Dealing with the consequences of climate chance inaction: the impact of food

In a previous article History Future Now admitted defeat: climate change is happening and there is no viable political solution which will enable us to stop it from getting worse.  Global average temperatures will rise beyond the 2 degrees that politicians have determined is the absolute maximum that it should be allowed to increase by.   We need to stop worrying about how to prevent it from getting worse and start concentrating on what governments need to do manage this new reality.

In this article we will look at the impact of global and local food shortages, exasperated by climate change, and how governments should respond.  Since History Future Now lives in the UK, the article will have a UK focused slant.

First, lets start with a basic understanding of the food situation we are in today and what we can expect over the next 25 years.  The world’s population is now over 7.3 billion.  It will be 10 billion in another two to three decades.  In the meantime, our primary food production areas are in trouble.  One third of global agriculture is irrigated using underground aquifer water, which is finite and will run out in 25 years.  Soil quality is declining as it is depleted or concreted over in new urban developments.  Fish stocks are 20% of what they were in the mid 1950s. Added to this, as countries get wealthier they want to eat more protein.  This means that much of the food that is available will be consumed by animals, or fish, before they, in turn, are consumed by humans.

Even Monsanto, with its rose tinted glasses of what is possible with agricultural food productivity thanks to genetically modified crops, does not claim to have anything in its arsenal which will offset the impacts of more people wanting more protein, with less agricultural land and less water.  We should expect to see chronic food shortages emerge as the world produces enough food for 5 billion people yet has a population of 10 billion.

That is the base case for food supply and demand over the next 25 years, and there has been no mention of climate change.

However, as we have seen this year, where corn and soya bean harvests were 30-40% lower than in a normal year, the “base case” for food supply is unlikely, due to climate change.  Climate change is not just about higher global temperatures.  It is also about wild swings in weather patterns.  Some years will be very wet, some will be very dry.  If farmers knew that they would just get drier years they could partially compensate by having drought resistant crops.  But if the next year they have record rainfall, they really need drought AND flood resistant crops that might be drought resistant.

As a result, we should expect chronic food shortages and wild swings in the prices of agricultural crops.  This is not good.  In the event of food shortages, most governments tend to restrict agricultural crop exports.  While many economists think that this is the wrong response to this kind of crisis, it is understandable why politicians do restrict exports.  If you were Prime Minster and were confronted with angry rioters parading burning effigies of you, would you be more likely to ban food exports or give a lecture about economic efficiency?

These food crop restrictions cause knock on effects.  First, a large number of countries are not self sufficient in food.  North Africa and much of the Middle East, for example, imports most of its food already.  As they are expected to add another 100 million people to the region in the next 20 years, this food deficiency is only going to get worse.  If they cannot import food because countries are restricting exports it is likely that these countries will face rapidly rising food prices, famines and starvation.

Many countries are also geographically interlinked.  The Nile flows through Egypt but most of the water that feeds the Nile comes further upstream, in the Sudan.  Turkey provides the tributaries for rivers in Iraq and Iran. China controls many of the rivers that flow into India and Bangladesh.  Water means land can be irrigated to produce food.  If the water is cut off by one country to provide water for its own people, the country downstream will have a serious issue.

So what does this mean for the United Kingdom specifically and the European Union regionally?

To start with, becoming more self sufficient in food will be important.  Why?  In some cases we may not be able to import food, due to export restrictions in other countries.  Any food that is available will be very expensive  as the overall international supply of food declines due to land and water issues and export restrictions while the demand will go up due to more people wanting more protein.

UK agricultural policies need to be enacted that ensure that the UK is self sufficient in producing a base level of food, whilst ensuring the long term health of the soil.  Crop diversity should be encouraged and license free genetically modified crops might help increase productivity in marginal lands.

Next, being self sufficient in food is linked to population size.  A larger population is harder to feed than a smaller population.  This will have an impact on immigration policies.  Small levels of immigration can be a boon to an economy.  Given higher levels of unemployment due to a waves of outsourcing and offshoring, allowing low skilled immigrants into the UK no longer makes sense: there is an expanding pool of people who could do low skill low paid work already.  Conversely, the UK should be open to high skilled migrants and migrants that bring cash that they will invest in UK businesses.  Not allowing migrants to claim any form of government benefits for a period of 5-10 years after arriving might make immigration more palatable to those who are against all forms of immigration.

