October 24 News: Crop Scientists Warn Global Heating is Shrinking Crop Yields

Other Key Stories below:  Solar Power is Beginning to go Mainstream

Crop Scientists Now Fret About Heat, Not Just Water

Crop scientists in the United States, the world’s largest food exporter, are pondering an odd question: could the danger of global warming really be the heat?

For years, as scientists have assembled data on climate change and pointed with concern at melting glaciers and other visible changes in the life-giving water cycle, the impact on seasonal rains and irrigation has worried crop watchers most.

What would breadbaskets like the Midwest, the Central Asian steppes, the north China Plain or Argentine and Brazilian crop lands be like without normal rains or water tables?

Those were seen as longer-term issues of climate change.

But scientists now wonder if a more immediate issue is an unusual rise in day-time and, especially, night-time summer temperatures being seen in crop belts around the world.

Interviews with crop researchers at American universities paint the same picture: high temperatures have already shrunken output of many crops and vegetables.

“We don’t grow tomatoes in the deep South in the summer. Pollination fails,” said Ken Boote, a crop scientist with the University of Florida.

The same goes for snap beans which can no longer be grown in Florida during the summer, he added.

“As temperatures rise we are going to have trouble maintaining the yields of crops that we already have,” said Gerald Nelson, an economist with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)….


Cost of Subsidizing Fossil Fuels is High, But Cutting Them is Tough

The bankruptcy this summer of Solyndra — a solar company heavily subsidized by the U.S. government — unleashed a torrent of concern about the risks of wasting taxpayer money on renewable-energy projects.

There have been similar worries in Europe, where bountiful state support led to a boom and bust in the Spanish solar sector and where targets for some biofuels may contribute to greenhouse emissions.

But what are the effects of subsidies that continue to flow to fossil fuels?

Two years ago, in Pittsburgh, the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations acknowledged that many of these subsidies were wasteful, impeding investment in clean energy and undermining efforts to deal with climate change, and they pledged to step up efforts to get rid of them.

These subsidies are fiendishly difficult to dismantle because of the political risks involved.

In December, Bolivia had to rescind fuel price increases less than a week after announcing them, after violent protests. Early this year, Iran managed to institute sweeping changes, but only after overcoming major obstacles.

In the developed world, some of the beneficiaries include French taxi drivers, who receive an annual rebate on diesel and gasoline; British householders, who pay a reduced value-added tax for heat and power; and oil and natural gas companies in Alaska, which receive tax credits to offset the cost of drilling and exploration.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group in Paris that advises mostly high-income nations on their economies, said this month that these supports were worth as much as $75 billion each year in 24 of its 34 member countries.

Solar Power is Beginning to go Mainstream

Solar energy may finally get its day in the sun.

The high costs that for years made it impractical as a mainstream source of energy are plummeting. Real estate companies are racing to install solar panels on office buildings. Utilities are erecting large solar panel “farms” near big cities and in desolate deserts. And creative financing plans are making solar more realistic than ever for homes.

Solar power installations doubled in the United States last year and are expected to double again this year. More solar energy is being planned than any other power source, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and wind.

“We are at the beginning of a turning point,” says Andrew Beebe, who runs global sales for Suntech Power, a manufacturer of solar panels.

Solar’s share of the power business remains tiny. But its promise is great. The sun splashes more clean energy on the planet in one hour than humans use in a year, and daytime is when power is needed most. And solar panels can be installed near where people use power, reducing or eliminating the costs of moving power through a grid.

India Likely to See 3,000 MW Wind Power Addition in 2011

Helped by strong policy framework and better cost competitiveness compared to conventional power generation, India is expected to see wind energy installation of about 3,000 MW this year, says a report.

The anticipated capacity addition would be 39% higher than that of 2,142 MW witnessed last year, according to a HSBC Global Research.

Further, the country is projected to have wind capacity addition of nearly 7,500 MW between 2011-15 period.

“The key drivers for growth are primarily a strong policy framework and improving cost competitiveness of wind technology compared to conventional generation,” the report said.

Going by projections, this year alone would see a capacity addition of 2,984 MW.

The country had a wind energy capacity of nearly 15,000 MW at the end of August 2011, as per official data.

Historically, a significant proportion of installations in the Indian wind market have been by non-utilities/ non-developers.

China Trade Petition Divides Solar Industry

The U.S. solar industry is divided over a petition by a handful of companies aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to impose duties on Chinese solar imports.

The rift within the industry – which has pitted a group of seven solar panel manufacturers against major solar developers and power generators – underscores the complexity of the United States’ trade relationship with China on renewable energy.

SolarWorld Industries America, a solar panel manufacturer, filed petitions Wednesday with the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission alleging that China is illegally subsidizing its solar industry.

The company alleges that China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels and subsidizing its solar industry in violation of World Trade Organization rules. China’s efforts, the company says, are burdening U.S. solar manufacturers and are partly responsible for seven U.S. companies going out of business or downsizing in the last year.

