farmland in the world’s grasslands, a process that doubled global land in farms. Displacing indigenous populations, European settlers plowed and fenced extensive new territories in North America’s Great Plains, South America’s campos and pampas, the Ukrainian and Russian steppes, and parts of Australia and New Zealand. Between 1800 and 1920 arable land increased from 400 million hectares to 950 million, and pasture land from 950 to 2,300 million hectares; much of that expansion occurred in grasslands. These regions became enduring “breadbaskets” for their respective nations and fed the nineteenth century’s 60 percent increase in world population. Never had so much new land come into agricultural production so fast. This episode was one of the most extensive and important environmental transformations in world history.

Most agro-ecologists and sustainability scientists focus on the present and the future. This article adapts their approach in order to understand agricultural change in the past, integrating socio-economic and physical-ecological characteristics that reveal both natural and cultural drivers of change. Socio-ecological profiles embrace land use, soil nitrogen, and food energy as key characteristics of agricultural sustainability. Ten descriptive measures link biophysical and socio-economic processes in farm communities to create socio-ecological profiles revealing human impacts on nature as well as environmental endowments, opportunities, constraints, and limitations that influenced settlers’ choices.

Tracing these characteristics from the beginning of agricultural colonization through sixty years reveals a pattern of expansion and growth, maturity, and adaptation. Agricultural systems are seldom static. Farmers interact with constantly varying natural forces and with social processes always in flux. The Kansas agricultural frontier reveals adjustments and readjustments to an ever-changing world and, especially, to environmental  forces beyond settlers’ control. Three distinct socio-ecological profiles emerged in Kansas: a) high productivity mixed farming; b) low productivity ranching; and c) market-oriented dryland wheat farming. The following narrative addresses each profile in chronological order and from east to west across the state, revealing settlers’ rapid adaptation to environmental constraints; accompanying figures allow simultaneous spatial comparison.

Second, Farming was Sustained through Environmental Changes

Cunfer wrote a book On the Great Plains: Agriculture and Environment review here).  Some excerpts with my bolds.

Though it may seem inconceivable to characterize the history of Great Plains land use as stable, Cunfer uncovers a persistent theme in his research: Great Plains farmers surprisingly found an optimal mix between agricultural uses (in particular, plowing vs. pasture) quickly and maintained this mix within the limits of the natural environment for a surprisingly long period of time. Only occasionally, in particular during the mid 1930s, did farmers push the boundaries of this regional environment; however, they quickly returned to a “steady-state” land-use equilibrium.

In particular, Cunfer blends together these two extreme approaches and summarizes Great Plains agricultural history in three components: (1) the rapid build-up of farm settlements from 1870-1920, which substantially altered the surrounding environment; (2) relative land-use stability from 1920 to 2000; and (3) the occasional transition in agricultural techniques which resulted in a quick shift away from this land-use equilibrium.

The Dust Bowl still remains an important environmental crisis and it is often a rallying point for federal government conservation programs. Cunfer adds to this literature by applying GIS maps to the entire Great Plains and interpreting comparative sand, rainfall, and temperature differential data to conclude that “human land-use choices were less prominent in creating dust storms than was the weather” (p. 163).[1] The localized portion of the Great Plains where dust storms were magnified contained substantially more sandy soil, only a small percentage of land devoted for crops, and the greatest degree of rainfall deficits from past trends. This non-exploitative argument contradicts the conventional wisdom which maintains that a massive plow-up followed the trail of increasing wheat prices and low cost of farming.

Our Ancestors Prevailed and We have Additional Advantages

Just as pioneer colonization inscribed a new cultural signature onto a plains landscape constructed by Native Americans, industrial agriculture began to over-write the settlement-era landscape. Fossil fuel-powered technologies brought powerful new abilities to deliver irrigation water, apply synthetic fertilizers, control pests, and reconstruct landscapes with tractors, trucks, and mechanical harvesters. A new equilibrium between environmental alteration and adaptation emerged. Industrial agriculture’s remarkable ability to alter and manage natural systems depends on a massive mobilization of fossil fuel energy. But until the early twentieth century farmers accommodated and adapted to natural constraints to a considerable extent.

Fig. 1 An energy model of agroecosystems, optimized for estimation based on historical sources (adopted from Tello et al. 2015)

Summary

It is disrespectful and demeaning for the activist media types to pretend we are unprepared and incapable of adapting to changing environmental and climate conditions.  Present day knowledge of agroecosystems is highly advanced, supported by modern technologies and experience with crop selections and choices for diverse microclimates.  Confer and colleagues discuss the possibilities in a paper Agroecosystem energy transitions: exploring the energy-land nexus in the course of industrialization

A previous post at this blog was Adapting Works! Mitigating Fails. discussing how farmers pushed the extent of wheat production 1000 km north through adaptation and innovation.

Warming has produced bumper crops most everywhere.

Update April 18

Dr. Roy Spencer has also weighed in on these scare stories, and adds considerable perspective.  He challenges the claim that the eastward shift has happened.

Since I’ve been consulting for U.S. grain interests for the last seven or eight years, I have some interest in this subject. Generally speaking, climate change isn’t on the Midwest farmers’ radar because, so far, there has been no sign of it in agricultural yields. Yields (production per acre) of all grains, even globally, have been on an upward trend for decades. This is fueled mainly by improved seeds, farming practices, and possibly by the direct benefits of more atmospheric CO2 on plants. If there has been any negative effect of modestly increasing temperatures, it has been buried by other, positive, effects.