The UK should expect to see a significant increase in the number of refugees of all kinds: those who are persecuted because they do not fit in for whatever reason in their home country, those who are facing starvation and those who are looking for economic respite.  Global warming might result in hundreds of millions of people being displaced.  Because of where the UK is located, the bulk of these refugees are likely to be North African and sub Saharan Africans of Muslim descent.

As the UK is an island off the north west coast of Europe, preventing large numbers of refugees from entering the country will be easier than those in the southern part of the European Union.  But, the UK has a culture of allowing in refugees.  There are serious moral implications about not allowing in people who would otherwise die if they could not move.  In addition, as the Sangatte refugee camp in northern France near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel made clear, French authorities are more than happy to turn a blind eye to refugees leaving France and heading to the United Kingdom.

Controlling immigration and refugees will switch from being an economic (the concern about jobs) and cultural issue (the concern of others), as it is today, to being a defence issue.  If we live in a world where there are potentially hundreds of millions of displaced people in search of food and a better climate, the European Union and the UK could be swamped by refugees and immigrants.  If the UK and EU are struggling to feed their own populations, this will force national governments to go back to the very fundamental reasons for their existence – the defence of their national boundaries.

As a result, the UK’s military budget is better focused not on spending billions on nuclear weapons deterrence programmes like the next generation of Trident nuclear submarines, but on naval defence forces and weaponised drones that can stop boatloads of people coming over.  Mainland Europe will have a much harder time keeping immigrants and refugees out and will face moral dilemmas that are truly horrific to contemplate (see article).

This moral erosion will change the type of leaders that a country has.  We should expect our leaders to be more ruthless and intolerant of dissent.  Laws and systems that have been put in place over the past 11 years under benevolent governments to monitor citizens for “terrorist” activities will be used by different kinds of leaders as a means of repression.

In order to enable many of these policies to be put in place the UK government will need to take back much of the sovereignty that it has given to the European Union. This will fundamentally alter its relationship with the European Union but given the level of hostility to the EU by most of the UK at the moment, this should be politically feasible for UK politicians.

To wrap up, new global food dynamics exasperated by climate change, will significantly affect world trade in food, requiring a higher level of  national self sufficiency.  Food shortages will trigger epic waves of immigration which could potentially swamp receiving countries.  This will require a military response by national governments, which will require ruthless and immoral governments.

This does not sound pleasant.  And it is not.

But it is the price we will pay for refusing to address the problem of climate change when we had the chance.

 

 

About the Author

- Tristan Fischer is the author of all the articles on History Future Now. He is the Chairman of Lumicity Ltd, a company developing renewable energy infrastructure projects, Chairman of Fischer Farms Ltd, a vertical farming company using hydroponics, and a board Director of Fish From Ltd, an onshore salmon company. He previously worked for Camco International, Shell Renewables and Citigroup. He was educated at Cambridge University. To find out more click here: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/tristanfischer

  • Article-Food & migration: We have missed the boat on dealing with climate change & have to live with the consequences http://t.co/TjeJ2Nzd

  • Sam

    An example of good intentions gone wrong has been the politically motivated ethanol program. Clearly, displacing food crops for fuel is simply a bad idea but at least the EU has recently cut the targets from an unsustainable 20% down to 5%:

    (courtesy of Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP, David Erickson and Mark Anstoetter)

    October 26 2012

    The European Commission (EC) has proposed limiting the amount of food crop-based biofuel that can count toward the European Union’s renewable energy targets for 2020. A 2009 EC Directive has set mandatory consumption targets of 20 percent renewable energy overall and 10 percent renewable energy in the transport sector. The proposal would cap the contribution of so-called “first-generation” ethanol and biodiesel at 5 percent of the transport sector’s target.

    Responding to the original directive’s call for a review, the EC has determined that greenhouse gas (GHG) performance calculations for biofuels should consider the indirect land-use change (ILUC) that occurs when biofuel crops displace food or feed production onto non-agricultural land. The EC’s proposal thus aims to address this discrepancy and “start the transition to biofuels that deliver substantial greenhouse gas savings.” The commission has also expressed a continued goal of protecting existing investments until 2020.