Kenya Steps Up its 1,300 MW Geothermal Electricity Plan

Kenya has stepped up plans to produce over 1,300MW of geothermal power in the next seven years to stem its overreliance on hydro and thermal sources of energy.

Through its main power generator Kengen, Kenya has drawn an ambitious plan that targets production of more than half of its total power from geothermal sources by 2018 and, in the process, phase out its longtime dependence on thermal power and the not-so-reliable hydro and wind power.

“The company is deliberately pursuing a green energy strategy to cushion Kenyans from weather-induced power shortages and high power prices associated with the rising global oil prices, while assuring availability of adequate electric power for development” said Kengen managing director Eddy Njoroge.

The company has earmarked a total 3,189MW to the national grid over the period, a challenge that requires expansion of geothermal plants and building of new ones and also investing more in wind and hydro power.

Geothermal sources will contribute 49 per cent (about 1,500MW) with dependence on thermal electricity significantly dropping.

25 Responses to October 24 News: Crop Scientists Warn Global Heating is Shrinking Crop Yields

  1. prokaryotes says:

    $1.65 billion safety net saves Texas farmers from ruin

    More than 41,000 distressed Texas farmers have received $1.65 billion so far from the national crop insurance program to help compensate for disastrous low yields and other damage caused by the state’s worst drought in history.

    Though experts say the amount covers only about a third of the agricultural losses across the state, it may help some survive.

    Very alarming developments

  2. John McCormick says:

    Lets lay the ethanol cards on the table.

    Senator Tom Harkin is a friend to progressives, farmers and the environment.

    He is also one of the several strongest voices in the US Senate in support of expanding the ethanol production industry.

    Harkin has introduced, the Biofuels Market Expansion Act of 2011.

    Harkin’s bill provides support for the industry to reach more consumers, by mandating that a large majority of cars sold in the U.S. be flex-fuel (able to burn up to 85% ethanol), by requiring that over six years major fuel distributors must install blender pumps to dispense varying levels of ethanol blends, and by offering federal loan guarantees for ethanol pipelines.

    Harkin has introduced versions of that bill for several years, and the industry has backed it in the past, he said, but it seems to be less actively supporting it now.

    “Believe me, if we have market access, ethanol will really take off,” Harkin said.

    Get it, now? He wants flex-fuel cars capable of burning 85% ethanol.

    Our friend Senator Harkin is driving the ethanol fuel train full throttle and right into global food shortages that will hit, and likely kill, impoverished people around the globe.

    I like Senator Harkin but he is the ethanol problem we live with and tolerate.

    Senator Harkin, wake up and smell disaster!

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    These effects are occurring at a roughly .8C increase (depending on the reference date).

    Has anybody tested the effect on crops of a doubling to 1.6C? Are the effects likely to be doubled or logarithmic? I would assume the latter, which is real disaster, especially since Cargill and Monsanto have simplified and reduced global seed stocks.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Raw Video: Mount Etna Eruption

    Yesterday the 2000 year old wall collapsed in Pompeii and major earthquake in turkey, today the italian volcano etna erupts.

  5. fj says:

    maybe netzeroNYC2020 is not so farfetched?

    rooseveltscienceCampus @nytimes

  6. fj says:

    Warming could exceed safe levels in this lifetime @reuters

  7. Joan Savage says:

    The evolution of heat tolerance of corn: implications for climate change.
    Michael J. Roberts and Wolfram Schlenker.

    IN: in The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, Gary D. Libecap and Richard H. Steckel, editors, 2011

    “The main reason climate change impacts on agriculture pose such a great threat lies not just in the size of potential production impacts, but also because massive income inequality limits potential adaptation on the demand side of the market.”

    My notes: This paper analyses data for weather and corn yield in Indiana from 1900 to 2005. This includes several factors, such as yield increase from optimal growth during 10C -29C days, which increased in frequency, as well as the severe drop in crop yield when temperatures go over 29C. In the 1930s Dust Bowl years, even in ‘good’ years there were at minimum 40 days over 29C, up to 125 days over 29C, and corn yield was typically less than 40 bushels per acre. In recent years, Indiana corn yield has been around 160 bushels per acre. The authors also take into account the Green Revolution in their evaluation of corn production. They further make observations about the economics of corn in climate change.

  8. Lou Grinzo says:

    Once again, I urge everyone here to go read what Lester Brown has to say about the energy-water-climate-food nexus. His book, World on the Edge, is available as a free download from the Earth Policy Institute site.