And so, the study begs the question: how has growing season precipitation changed in this 100th meridian zone? Using NOAA’s own official statewide average precipitation statistics, this is how the rainfall observations for the primary agricultural states in the zone (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma) have fared every year between 1900 and 2017:

100th-meridian-states-jja-precip

What we see is that there has been, so far, no evidence of decreasing precipitation amounts exactly where the authors claim it will occur (and according to press reports, has already occurred).

Spencer’s post is The 100th Meridian Agricultural Scare: Another Example of Media Hype Exceeding Reality

 

 

 

Food, Conflict and Climate

From data versus models department, a recent study contradicts claims linking human conflict to climate change by means of food shortages. From Dartmouth College March 1, 2018 comes Food Abundance and Violent Conflict in Africa.  by Ore Koren.  American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2018; Synopsis is from Science Daily (here) with my bolds.

Food abundance driving conflict in Africa, not food scarcity

The study refutes the notion that climate change will increase the frequency of civil war in Africa as a result of food scarcity triggered by rising temperatures and drought. Most troops in Africa are unable to sustain themselves due to limited access to logistics and state support, and must live off locally sourced food. The findings reveal that the actors are often drawn to areas with abundant food resources, whereby, they aim to exert control over such resources.

To examine how the availability of food may have affected armed conflict in Africa, the study relies on PRIO-Grid data from over 10,600 grid cells in Africa from 1998 to 2008, new agricultural yields data from EarthStat and Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset, which documents incidents of political violence, including those with and without casualties. The data was used to estimate how annual local wheat and maize yields (two staple crops) at a local village/town level may have affected the frequency of conflict. To capture only the effects of agricultural productivity on conflict rather than the opposite, the analysis incorporates the role of droughts using the Standardized Precipitation Index, which aggregates monthly precipitation by cell year.

The study identifies four categories in which conflicts may arise over food resources in Africa, which reflect the interests and motivations of the respective group:

  1. State and military forces that do not receive regular support from the state are likely to gravitate towards areas, where food resources are abundant in order to feed themselves.
  2. Rebel groups and non-state actors opposing the government may be drawn to food rich areas, where they can exploit the resources for profit.
  3. Self-defense militias and civil defense forces representing agricultural communities in rural regions, may protect their communities against raiders and expand their control into other areas with arable land and food resources.
  4. Militias representing pastoralists communities live in mainly arid regions and are highly mobile, following their cattle or other livestock, rather than relying on crops. To replenish herds or obtain food crops, they may raid other agriculturalist communities.

These actors may resort to violence to seek access to food, as the communities that they represent may not have enough food resources or the economic means to purchase livestock or drought-resistant seeds. Although droughts can lead to violence, such as in urban areas; this was found not to be the case for rural areas, where the majority of armed conflicts occurred where food crops were abundant.

Food scarcity can actually have a pacifying effect.“Examining food availability and the competition over such resources, especially where food is abundant, is essential to understanding the frequency of civil war in Africa,” says Ore Koren, a U.S. foreign policy and international security fellow at Dartmouth College and Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Minnesota. “Understanding how climate change will affect food productivity and access is vital; yet, predictions of how drought may affect conflict may be overstated in Africa and do not get to the root of the problem. Instead, we should focus on reducing inequality and improving local infrastructure, alongside traditional conflict resolution and peace building initiatives,” explains Koren.

Summary:

In Africa, food abundance may be driving violent conflict rather than food scarcity, according to a new study. The study refutes the notion that climate change will increase the frequency of civil war in Africa as a result of food scarcity triggered by rising temperatures and drought.

Reading the study itself shows considerable rigor in sorting out dependent and independent variables.  It is certain that armed conflicts destroy food resources, while it is claimed that food shortages from climate events like drought cause the conflicts in the first place.  From Koren:

Moreover, in addition to illustrating the validity of this mechanism by the process of elimination—that is, by empirically accounting for a variety of alternative mechanisms— figure 2 further highlights the interactions between economic inequality, food resources, and conflict. Here, nonparametric regression plots—which do not enforce a modeling structure on the data and hence provide a more flexible method of visualizing relationships between different factors—show the correlations of local yields and conflict with respect to economic development as approximated using nighttime light levels. As shown, conflict occurs more frequently in cells with more crop productivity, but relatively low levels of economic development, where—based on anecdotal evidence at least—limitations on food access are more likely (Roncoli, Ingram, and Kirshen 2001).

Background Resource

Climates Don’t Start Wars, People Do

Adapting Plants to Feed the World

Credit: Edwin Remsberg Getty Images

Writing in the Atlantic, Charles Mann raises an important question: Can Planet Earth Feed 10 Billion People? Humanity has 30 years to find out.  Excerpts below with my images and bolds.

Context

In 1970, when I was in high school, about one out of every four people was hungry—“undernourished,” to use the term preferred today by the United Nations. Today the proportion has fallen to roughly one out of 10. In those four-plus decades, the global average life span has, astoundingly, risen by more than 11 years; most of the increase occurred in poor places. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa have lifted themselves from destitution into something like the middle class. This enrichment has not occurred evenly or equitably: Millions upon millions are not prosperous. Still, nothing like this surge of well-being has ever happened before. No one knows whether the rise can continue, or whether our current affluence can be sustained.

Today the world has about 7.6 billion inhabitants. Most demographers believe that by about 2050, that number will reach 10 billion or a bit less. Around this time, our population will probably begin to level off. As a species, we will be at about “replacement level”: On average, each couple will have just enough children to replace themselves. All the while, economists say, the world’s development should continue, however unevenly. The implication is that when my daughter is my age, a sizable percentage of the world’s 10 billion people will be middle-class.

