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Must-hear podcast: Lester Brown on Rising Temperatures and Rising Food Prices

By Joe Romm on August 10, 2010 at 7:56 am

"Must-hear podcast: Lester Brown on Rising Temperatures and Rising Food Prices"

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“If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we are seeing in Russia becomes commonplace.”

UPDATE:  Audio of press call is online here.

ON TUESDAY,  AUGUST 10,  2010,  at 11 a.m. EDT,   in advance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s world grain harvest estimate on Thursday,  environmental analyst Lester Brown will discuss the heat and drought currently decimating Russia’s grain crops,  what Russia’s loss on grain exports means for world food prices and how this calamity foreshadows future climate-related crises.

Brown is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the connection between climate and agriculture (see Ponzi redux: Scientific American asks “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization? excerpted below).

Details on the press  call below.   If a tape and transcript become available, I will post it.

Prices for basic farm commodities – wheat,  corn,  and soybeans – are actually somewhat higher in August of this year than they were in August of 2007 at the start of the record-breaking 2007-08 run-up in grain prices that led to food protests and riots in some 30 countries. Meanwhile,  it is estimated that Russia could lose nearly 30 million tons of grain this summer.

“The global balance between grain supply and demand is fragile and depends largely on climate, ” Brown says. “With 80 million more mouths to feed each year and with increasing demand for grain-intensive livestock products,  the rise in temperature only adds to the stress. If we continue with business as usual on the climate front,  it is only a matter of time before what we are seeing in Russia becomes commonplace.”

Brown will discuss the outlook for the Russian grain crop and how it is expected to affect food prices worldwide in the months ahead. He will also discuss the effect of climate change on the global food supply and what can be done in response.

WHAT:     Teleconference on “Rising Temperatures and Rising Food Prices”

WHO:     Lester Brown,  president and founder of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

WHEN:     Tuesday,  August 10,  2010,  11 a.m. – 12 p.m. EDT

If you want to join this call, email Kristina Taylor at ktaylor@earthpolicy.org.

Here are some excerpts from two posts I did on Brown:

We desperately need a new way of thinking, a new mind-set. The thinking that got us into this bind will not get us out. When Elizabeth Kolbert, a writer for the New Yorker, asked energy guru Amory Lovins about thinking outside the box, Lovins responded: “There is no box.”

There is no box. That is the mind-set we need if civilization is to survive.

It’s not news that Lester Brown is warning about our unsustainable approach to feeding the planet.  But it is news that Scientific American has run a major article by him on how “The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse.”

Brown’s “Key Concepts”:

  • Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
  • Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
  • Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production.
  • Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.

Brown’s warnings, ignored for too long, are now being repeated at the highest levels.  For instance, I previously blogged on the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, who laid out something very close to this collapse scenario in his speech yesterday to the government’s Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster (see “When the global Ponzi scheme collapses (circa 2030), the only jobs left will be green“):

You can see the catastrophic decline in those [food] reserves, over the last five years or so, indicates that we actually have a problem; we’re not growing enough food, we’re not able to put stuff into the reserves”¦.

I am going to look at 2030 because that’s when a whole series of events come together”¦.

I will leave you with some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That’s when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.

Brown’s whole piece is worth reading.  I’ll excerpt the key points, trends and quotable facts here:

Failing states are of international concern because they are a source of terrorists, drugs, weapons and refugees, threatening political stability everywhere. Somalia, number one on the 2008 list of failing states, has become a base for piracy. Iraq, number five, is a hotbed for terrorist training. Afghanistan, number seven, is the world’s leading supplier of heroin. Following the massive genocide of 1994 in Rwanda, refugees from that troubled state, thousands of armed soldiers among them, helped to destabilize neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (number six).

Brown continues:

“¦ the recent surge in world grain prices is trend-driven, making it unlikely to reverse without a reversal in the trends themselves. On the demand side, those trends include the ongoing addition of more than 70 million people a year; a growing number of people wanting to move up the food chain to consume highly grain-intensive livestock products; and the massive diversion of U.S. grain to ethanol-fuel distilleries.