    Brown is the only one I’ve seen so far explicitly and in great detail connecting all the dots from CO2 emissions all the way through to failed states.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    “Lester Brown tells us how to build a more just world and save the planet…in a practical, straightforward way. We should all heed his advice.”
    —President Bill Clinton
    “. . . a far-reaching thinker.”
    —U.S. News & World Report “The best book on the environment I’ve ever read.”
    “It’s exciting . . . a masterpiece!”
    —Chris Swan, Financial Times —Ted Turner
    “[Brown’s] ability to make a complicated subject accessible to the general reader is remarkable. . . ”
    —Katherine Salant, Washington Post “In tackling a host of pressing issues in a single book, Plan B 2.0
    makes for an eye-opening read.” —Times Higher Education Supplement
    “A great blueprint for combating climate change.” —Bryan Walsh, Time
    “[Brown] lays out one of the most comprehensive set of solutions you can find in one place.”
    —Joseph Romm, Climate Progress
    “. . . a highly readable and authoritative account of the problems we face from global warming to shrinking water resources, fish- eries, forests, etc. The picture is very frightening. But the book also provides a way forward.”
    —Clare Short, British Member of Parliament

    World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse
    Lester R. Brown

  10. Joan Savage says:

    Their estimates are grim enough for percent decline in Indiana corn yield under either fast or slow Hadley climate change models. They have a huge gray band for increased variability, to boot.

  11. thanes says:

    One thing I can’t seem to convey to Deniers or the lazy is the potential for catastrophe that messing with the life support system of 7 billion people who currently don’t get along so well already will have. How on Earth can something like this not make a dent in the blissful ignorance of people who are otherwise intelligent?

  12. Joe Romm says:


  13. Joan Savage says:

    The paper alone:

    The edited book is for sale through University of Chicago Press:

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Climate Change Demands New Decision-Making Strategies by National Leaders

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    If one asks an Afghan poppy farmer why he grows poppies , he will inform you that poppies require 1/5 to 1/6th of the water as wheat does.
    Heard that on Book TV this weekend.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region is about a quarter of an inch away from matching the all-time record for most precipitation in a single year, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

    So far this year, 57.35 inches have fallen, just under the record of 57.58, set in 1990, said meteorologist Steve Rhebenach.

    The annual average rainfall is 42.52.

  17. John Tucker says:

    You see a lot of the denial folks making the argument that increased temps and increased CO2 mean more plant growth. But this is isn’t true necessarily.

    Higher temperatures do reduce yields and floods and droughts dont help either. After the mid to upper eighties you start seeing problems in the chemical pathways many plants utilize.

    Also the quality of the crops produced in adverse conditions is significantly lower due to combined effects of pests, harvesting and storage issues and microbial contaminants. Certainly here in some areas we are probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg. ( )

    A respectable amount of US agriculture is in wood production and this has also been particularity hard hit by drought and pests.

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    The Met Office is warning that some areas of Devon and Cornwall could have as much as 150mm (5.9in) of rain by the end of Monday. – BBC

    Britain will be lashed by a “very serious” weather system which could see almost a month’s rain in a matter of hours.

    Experts warned that gusts of 60mph today would be enough to fell branches and cause damage to buildings with “severe flooding” likely across parts of the country.

    Devastation on a par seen in the Cornish village of Boscastle in 2004 is likely, when flash floods turned roads into rivers trapping people in their homes and destroying buildings.

    Downpours of almost four inches threaten to hit the West, the North and the South-west, including Devon and Cornwall.

    Jonathan Powell, senior forecaster at Positive Weather Solutions, said heavy rain and gales could last for weeks.

    He said: “We are looking at a possible disaster and the sort of scenario reminiscent of Boscastle.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Weather satellite budget cuts a ‘disaster in the making’ – Obama official

    Jane Lubchenco, head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, criticises GOP moves to cut funding for critical satellite

  20. prokaryotes says:

    Stephen Hawking – Earth could become like ‘sister planet’ Venus due to global warming

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    A new report published by U.S. Geological Survey scientists in the Hydrologic Sciences Journal looks at this potential linkage using historical records of floods throughout the nation. Scientists studied flood conditions at 200 locations across the United States looking back 127 years through 2008.

    “Currently we do not see a clear pattern that enables us to understand how climate change will alter flood conditions in the future, but the USGS will continue to collect new data over time and conduct new analyses as conditions change,” said USGS scientist and lead author Robert Hirsch. “Changes in snow packs, frozen ground, soil moisture and storm tracks are all mechanisms that could be altered by greenhouse gas concentrations and possibly change flood behavior. As we continue research, we will consider these and other factors in our analyses.”

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    How hot does it get in the deep South of the USA? I saw that note above, about tomatoes and beans, by Colorado Bob yesterday and it made me wonder. Vegies can get a bit sunburnt and blistered here if you have too many days over 37-40C and just about everything will drop dead in the high 40sC but I’ve not heard about a pollination problem before which happens weeks earlier.

    Is this a variety problem as well as a heat problem? Do we need to breed new varieties or is it partly a bee problem as well? ME

  23. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes and some crop varieties have been tested in varying CO2 concentrations. The higher the CO2, the taller and dwindlier the plants grew with smaller flowers. I read it over at Science Daily some time back, ME

  24. Mossy says:

    And don’t forget, thanks to our friend Gail at, that tropospheric ozone is on the rise due to fossil-fuel burning as well, causing more harm to vegetation than us. This is an additional factor contributing to the decline in crops.