Like other parents, I want my children to be comfortable in their adult lives. But in the hospital parking lot, this suddenly seemed unlikely. Ten billion mouths, I thought. Three billion more middle-class appetites. How can they possibly be satisfied? But that is only part of the question. The full question is: How can we provide for everyone without making the planet uninhabitable?

Two Schools of Plant Development: Followers of William Vogt and Norman Borlaug

Both men thought of themselves as using new scientific knowledge to face a planetary crisis. But that is where the similarity ends. For Borlaug, human ingenuity was the solution to our problems. One example: By using the advanced methods of the Green Revolution to increase per-acre yields, he argued, farmers would not have to plant as many acres, an idea researchers now call the “Borlaug hypothesis.” Vogt’s views were the opposite: The solution, he said, was to use ecological knowledge to get smaller. Rather than grow more grain to produce more meat, humankind should, as his followers say, “eat lower on the food chain,” to lighten the burden on Earth’s ecosystems. This is where Vogt differed from his predecessor, Robert Malthus, who famously predicted that societies would inevitably run out of food because they would always have too many children. Vogt, shifting the argument, said that we may be able to grow enough food, but at the cost of wrecking the world’s ecosystems.

I think of the adherents of these two perspectives as “Wizards” and “Prophets.” Wizards, following Borlaug’s model, unveil technological fixes; Prophets, looking to Vogt, decry the consequences of our heedlessness.

Even though the global population in 2050 will be just 25 percent higher than it is now, typical projections claim that farmers will have to boost food output by 50 to 100 percent. The main reason is that increased affluence has always multiplied the demand for animal products such as cheese, dairy, fish, and especially meat—and growing feed for animals requires much more land, water, and energy than producing food simply by growing and eating plants. Exactly how much more meat tomorrow’s billions will want to consume is unpredictable, but if they are anywhere near as carnivorous as today’s Westerners, the task will be huge. And, Prophets warn, so will the planetary disasters that will come of trying to satisfy the world’s desire for burgers and bacon: ravaged landscapes, struggles over water, and land grabs that leave millions of farmers in poor countries with no means of survival.

What to do? Some of the strategies that were available during the first Green Revolution aren’t anymore. Farmers can’t plant much more land, because almost every accessible acre of arable soil is already in use. Nor can the use of fertilizer be increased; it is already being overused everywhere except some parts of Africa, and the runoff is polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. Irrigation, too, cannot be greatly expanded—most land that can be irrigated already is. Wizards think the best course is to use genetic modification to create more-productive crops. Prophets see that as a route to further overwhelming the planet’s carrying capacity. We must go in the opposite direction, they say: use less land, waste less water, stop pouring chemicals into both.

The Rub is Rubisco

All the while that Wizards were championing synthetic fertilizer and Prophets were denouncing it, they were united in ignorance: Nobody knew why plants were so dependent on nitrogen. Only after the Second World War did scientists discover that plants need nitrogen chiefly to make a protein called rubisco, a prima donna in the dance of interactions that is photosynthesis.

In photosynthesis, as children learn in school, plants use energy from the sun to tear apart carbon dioxide and water, blending their constituents into the compounds necessary to make roots, stems, leaves, and seeds. Rubisco is an enzyme that plays a key role in the process. Enzymes are biological catalysts. Like jaywalking pedestrians who cause automobile accidents but escape untouched, enzymes cause biochemical reactions to occur but are unchanged by those reactions. Rubisco takes carbon dioxide from the air, inserts it into the maelstrom of photosynthesis, then goes back for more. Because these movements are central to the process, photosynthesis walks at the speed of rubisco.

Alas, rubisco is, by biological standards, a sluggard, a lazybones, a couch potato. Whereas typical enzyme molecules catalyze thousands of reactions a second, rubisco molecules deign to involve themselves with just two or three a second. Worse, rubisco is inept. As many as two out of every five times, rubisco fumblingly picks up oxygen instead of carbon dioxide, causing the chain of reactions in photosynthesis to break down and have to restart, wasting energy and water. Years ago I talked with biologists about photosynthesis for a magazine article. Not one had a good word to say about rubisco. “Nearly the world’s worst, most incompetent enzyme,” said one researcher. “Not one of evolution’s finest efforts,” said another. To overcome rubisco’s lassitude and maladroitness, plants make a lot of it, requiring a lot of nitrogen to do so. As much as half of the protein in many plant leaves, by weight, is rubisco—it is often said to be the world’s most abundant protein. One estimate is that plants and microorganisms contain more than 11 pounds of rubisco for every person on Earth.

The Promise of C4 Photosynthesis

Evolution, one would think, should have improved rubisco. No such luck. But it did produce a work-around: C4 photosynthesis (C4 refers to a four-carbon molecule involved in the scheme). At once a biochemical kludge and a clever mechanism for turbocharging plant growth, C4 photosynthesis consists of a wholesale reorganization of leaf anatomy.

When carbon dioxide comes into a C4 leaf, it is initially grabbed not by rubisco but by a different enzyme that uses it to form a compound that is then pumped into special, rubisco-filled cells deep in the leaf. These cells have almost no oxygen, so rubisco can’t bumblingly grab the wrong molecule. The end result is exactly the same sugars, starches, and cellulose that ordinary photosynthesis produces, except much faster. C4 plants need less water and fertilizer than ordinary plants, because they don’t waste water on rubisco’s mistakes. In the sort of convergence that makes biologists snap to attention, C4 photosynthesis has arisen independently more than 60 times. Corn, tumbleweed, crabgrass, sugarcane, and Bermuda grass—all of these very different plants evolved C4 photosynthesis.

jatiluwih2

Balinese Rice Fields

The Rice Consortium Moonshot

In the botanical equivalent of a moonshot, scientists from around the world are trying to convert rice into a C4 plant—one that would grow faster, require less water and fertilizer, and produce more grain. The scope and audacity of the project are hard to overstate. Rice is the world’s most important foodstuff, the staple crop for more than half the global population, a food so embedded in Asian culture that the words rice and meal are variants of each other in both Chinese and Japanese. Nobody can predict with confidence how much more rice farmers will need to grow by 2050, but estimates range up to a 40 percent rise, driven by both increasing population numbers and increasing affluence, which permits formerly poor people to switch to rice from less prestigious staples such as millet and sweet potato.