The extra demand for grain associated with rising affluence varies widely among countries. People in low-income countries where grain supplies 60 percent of calories, such as India, directly consume a bit more than a pound of grain a day. In affluent countries such as the U.S. and Canada, grain consumption per person is nearly four times that much, though perhaps 90 percent of it is consumed indirectly as meat, milk and eggs from grain-fed animals.

The potential for further grain consumption as incomes rise among low-income consumers is huge. But that potential pales beside the insatiable demand for crop-based automotive fuels. A fourth of this year’s U.S. grain harvest””enough to feed 125 million Americans or half a billion Indians at current consumption levels””will go to fuel cars.

And then there’s water:

“¦ the spread of water shortages poses the most immediate threat. The biggest challenge here is irrigation, which consumes 70 percent of the world’s freshwater. Millions of irrigation wells in many countries are now pumping water out of underground sources faster than rainfall can recharge them. The result is falling water tables in countries populated by half the world’s people, including the three big grain producers””China, India and the U.S”¦.

In China the water table under the North China Plain, an area that produces more than half of the country’s wheat and a third of its corn, is falling fast. Overpumping has used up most of the water in a shallow aquifer there, forcing well drillers to turn to the region’s deep aquifer, which is not replenishable. A report by the World Bank foresees “catastrophic consequences for future generations” unless water use and supply can quickly be brought back into balance.

As water tables have fallen and irrigation wells have gone dry, China’s wheat crop, the world’s largest, has declined by 8 percent since it peaked at 123 million tons in 1997. In that same period China’s rice production dropped 4 percent. The world’s most populous nation may soon be importing massive quantities of grain.

But water shortages are even more worrying in India. There the margin between food consumption and survival is more precarious. Millions of irrigation wells have dropped water tables in almost every state. As Fred Pearce reported in New Scientist:

Half of India’s traditional hand-dug wells and millions of shallower tube wells have already dried up, bringing a spate of suicides among those who rely on them. Electricity blackouts are reaching epidemic proportions in states where half of the electricity is used to pump water from depths of up to a kilometer [3,300 feet].

A World Bank study reports that 15 percent of India’s food supply is produced by mining groundwater. Stated otherwise, 175 million.

Finally, there’s global warming:

The third and perhaps most pervasive environmental threat to food security””rising surface temperature””can affect crop yields everywhere. In many countries crops are grown at or near their thermal optimum, so even a minor temperature rise during the growing season can shrink the harvest. A study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has confirmed a rule of thumb among crop ecologists: for every rise of one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above the norm, wheat, rice and corn yields fall by 10 percent.

That’s an especially chilling statistic when you consider that we are facing warming of 4°C to 5°C or more this century on the business as usual emissions path.

Is there another techno-fix to the global food problem?  Brown says, not likely.

In the past, most famously when the innovations in the use of fertilizer, irrigation and high-yield varieties of wheat and rice created the “green revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s, the response to the growing demand for food was the successful application of scientific agriculture: the technological fix. This time, regrettably, many of the most productive advances in agricultural technology have already been put into practice, and so the long-term rise in land productivity is slowing down. Between 1950 and 1990 the world’s farmers increased the grain yield per acre by more than 2 percent a year, exceeding the growth of population. But since then, the annual growth in yield has slowed to slightly more than 1 percent. In some countries the yields appear to be near their practical limits, including rice yields in Japan and China.

Some commentators point to genetically modified crop strains as a way out of our predicament. Unfortunately, however, no genetically modified crops have led to dramatically higher yields, comparable to the doubling or tripling of wheat and rice yields that took place during the green revolution. Nor do they seem likely to do so, simply because conventional plant-breeding techniques have already tapped most of the potential for raising crop yields.