Funded largely by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the C4 Rice Consortium is the world’s most ambitious genetic-engineering project. But the term genetic engineering does not capture the project’s scope. The genetic engineering that appears in news reports typically involves big companies sticking individual packets of genetic material, usually from a foreign species, into a crop. The paradigmatic example is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean, which contains a snippet of DNA from a bacterium that was found in a Louisiana waste pond. That snippet makes the plant assemble a chemical compound in its leaves and stems that blocks the effects of Roundup, Monsanto’s widely used herbicide. The foreign gene lets farmers spray Roundup on their soy fields, killing weeds but leaving the crop unharmed. Except for making a single tasteless, odorless, nontoxic protein, Roundup Ready soybeans are otherwise identical to ordinary soybeans.

What the C4 Rice Consortium is trying to do with rice bears the same resemblance to typical genetically modified crops as a Boeing 787 does to a paper airplane. Rather than tinker with individual genes in order to monetize seeds, the scientists are trying to refashion photosynthesis, one of the most fundamental processes of life. Because C4 has evolved in so many different species, scientists believe that most plants must have precursor C4 genes. The hope is that rice is one of these, and that the consortium can identify and awaken its dormant C4 genes—following a path evolution has taken many times before. Ideally, researchers would switch on sleeping chunks of genetic material already in rice (or use very similar genes from related species that are close cousins but easier to work with) to create, in effect, a new and more productive species. Common rice, Oryza sativa, will become something else: Oryza nova, say. No company will profit from the result; the International Rice Research Institute, where much of the research takes place, will give away seeds for the modified grain, as it did with Green Revolution rice.

Directing the C4 Rice Consortium is Jane Langdale, a molecular geneticist at Oxford’s Department of Plant Sciences. Initial research, she told me, suggests that about a dozen genes play a major part in leaf structure, and perhaps another 10 genes have an equivalent role in the biochemistry. All must be activated in a way that does not affect the plant’s existing, desirable qualities and that allows the genes to coordinate their actions. The next, equally arduous step would be breeding rice varieties that can channel the extra growth provided by C4 photosynthesis into additional grains, rather than roots or stalk. All the while, varieties must be disease-resistant, easy to grow, and palatable for their intended audience, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

“I think it can all happen, but it might not,” Langdale said. She was quick to point out that even if C4 rice runs into insurmountable obstacles, it is not the only biological moonshot. Self-fertilizing maize, wheat that can grow in salt water, enhanced soil-microbial ecosystems—all are being researched. The odds that any one of these projects will succeed may be small, the idea goes, but the odds that all of them will fail are equally small. The Wizardly process begun by Borlaug is, in Langdale’s view, still going strong.

Summary

To Vogtians, the best agriculture takes care of the soil first and foremost, a goal that entails smaller patches of multiple crops—difficult to accomplish when concentrating on the mass production of a single crop. Truly extending agriculture that does this would require bringing back at least some of the people whose parents and grandparents left the countryside. Providing these workers with a decent living would drive up costs. Some labor-sparing mechanization is possible, but no small farmer I have spoken with thinks that it would be possible to shrink the labor force to the level seen in big industrial operations. The whole system can grow only with a wall-to-wall rewrite of the legal system that encourages the use of labor. Such large shifts in social arrangements are not easily accomplished.

And here is the origin of the decades-long dispute between Wizards and Prophets. Although the argument is couched in terms of calories per acre and ecosystem conservation, the disagreement at bottom is about the nature of agriculture—and, with it, the best form of society. To Borlaugians, farming is a kind of useful drudgery that should be eased and reduced as much as possible to maximize individual liberty. To Vogtians, agriculture is about maintaining a set of communities, ecological and human, that have cradled life since the first agricultural revolution, 10,000-plus years ago. It can be drudgery, but it is also work that reinforces the human connection to the Earth. The two arguments are like skew lines, not on the same plane.

My daughter is 19 now, a sophomore in college. In 2050, she will be middle-aged. It will be up to her generation to set up the institutions, laws, and customs that will provide for basic human needs in the world of 10 billion. Every generation decides the future, but the choices made by my children’s generation will resonate for as long as demographers can foresee. Wizard or Prophet? The choice will be less about what this generation thinks is feasible than what it thinks is good.

Feeding the World Requires Cutting-Edge Science and Institutions

 

Doomsday was predicted but failed to happen at midnight.

CO2 Destroys Food Nutrition! Not.

Ok, my post title is over the top, exaggerating the certainty of my finding. And the moldy bread was the scariest image of spoiling food I could find. But I was provoked by the media awash with alarmist headlines:

Elevated Carbon Dioxide Levels Rob Crops Of Nutrients

Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition

In an earlier post Researchers Against CO2 I reported on one line of research claiming crops suffer from more CO2 (against loads of studies showing how much plants love CO2). This is a more recent, more subtle attack, claiming the plants grow bigger all right, but the grains have less protein, and less micronutrients like iron and zinc. And of course, the remedy is for everyone to fulfill their Paris commitment to stop any further warming.

As with other alarming impacts, the evidence is much more nuanced, and the implications are not as dire as the headlines shout. And the countermeasures are practical and do not require global treaties. Many alarming reports have appeared in the last two years, a recent example being:

Elevated Carbon Dioxide Levels Rob Crops Of Nutrients
Some crops grown at elevated carbon dioxide levels have less zinc and iron.

The carbon dioxide levels in all of the included FACE experiments were around 550 parts per million, which is the projected atmospheric carbon dioxide level around the year 2050. For comparison, the carbon dioxide concentration at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century was 280 ppm, and April 2014 was the first time that global carbon dioxide levels climbed above 400 ppm for an entire month.

When the team analyzed their data, the results showed a significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc and iron as well as protein in wheat and rice cultivars. For example, zinc, iron, and protein concentrations in wheat grains grown at the FACE sites were reduced by about 9 percent, 5 percent, and 6 percent respectively, compared with wheat grown at ambient carbon dioxide. If people consumed more food to make up for the drop in nutrients there could be other health consequences, including increased obesity, Myers posited. “The ratio of nutrients to calories in the food is really important.”

Zinc and iron were also significantly reduced in legumes such as soybeans and field peas in the study, although protein was not.

Note that the reductions are small assuming the projected 2050 CO2 levels. It is also the case that other researchers see other factors at work. For example, Lieffering et al. 2004 (my bolds)

The impact of elevated CO2 on the elemental concentrations of field-grown rice grains

We analysed the elemental concentrations of archived grain samples collected from temperate rice crops grown under free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) conditions. Like in the pot experiments, in our study elevated CO2 increased biomass and grain production and decreased grain N concentrations.

In contrast however, we found no changes in the concentrations of any of the other elements analysed. We thought it is likely that dilution was observed in the pot studies because nutrient supplies were limiting, primarily because of the small rooting volumes. In contrast, our experiment was conducted under field conditions, with highly fertile soils and large rooting volumes leading to plentiful nutrient supplies (especially micro-elements).

The root production response under elevated CO2 was more than twice the aboveground biomass response; we hypothesised that if this led to a greater relative nutrient uptake capacity, elemental uptake may have matched the increase in aboveground biomass and hence no change in concentration would be detected.

We conclude that a dilution of elements in the grain is not a foregone conclusion under elevated CO2: where elements are in plentiful supply and uptake rates can match increases in yield, no dilution will be detected.


A study by Saman Seneweera theorized about the mechanism that may be operating in nutrient-deficient grains. (my bolds)

Effects of elevated CO2 on plant growth and nutrient partitioning of rice (Oryza sativa L.) at rapid tillering and physiological maturity 

However, the biochemical mechanisms of reduction in grain protein content at elevated CO2 are still unknown. Biochemical make-up of the plant was changed when plants were exposed to elevated CO2 for long periodlargely as a result of increases in photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency. . . It is established that small-grained cereals like barley, wheat and rice may mobilize up to 90% of the nitrogen from the vegetative plant parts during grain filling; hence, overall less N investment in the plant at elevated CO2 could be the primary cause for reduction in grain protein concentration at elevated CO2.

In this experiment, no difference was found in grain macronutrients such as P, K, Mg and Ca . This experiment was quite different to other experiments as this study was conducted under sand culture up to grain maturity. In most of the other experiments where grain macronutrients concentration are studied, a large reduction in nutrients such as K, Mg and Ca has been reported, suggesting that this may be due to the restricted rooting volume.  However, Lieffering et al. 2004 reported no differences in grain macronutrients under elevated CO2 under field condition with rice.

Both the experiments, ours with a constant supply of macro and micronutrients, and the Lieffering et al. experiment, were conducted under flooded conditions where availability of these nutrients is relatively higher as submergence enhanced the nutrient availability. However, when wheat was grown under dry land conditions (FACE experiment), this reduction in micro and macronutrient concentration was significant at elevated CO2. It is likely that macro and micronutrient management is required to maintain grain quality under elevated CO2.

Summary

Once again, in the real world, many factors other than CO2 influence the nutritional value of crops. And most of them can be managed as part of ongoing agricultural adaptation to changing circumstances.

The authors suggest that some of the nutritional deficits they observed could be counteracted through breeding programs that select for decreased sensitivity to carbon dioxide. For example, their results showed that zinc and iron varied substantially across different rice strains.

David Wolfe, a plant and soil ecologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said that in addition to reducing carbon dioxide admissions, other strategies include breeding for crops that take up more iron and zinc from the soil in elevated carbon dioxide conditions, or to diversify crops to include protein-rich legumes such as beans and peas or iron-rich spinach. The food industry could also fortify salts or other foods with iron and zinc, Myers added.

MIT False Climate Alarm

 

From MIT News, Deadly heat waves could hit South Asia this century
Without action, climate change could devastate a region home to one-fifth of humanity, study finds.

The key claim is:

The effects of unchecked temperature rise would extend beyond the health concerns associated with being outside in high temperatures. With workers unable to stay outdoors for extended periods of time, the region’s economy and agricultural output would decline, experts say. “With the disruption to the agricultural production, it doesn’t need to be the heat wave itself that kills people,” says study author Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a press release. “Production will go down, so potentially everyone will suffer.”

Matthew E. Kahn , Professor of Economics at USC explains why climate scientists should not be trusted when doing economic forecasts. His essay is An MIT Engineer Discusses Economic Issues Related to Climate Change Adaptation

What does economics have to say about this prediction of economic outcomes out 83 years from now?
“Deadly heat waves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia”

1. Note that there are no general equilibrium effects. If the South Asian economy (i.e India) is closed to international trade, then agriculture prices will go up as production contracts, farmers could actually be richer if demand is inelastic.