You can get Brown’s detailed solution, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, at www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB3/.  I’ve discussed at length the energy and climate strategies in this blog.  Here is his short discussion of some other key measures:

The fourth component, restoring the earth’s natural systems and resources, incorporates a worldwide initiative to arrest the fall in water tables by raising water productivity: the useful activity that can be wrung from each drop. That implies shifting to more efficient irrigation systems and to more water-efficient crops. In some countries, it implies growing (and eating) more wheat and less rice, a water-intensive crop. And for industries and cities, it implies doing what some are doing already, namely, continuously recycling water.

At the same time, we must launch a worldwide effort to conserve soil, similar to the U.S. response to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Terracing the ground, planting trees as shelterbelts against windblown soil erosion, and practicing minimum tillage””in which the soil is not plowed and crop residues are left on the field””are among the most important soil-conservation measures.

But as always, the first step is to realize that there is no silver bullet and there is no quick escape from the Ponzi scheme.

Brown ends with a terrific quote about thinking outside the box from my old boss Amory, which bears repeating, :

Lovins responded: “There is no box.”

There is no box. That is the mind-set we need if civilization is to survive.

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45 Responses to Must-hear podcast: Lester Brown on Rising Temperatures and Rising Food Prices

  1. catman306 says:

    A link would be great, Thanks Joe.

    I googled ‘climate catastrophe of the day’ and didn’t get any hits. That will change after this post and during the coming years…

  2. Raul M. says:

    Climate/weather forcing events of 2010-
    Partial list
    a) beyond pollution leak in Gulf of pollution
    b) heat wave and permafrost melt in arctic areas
    c) fires and volcano

    Climate and weather models are based on things being the
    same or not much different from the last time the
    models were adjusted?

  3. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Go on tell me again that I am too pessimistic. I think you are close to joining me in the pessimists corner.

    We cannot avoid bad, maybe not even real bad, but there is still catastrophic to avoid. BAU could not only result in the end of civilisation as we know it, but in any shred of civilisation.

  4. Raul M. says:

    Certainly the exclusive ones will see a rise
    in the numbers who want to enjoy the ranks of
    exclusivity.
    But, that nature exhibits exclusivity to climate/
    weather forgings – well I think that climate/
    weather is dispassionate.
    Is there a maker of nanotube infrared radient
    barrier fabric or tarp material yet?
    Roll on and/or roll off applications would
    help somewhat for winter or summer use.

  5. Climate Realist says:

    You sound quite optimistic, in my opinion.

    I tend to think we have already past the tipping point. We are approaching 400ppm quickly and who knows when feedback loops will kick in. Isn’t it already too late (not theoretically, but in our current state of affairs)?

  6. Raul M. says:

    Also greenhouse shade coverings could
    benefit with infrared reflectivity.
    I might try growing some food.
    Enjoy.

  7. Gary says:

    Policy makers who deny “climate change” are aiding and abetting those that
    seek to destabilize nations.

  8. Mike#22 says:

    “A World Bank study reports that 15 percent of India’s food supply is produced by mining groundwater. Stated otherwise, 175 million.” Is that tonnes?

  9. Peter Mizla says:

    Shifting agricultural belts will cause destabilization in this decade economically- grain shortages will drive up prices, causing inflation.

    Regional wars over water rights, increasing famine, are all ‘tipping points’ culturally. These regional conflicts could spread.

    The media thus far has done a morally bankrupt disservice to the public by not remaining independent, and not informing the nation.

    Special Interests in this country have very long tentacles that protect the status quo.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    David Appel at Quark Soup calculates that the jump in wheat prices would cost the U.S. an extra $175 million per month. I’m not sure how he thinks it’s relevant since Russia banned wheat exports, but here’s the link.

    http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2010/08/cost-of-russias-heat-wave.html

  11. Wit'sEnd says:

    Meh. Will Lester Brown talk about crop losses from exposure to ozone? I doubt it – but he should.

  12. mike roddy says:

    Welcome back from your brief vacation, Joe.