2. There is no storage and no savings in his “economy”. If heat waves are predictable, won’t people save $ for the hot summers? This paper by Donaldson et. al. shows that capital markets in India’s rural areas play a key role in allowing for consumption risk smoothing. This MIT engineer is colleagues with Rob Townsend and should talk to Rob about his 1994 Econometrica.

3. There is no urban air conditioned sector for people to migrate to.

4. If the South Asian economy is open to international trade, then urban consumers will import from other regions during hot summers and won’t face price increases. In this case, local farmers will bear the incidence of hot summers. To reduce their exposure to such income risk, they should send a child to the city to work and the child will remit $ back to the country side. Read Mobarak’s co-authored Econometrica from Bangladesh for an optimistic preview of the region’s future.

5. There is no innovation in the agricultural sector to allow the South Asian farmers to cope with extreme heat. Neither human capital increases, nor world innovations diffusing to South Asia plays a role in helping these individuals to cope.

6. I could not find a discussion of farmer choice of what to grow and the discrete choice margin of adjustment to more heat resistant crops (see Mendelsohn’s many papers).

A quick look at the 47 references of the paper reveals that no economics research is cited. That’s interesting on several levels.

Despite being out of their field Eltahir et al. went on to proclaim their activism (my bolds):

In South Asia, a region of deep poverty where one-fifth of the world’s people live, new research suggests that by the end of this century climate change could lead to summer heat waves with levels of heat and humidity that exceed what humans can survive without protection.

There is still time to avert such severe warming if measures are implemented now to reduce the most dire consequences of global warming. However, under business-as-usual scenarios, without significant reductions in carbon emissions, the study shows these deadly heat waves could begin within as little as a few decades to strike regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, including the fertile Indus and Ganges river basins that produce much of the region’s food supply.

Researchers note that the disastrous scenario could be avoided if countries meet their commitments to keep temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100. That goal, embedded in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, will likely be difficult to meet without increasingly ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The new findings, based on detailed computer simulations using the best available global circulation models, are described this week in the journal Science Advances, in a paper by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT; Eun Soon Im, a former researcher at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology and now a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and Jeremy Pal, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

It is a familiar story:  Climatists can not contemplate, let alone analyze how humans adapt to changing circumstances.  They are totally focused on reducing CO2 emissions, even though these have been greening the planet in recent decades.

See Also Adapting Works, Mitigation Fails

 

Updated: Climates Don’t Start Wars, People Do

Update July 14

A new study has looked into the Syrian civil war, which has been the poster child for those claiming climate causes  human conflict.  h\t to Mike Hulme who posted Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War Revisited The study concluded:

“For proponents of the view that anthropogenic climate change will become a ‘threat multiplier’ for instability in the decades ahead, the Syrian civil war has become a recurring reference point, providing apparently compelling evidence that such conflict effects are already with us. According to this view, human-induced climatic change was a contributory factor in the extreme drought experienced within Syria prior to its civil war; this drought in turn led to large-scale migration; and this migration in turn exacerbated the socio-economic stresses that underpinned Syria’s descent into war. This article provides a systematic interrogation of these claims, and finds little merit to them. Amongst other things it shows that there is no clear and reliable evidence that anthropogenic climate change was a factor in Syria’s pre-civil war drought; that this drought did not cause anywhere near the scale of migration that is often alleged; and that there exists no solid evidence that drought migration pressures in Syria contributed to civil war onset. The Syria case, the article finds, does not support ‘threat multiplier’ views of the impacts of climate change; to the contrary, we conclude, policymakers, commentators and scholars alike should exercise far greater caution when drawing such linkages or when securitising climate change.”  (my bold)

Original Post

Once again the media are promoting a link between climate change and human conflicts. It is obvious to anyone in their right mind that wars correlate with environmental destruction. From rioting in Watts, to the wars in Iraq, or the current chaos in Syria, there’s no doubt that fighting degrades the environment big time.

What is strange here is the notion that changes in temperatures and/or rainfall cause the conflicts in the first place. The researchers that advance this claim are few in number and are hotly disputed by many others in the field, but you would not know that from the one-sided coverage in the mass media.

The Claim

Lately the fuss arises from this study: Climate, conflict, and social stability: what does the evidence say?, Hsiang, S.M. & Burke, M. Climatic Change (2014) 123: 39. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0868-3

Hsiang and Burke (2014) examine 50 quantitative empirical studies and find a “remarkable convergence in findings” (p. 52) and “strong support for a causal association” (p. 42) between climatological changes and conflict at all scales and across all major regions of the world. A companion paper by Hsiang et al. (2013) that attempts to quantify the average effect from these studies indicates that a 1 standard deviation (σ) increase in temperature or rainfall anomaly is associated with an 11.1 % change in the risk of “intergroup conflict”.1 Assuming that future societies respond similarly to climate variability as past populations, they warn that increased rates of human conflict might represent a “large and critical impact” of climate change.

The Bigger Picture

This assertion is disputed by numerous researchers, some 26 of whom joined in a peer-reviewed comment: One effect to rule them all? A comment on climate and conflict, Buhaug, H., Nordkvelle, J., Bernauer, T. et al. Climatic Change (2014) 127: 391. doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1266-1

In contrast to Hsiang and coauthors, we find no evidence of a convergence of findings on climate variability and civil conflict. Recent studies disagree not only on the magnitude of the impact of climate variability but also on the direction of the effect. The aggregate median effect from these studies suggests that a one-standard deviation increase in temperature or loss of rainfall is associated with a 3.5 % increase in conflict risk, although the 95 % highest density area of the distribution of effects cannot exclude the possibility of large negative or positive effects. With all contemporaneous effects, the aggregate point estimate increases somewhat but remains statistically indistinguishable from zero.

To be clear, this commentary should not be taken to imply that climate has no influence on armed conflict. Rather, we argue – in line with recent scientific reviews (Adger et al. 2014; Bernauer et al. 2012; Gleditsch 2012; Klomp and Bulte 2013; Meierding 2013; Scheffran et al. 2012a,b; Theisen et al. 2013; Zografos et al. 2014) – that research to date has failed to converge on a specific and direct association between climate and violent conflict.

The Root of Climate Change Bias

The two sides have continued to publish and the issue is far from settled. Interested observers describe how serious people can disagree so frequently about such findings in climate science.

Modeling and data choices sway conclusions about climate-conflict links, Andrew M. Linke, and Frank D. W. Witmer, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0483 here

Conclusions about the climate–conflict relationship are also contingent on the assumptions behind the respective statistical analyses. Although this simple fact is generally understood, we stress the disciplinary preferences in modeling decisions.

However, we believe that the Burke et al. finding is not a “benchmark” in the sense that it is the scientific truth or an objective reality because disciplinary-related modeling decisions, data availability and choices, and coding rules are critical in deriving robust conclusions about temperature and conflict.

After adding additional covariates (models 4 and 6), the significant temperature effect in the Burke et al. (1) model disappears, with sociopolitical variables predicting conflict more effectively than the climate variables. Furthermore, this specification provides additional insights into the between- and within-effects that vary for factors such as political exclusion and prior conflict.

Summary

Sociopolitical variables predict conflict more effectively than climate variables. It is well established that poorer countries, such as those in Africa, are more likely to experience chronic human conflicts. It is also obvious that failing states fall into armed conflicts, being unable to govern effectively due to corruption and illegitimacy.

It boggles the mind that activists promote policies to deny cheap, reliable energy for such countries, perpetuating or increasing their poverty and misery, while claiming such actions reduce the chances of conflicts in the future.

Halvard Buhaug concludes (here):

Vocal actors within policy and practice contend that environmental variability and shocks, such as drought and prolonged heat waves, drive civil wars in Africa. Recently, a widely publicized scientific article appears to substantiate this claim. This paper investigates the empirical foundation for the claimed relationship in detail. Using a host of different model specifications and alternative measures of drought, heat, and civil war, the paper concludes that climate variability is a poor predictor of armed conflict. Instead, African civil wars can be explained by generic structural and contextual conditions: prevalent ethno-political exclusion, poor national economy, and the collapse of the Cold War system.

Footnote:  The Joys of Playing Climate Whack-A-Mole

Dealing with alarmist claims is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time you beat down one bogeyman, another one pops up in another field, and later the first one returns, needing to be confronted again. I have been playing Climate Whack-A-Mole for a while, and if you are interested, there are some hammers supplied below.

The alarmist methodology is repetitive, only the subject changes. First, create a computer model, purporting to be a physical or statistical representation of the real world. Then play with the parameters until fears are supported by the model outputs. Disregard or discount divergences from empirical observations. This pattern is described in more detail at Chameleon Climate Models

This post is the latest in a series here which apply reality filters to attest climate models.  The first was Temperatures According to Climate Models where both hindcasting and forecasting were seen to be flawed.

Others in the Series are:

Sea Level Rise: Just the Facts

Data vs. Models #1: Arctic Warming

Data vs. Models #2: Droughts and Floods

Data vs. Models #3: Disasters

Data vs. Models #4: Climates Changing

Climate Medicine

Beware getting sucked into any model.

Researchers Against CO2


The media are reporting stories with a new theme: More CO2 is bad for plant life. This flies in the face of biochemistry, but the activist motivation is clear: They want people thinking CO2 is bad in every way. They don’t want the warming scare undermined by the idea that CO2 along with warming actually helps plant life and agriculture.

The current stories are coming from researchers involved with an outdoor laboratory site called Jasper Ridge, affiliated with Stanford University, my alma mater and home to famous alarmist Stephen Schneider (deceased). The headlines are occasioned by a new paper appearing Sept. 5 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, authored by Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment..

Headlines Claim, Details Deny

Headlines and claims like those below are appearing this week, but as we shall see, the details do not support the conclusions claimed; a leap of faith (bias) is required.

Warmer, wetter climate would impair California grasslands, 17-year experiment finds

“There’s been some hope that changing climate conditions would lead to increased productivity of grasses and other plants that draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said study lead author Kai Zhu, a global ecologist and data scientist at Rice “In northern California, it was hypothesized that net grassland productivity might increase under the warmer, wetter conditions that are predicted by most long-term climate models. Our evidence disproves that idea.”

Future climate change field test doesn’t make Earth greener

Plants like carbon dioxide — the main heat-trapping gas. Some people argue that because of that, climate change isn’t so bad and will mean greener Earth.  But the experiment’s findings contradict that.  At least in the California ecosystem, plants that received extra carbon dioxide, as well as those that got extra warmth, didn’t grow more or get greener.

Future climate change field test doesn’t make Earth greener

“This experiment really puts to bed the idea of a greener hypothesis where ecosystems save us from the implications of human-induced climate change.”  Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.Field, whose study appears Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, theorizes that there’s a limit to how much carbon dioxide plants can use.

The Principle of Limiting Factors

Botanists subscribe to the principle that each species has a range of conditions that it can tolerate, and each factor has an ideal level for that species.  When a factor deviates from ideal, it constrains the growth and becomes the limiting factor.