    Maybe the US is becoming the most important failed state of all. Evidence of warming caused biological dessication is staring any intelligent person in the face. There is no scenario that forestalls a chaotic and violent future. Meanwhile, our government fiddles, and the media obfuscates.

  13. PSU Grad says:

    Folks, I think we need to appropriate the language of the deniers. Any rising food prices caused by rising temperatures is simply the same as a TAX on the American people. By doing nothing to begin climate change mitigation, we are ensuring that future generations will be effectively TAXED, through increased food prices.

    Let’s look at this another way. What would have been the difference, to the consumer, if we’d gradually increased the tax on a gallon of gas by 20 cents per year after 9/11 until it reached $1.00 (I’m chaneling Friedman here), or if the price of gasoline simply increased by $1.00/gallon in that period? The difference, of course, would have been nothing to the consumer. But in the first scenario, the money at least stays in the US. Under the second scenario, much of it goes overseas, often to nations that don’t much like the US (and you really do wonder where some of these right wing “think tanks” get their money…they won’t tell us….what are they hiding?).

    We’re effectively condemning ourselves to a TAX via higher food prices by doing nothing about climate change. I can’t figure out why the deniers would want to do that to us.

  14. Leif says:

    What is it that Corporations, Capitalism and the GOBP do not understand about this situation?

    I do see one thing that C,C&GOBP does understand. Shortages drive up prices which means more profits. Gosh, I wonder if that plays into the equation?

    I built a green house this summer to lengthen out my growing season. Not that it will do much good in the BIG picture. It has however helped my mental attitude. There are a whole lot of small plots that can and will become food sources. The knowledge base for productive small gardening is very low and I see no easy out on any horizon.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    mike roddy, #12 “Maybe the US is becoming the most important failed state of all.”

    After all, the very people providing us with the “intelligence” that we use to make decisions are the ones who are duty-bound to keep this Endless War and Surveillance Machine alive and expanding because, as the Post put it, they are “obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest.” http://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/08/09/glenn-greenwald/the-digital-surveillance-state-vast-secret-and-dangerous/

    As i understand it, the intelligence community could help with messaging of the CC threat – or help the MSM out. I do not see that happening and deniers seem to do just great. So there is not much hope left for an optimistic future, lol. It will be like always – total disaster, total experiment, total incompetence etc etc etc

  16. catman306 says:

    PSU Grad, your brought this old song to mind. Tax our grandchildren and theirs, too.

    The Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All (Traditional, adapted by Ry Cooder)
    http://new.music.yahoo.com/ry-cooder/tracks/taxes-on-the-farmer-feeds-us-all–521581

    We worked through Spring and Winter, through Summer and through Fall
    But the mortgage worked the hardest and the steadiest of us all
    It worked on nights and Sundays, it worked each holiday
    Settled down among us and it never went away

    The farmer comes to town with his wagon broken down
    The farmer is the man who feeds us all
    If you only look and see I know you will agree
    That the farmer is the man who feeds us all

    (A) The farmer is the man, the farmer is the man
    He buys on his credit until (E) Fall
    Then they (A) take him by the hand
    And they (D) lead him from his land
    And the (E) merchant is the man who gets it (A) all

    The farmer is the man, the farmer is the man
    He lives on his credit until Fall
    With the interest rates so high
    It’s a wonder he don’t die
    But the taxes on the farmer feeds us all

    Well, the banker says he’s broke and the merchant stops and smoke
    But they forget that it’s the farmer that feeds them all
    It would put them to the test if the farmer took a rest
    And they’d know that it’s the farmer that feeds them all

    The farmer is the man, the farmer is the man
    Lives on his credit until Fall
    Well, his pants are wearing thin
    His condition, it’s a sin
    ‘Cause the taxes on the farmer feeds us all

  17. Wonhyo says:

    Lester Brown: “If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we are seeing in Russia becomes commonplace.”