  • The following are regarded as the most important environmental factors
    ·        Temperature
    ·        Moisture supply
    ·        Radiant energy
    ·        Composition of the atmosphere
    ·        Soil aeration and soil structure
    ·        Soil reaction
    ·        Biotic factors
    ·        Supply of mineral nutrients
    ·        Absence of growth-restricting substances

The first four factors can be considered as climate factors, while the others vary for other reasons. Scientists are conducting experiments in many places to measure the effects of climate factors, both singly and in combination.

Empirical Tests of CO2 and Plant Life

With respect to CO2 the Free-Air CO2 Enrichment or FACE technology was developed as a means to enrich the air with CO2 around vegetation while having minimal effects on the surrounding microclimate. Some of those experiments were conducted on various grassland species, many of which were growing naturally in pastures. CO2 science provides details here.

Dr. Sylvan H. Wittwer, professor emeritus of horticulture at Michigan State, describes the results:

Thousands of scientific experiments have been conducted to measure the effects of carbon dioxide enrichment on specific plants. In most green plants, productivity continues to rise up to CO2 concentrations of 1,000 ppm and above. For rice, the optimal CO2 level is between 1,500 and 2,000 ppm. For unicellular algae, the optimal level is 10,000 to 50,000 ppm. Bruce Kimball, a research leader of the Water Conservation Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Phoenix, Arizona, has pulled together nearly 800 scientific observations from around the world measuring the response of food and flower crops to elevated CO2 concentrations. The mean (average) response to a doubling of the CO2 concentration from its current level of 360 ppm is a 32 percent improvement in plant productivity, with varied manifestations in different species.

Dr. Wittwer directed the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station for 20 years, and chaired the Board on Agriculture of the National Research Council. He provides details on the interaction of CO2 and plants in his article Rising CO2 is Great for Plants

What’s Different about Jasper Ridge

The attempt to overturn vast evidence of CO2 benefiting the biosphere involves manipulating several factors, including non-climatic ones. Chris Field, director of the project in an interview:

In order to create a realistic possible future environment for these grasslands, we’re manipulating four environmental factors. We’re doubling the concentration of atmospheric CO2. It’s currently about four hundred parts per million, or 0.04 percent in the atmosphere. Our targeted level for the experiments is 0.07 percent, seven hundred parts per million, which is a level that, depending on CO2 emissions, we might reach anywhere in the second half of the century.

We’re increasing the average temperature using heat lamps by about three degrees Fahrenheit. This is at the low end of the projections for the second half of the century. But it’s a practical level for us to achieve without a really massive infrastructure.

We’re also adding nitrogen pollution. It’s better known as acid rain. But it’s biologically available nitrogen that comes also from fossil fuel combustion and other industrial processes. We’re adding it at a level that’s typically experienced now in areas in Northern Europe, in the Northeastern U.S., which are relatively polluted.

The fourth environmental factor that we’re manipulating is rainfall. In general, at the worldwide scale, we know that as it gets warmer, the amount of precipitation basically has to increase because more water is evaporating from the ocean. We don’t know whether a given spot will be wetter or dryer. But by having a precipitation increase, we can untangle the interaction between the other treatments and the precipitation, and more or less create a framework where we can evaluate the impact of precipitation in each of the other factors.

The way our experiments are designed is that we have two levels of each of these four major factors, CO2, warming, Nitrogen pollution, and extra precipitation. And we have all of the different combinations of the two levels. So we have all the two treatment combinations, the three treatment combinations, and the four treatment combinations. Each of those is replicated eight times. Because we’re imposing these treatments on a natural ecosystem, we have lots and lots of variability from place to place and time to time. And the only way that we can be confident that we’re seeing the true effects of our treatments and not just environmental variability, is if we have enough replicates of each treatment that we can extract out the signal from the noise.

One of the most unexpected results we’ve had in the Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment is the realization that under a wide range of conditions, increased atmospheric CO2 does not lead to increased plant growth. In fact, under many conditions, elevated atmospheric CO2 actually prevents plants from taking full advantage of other resources that are available in the environment. This has quite profound implications for our understanding of ecosystem response to global change and for future climate change. If plants, in fact, don’t grow more under elevated carbon dioxide, it means that atmospheric CO2 is likely to grow faster in the future than we have been anticipating. It basically puts a lot more pressure on societies to figure out how to control emissions of carbon dioxide rather than stepping back and hoping that ecosystems will help us solve the fossil fuel problem.

Once we realized this, it was really important to figure out what the mechanism was; because we know from lots of laboratory studies that the instantaneous rate of plant growth or photosynthesis almost always increases under elevated atmospheric CO2 . We did a variety of experiments that tried to infer the mechanisms from the observations that we were able to take in the existing experiment; these lines of evidence pointed to the fact that there was another mineral nutrient, another kind of fertilizer, that was required for plant growth that was preventing them from taking advantage of the elevated atmospheric CO2 and it might even be becoming less available under elevated CO2. But we couldn’t be sure unless we did a separate experiment. The evidence suggested that this limiting resource was probably phosphorus.

Summary

There you have it. The experiment confirms the principle of limiting factors. At present concentrations, rising CO2 always increases plant productivity unless another factor is sub-optimal and constrains growth. The researchers, aided and abetted by the media are spinning this to say more CO2 is not good for plants. In reality, the lack of phosphorus or other nutrients is not the fault of CO2, and will not be enhanced by somehow reducing CO2.

Dr. Wittwer’s conclusion stands: Rising CO2 is Great for Plants.

Footnote:

Crabs really love CO2 as well.