    This statement demonstrates a form of what I call “mild climate change denialism”. The present reality is that what we are seeing in Russia will become commonplace regardless of what we do. A dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions today will slow future climate changes, but the effects won’t be noticeable for decades, just as the present effects of climate change were locked in decades in the past.

    People will realize this sooner or later. The sooner we realize and accept this reality, the sooner we can resolve to move forward with climate-saving action, anyway. If we take climate-saving actions today (not that we are) with false expectations, it will be too easy to give up once the futility of those expectations is realized.

    We should understand and accept that catastrophic climate change is going to happen. We should proceed with GHG reductions anyway, because GHG reductions will have many tangible near term benefits, even if it doesn’t stop catastrophic climate change in our lifetimes.

  18. Dorothy says:

    I feel enormous gratitude to you, Joe, for this post, and to you, too, Paul Mizla #9, for your wise comment. It is so true that “Regional wars over water rights, increasing famine, are all ‘tipping points’ culturally. These regional conflicts could spread.”

    For an interesting article by Gwynne Dyer, author of “Climate Wars,” have a look at the post I made yesterday, “Dramatic Depletion of World Food Resources Linked to Wildfires”
    http://westcoastclimateequity.org/2010/08/09/dramatic-depletion-of-world-food-production-linked-to-wildfires/

    Here are a couple of clips:

    “…food prices will also rise, but that is a minor nuisance for most consumers in the developed countries, since they spend only about 10 percent of their income on food. In poor countries, where people spend up to half their income on food, the higher prices will mean that the poorest of the poor cannot afford to feed their children properly.”

    …….

    “This is the vision of the future that has the soldiers and security experts worried: a world where access to enough food becomes a big political and strategic issue even for developed countries that do not have big surpluses at home. It would be a very ugly world indeed, teeming with climate refugees and failed states and interstate conflicts over water (which is just food at one remove).

    What is happening in Russia now, and its impacts elsewhere, give us an early glimpse of what that world will be like. “

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Wonhyo , #17 “even if it doesn’t stop catastrophic climate change”

    There are different kinds of catastrophic climate changes – which lead to catastrophic weather patterns. The real threat is the clathrate gun – which might be prevented with GHG reduction.

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    “The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse.”

    Chances are that we see this now happening in pakistan.

    “Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.”

    Such failed states cannot help with reducing GHG.

  21. Paulm says:

    #17 wonhyo spot on.

    This is one reason some of the media are confused also.

  22. Florifulgurator says:

    The most immediate low-tech tech fix would be mass distribution of contraceptives, sex education, and education about the obvious (i.e.: More people, more hunger — The advanced student should learn about the exponential function).

    It is time to accept that the Roman Catholic (e.g.) view amounts to incitement to genosuicide.

    Any chance for Homo S “Sapiens” to face this reality?

  23. Paulm says:

    -#20 prok, such failed states dont contribute to emission. Self regulation by Gaia?

  24. What I find frustrating is that you still hear “experts” say that we still have 40 years to fix this. Understatements like this:

    “Rising temperatures in the past 25 years have already cut rice yields at several key growing locations by 10-20 percent.

    The loss in production is expected to get worse as temperatures rise further towards the middle of the century, said Welch.”

    http://wildsingaporenews.blogspot.com/2010/08/global-warming-threatens-asian-rice.html

    I sure don’t see us having 40 years, not even 10 years! In fact we may see widespread famine this year.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    One such catastrophic weather pattern – which is intensified from climate change – more disturbed atmosphere are microburst – as Asimov predicted. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbs=nws%3A1&q=microburst

    And this affects grains too – see the news above “Macroburst devastates crops in northeast Montana”.

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Paulm, #23

    So you say a failed state magical introduces renewables? They will use fossil the energy source of choice, when it comes to state building. They will end up with the technology the developed world discards.

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    Florifulgurator, #22 “The most immediate low-tech tech fix would be mass distribution of contraceptives, sex education, and education about the obvious (i.e.: More people, more hunger — The advanced student should learn about the exponential function).”

    You need basic income and birth control to fix population growth. because poor people have more offspring. Anyway, climate change will create a situation for population decline.

  28. hapa says:

    a quick link to refer friends to the online edition of the book: http://j.mp/readplanb

  29. Paulm says:

    Every rise of 1c we get a fall of 10% is only taking into account the biometrics. Throw in indirect effects and its got to be higher

  30. Prokaryotes says:

    The main point is, that a failed state cannot help to reduce emissions with a international biochar initiative. Lovelock says we need all farmers worldwide to make an impact on the carbon cycle.

  31. catman306 says:

    In 2010 we stumbled over the threshold and fell flat on a tipping point with predictable results. The main stream media missed the story. Sorry about that…

    Nature is all there ever was. Balanced Nature and steady climate made mankind possible. Multiple ice ages made us quick and cunning and ever so adaptable. So when fossil fuel made our lives easier with machines. we got lazy and used fossil fuel to do our work. That was our undoing. We’ve unbalanced Nature..

    When things start falling apart, please keep in mind that most of your wealth is just a number stored in a computer somewhere… MSM missed that story, too.

  32. Raul M. says:

    In introductory physics the Phd. mentioned
    that quantum mechanics plays a direct role in how
    some things react to energy absorption. If some
    things react differently and can contain more
    energy in quantum leaps of access or release
    - how does this show up in weather sudden
    downpours on release of energy? What are
    weather reactions to those things?
    Does Joe know what those things are and if
    those could be found in abundance as ocean plumes or
    wind bubbles/drifts?

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    Over 0.5 billion of the world’s poorest people depend on rice as their staple food. But as temperatures have warmed over the past 25 years, rice yields have fallen by 10-20% in Asia, which produces the lion’s share of the world’s rice.

    A study published in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Science (PNAS) yesterday, says farmers can expect the drop in yields to persist in the future as the climate continues to warm.

    “We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop,” said Jarrod Welch, lead author of the report and graduate student of economics at the University of California, San Diego.

    The study also found that yields increase with higher daytime temperatures, but says that these gains will be lost by faster rising night time temperatures. http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2010/08/temperature_increases_damage_r.html

  34. GFW says:

    Somebody asked: “A World Bank study reports that 15 percent of India’s food supply is produced by mining groundwater. Stated otherwise, 175 million.” Is that tonnes?

    I strongly suspect that’s people. Meaning the food to support 175 million people.

  35. Sasparilla says:

    #17 Wonhyo – Thank you for pointing this out, you made a very important point and one that should start being made in all communications with the media (probably permanently) (since this represents such a difference from what the general population will expect if we start seriously reducing CO2 emissions, which will happen at some point).

    “A dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions today will slow future climate changes, but the effects won’t be noticeable for decades, just as the present effects of climate change were locked in decades in the past.

    ….If we take climate-saving actions today (not that we are) with false expectations, it will be too easy to give up once the futility of those expectations is realized.”

    The general population is used to action/reaction and will be expecting the temperature to stop climbing (and probably) start going down if we started actively scaling back CO2 emissions – very few have any idea (and its an unusual concept to grasp) that it takes 30-40 years for the temperature impact of given CO2 emissions to reach equilibrium (i.e. the temperature to stop rising from those emissions – mostly due to the drag the oceans place on that increase).

    So even when we start this process (for real, not this nonsense we can’t do at the moment) we’re still looking at warming temperatures (and continuing worse effects) for half a century and probably longer (since we’re not just going to eliminate emissions overnight).

    As Wonhyo said – the risk is getting the general population to go for strong enough climate change action and after 5 or 10 years of sacrifice, things just continuing to get worse (when the general population is expecting better) and then having the majority just giving up, saying forget it and possibly bailing out of the process.

    This expectation really needs to become part of most climate change communications that mention effects and or CO2 emission reductions – so that it becomes (semi) common knowledge long before we start actively reducing emissions enough (which still seems a ways away).

  36. Prokaryotes says:

    Raul M, #32 “What are weather reactions to those things?”

    It appears to be discontinuous; the electron “jumps” from one energy level to another very quickly, after existing briefly in a state of superposition. The time this takes relates to the pressure broadening of spectral lines. Quantum leaps cause the emission of electromagnetic radiation, including that of light, which occurs in the form of quantized units called photons. http://bit.ly/Zd8WO

    Raul M, #32 “how does this show up in weather sudden
    downpours on release of energy?”

    The mesoscopic world is not the driving force.

  37. Raul M. says:

    Thanks Prokaryotes at#36
    I thought that the fellow was speaking of some
    phase change type of product(?) and I didn’t
    know to think of the item being able to float
    in the air if in small enough particles?
    Just a thought.

  38. Wit'sEnd says:

    Agreed Wonhyo #17 – this is elaborated upon by Adam Sachs, as posted here: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/08/according-to-article-from-bbc-news-rice.html

    a much more eloquent way of expressing my recent thoughts, ie, that the deniers don’t deny because they are stupid but rather because they are smarter than the climate scientists and activists who try to convince them that climate change is real and it’s bad…but it’s okay, you can still have all your toys, we can convert to clean energy and it won’t cost you a thing!

    Of course the deniers have a visceral intuition that this is nonsense – one way or another climate change is going to ruin the notion that we can grow grow grow and consume ever more stuff and have more and more babies!

    We will never be able to persuade people to transition to clean energy and make the necessary sacrifices if we attempt to patronizingly coddle them with fairy tales.

  39. David Appell says:

    Chris Winter wrote:
    > David Appel at Quark Soup calculates that the jump in wheat prices would > cost the U.S. an extra $175 million per month. I’m not sure how he thinks > it’s relevant since Russia banned wheat exports, but here’s the link.
    > http://davidappell.blogspot.com/ 2010/ 08/ cost-of-russias-heat-wave.html

    Chris, I think it’s relevant because wheat is a global product with a global price, so whether it comes from Russia or someplace else consumers will pay the (new) global price.

  40. pete best says:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727730.101-frozen-jet-stream-leads-to-flood-fire-and-famine.html

    We cant necessarily blame ACC for these recent events in Russia, Pakistan and China etc but low sun activity perhaps.

  41. catman306 says:

    Maybe it just looks that way, but the graph of world wheat prices at the Earth Policy Institute link resembles a hockey stick…

  42. David B. Benson says:

    Hockey stick in prices of petroleum products as well?

  43. Robert Firth says:

    I guess somebody has to say it – this article, like so many others, is still trapped in the box. The box that says “shortage”.

    There is no shortage. No shortage of food, water, soil, or anything else. Rather, there is a huge and unsustainable surplus of people. That is the real problem, and there is only one solution. One we dare not face – until Nature imposes it on us.

  44. Sime says:

    Re #13 PSU Grad

    Here is an idea why not make fuel in the US the same price it is in the UK / Europe… You ready for this … you sure?

    5 US gallons = is 18.93 liters but let’s round that up to 19 liters. It looks to me as though you guys are paying around $2.80 per US Gallon for regular grade gas (http://www.eia.doe.gov/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_home_page.html)

    So assuming the above those 5 US gallons would cost on average $14:00

    Here in the UK we pay on average around £1.20 per LITER (http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuel/) so that would be £1.20 * 19 = £22.80 which works out at $35.85 for 5 US Gallons or $7.17 per US Gallon.

    Scary eh, bet if we increased the fuel price in the US to be the same as it is in the UK / Europe, a great deal of small engined cars and bicycles would be promptly purchased in the US.

  45. Raul M. says:

    Embarrassment of consumption is often bypassed
    by embarrassment of enabling others to consume.
    Exclusionary practices may become the hallmark
    of conservatism.