    “For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels,” said Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard in an October 17, 2012, press release. “We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food. We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable.”

  • Adam Nathan

    Scary stuff
    Posted by Adam Nathan

  • Robert Marks

    You know, I’m never fond of articles like this – they take a real situation (the world is getting warmer – welcome to the Modern Warm Period) and instead of looking at the complexities of the situation they turn it into a prediction of an apocalypse with the end line of “this is what we get for not believing in global warming!”

    Look, I’m not saying that the world isn’t getting warmer – it is. We get a warm period every thousand years, and this one is right on schedule. I’m not saying that man-based CO2 doesn’t have an environmental impact – it does. It’s a greenhouse gas, and trapping heat in certain ways is how it works. But even NASA scientists are at the point where they have declared that the world’s sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is far lower than previous models have suggested:http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL045338.shtml

    We live in a fascinating time where the world is changing around us. But articles like this do not do justice to the situation – instead, they’re tend to be fear-mongering. I notice that this article does not talk about the fact that the Sahara Desert is shrinking and being reclaimed for agriculture, which Egypt has serious plans for. Nor do you mention the fact that Greenland has an agriculture industry again and new arable land. So, this is a change which will require adjustment and intelligent policy, not a falling into darkness.
    Posted by Robert Marks

    • tristan fischer

      As the article mentions, we have problem whether or not climate change is happening due to more people requiring more protein off less land. As you point out, it is getting warmer, whether you mainly consider it due to human causes or your warm period. That will have an impact on food demand and supply, causing major pricing changes.

      Global warming will merely exasperate the issue.

      Egypt is considering using underground aquifer water to irrigate more land – to help with their food issue. But this water is finite. Once it has run out all they will have a greater mismatch between food supply and food demand. Greenland’s new arable land is a tiny new addition. More land is tarmac’d over by expanding cities every year.

      Just because this sounds scary does not mean that it is not true. The question for you is what adjustments and intelligent policies would you advocate? Anything better than what has been described in the article has to be a good start.

  • Dennis Adams

    Climate change is an inherent part of the planet. I don’t want to debate man’s impact on “global warming” as there are scientific arguments on both sides of that issue. Since 1798 when Malthus predicted a food shortage because of population increases, others have predicted food shortages as populations have increased. Recently, one only has to search the net to find a plethora of observations linking food shortages to global warming. I don’t know if this is true nor will any of us as this prediction may or may not occur decades from now. I will not even challenge the prediction as much as challenging what realistically could have been done by world governments to reverse mankinds impact, if any, on global warming. Is it more windmills, solar panels, hybrid autos? This article is essentially no different than many of the others easily accessed on the net, but would make Al Gore proud…some say wealthier.
    Posted by Dennis Adams

    • tristan fischer

      This article moves off the main issue of climate change and what could have been done to prevent it. It assumes that nothing effective was done and nothing will be done.

      It then suggests a world in which 3 billion more people exist, who all want a higher standard of living, and that instead of a gradual increase in food productivity we have a food crash because the aquifer water that was used to irrigate much of this new agricultural land will run out in 25 years.

      It then suggests what might happen.

      As an intellectual exercise, even if you think that the facts are wrong, what do you think will happen if the facts are right?

      What kind of world will we live in and what kind of policies will make sense?

      This is scenario planning.

  • Jean-Louis Roux dit Buisson

    How about sandy?

    get to know how co2 emissions can be zeroed with modern technologies.
    best
    Posted by Jean-Louis Roux dit Buisson

  • Chuck Nolan

    It was too late to stop climate change by the time we had the scientific data to know that there was a contribution by human activity. The deserts of the Sahara and the Southwestern US were most likely caused by primitive peoples. Climate change starts there.

    Besides building the walls to protect cities from flooding, we will also need to underground power transmission lines and substations, as we are seeing the effects of the damage to these critical resources.

    In this time of great economic paralysis, we simply need real leaders who focus more on getting things done than on catering to liberal political causes. The full employment that will result from real efforts, not just attack ads aimed at opposing politicians, will produce more than enough economic activity to pay for social programs beyond the dreams of most socialists. Look at the prosperity of the World War II ending of the Great Depression, and the economic carry forward after the war. This was funded by bonds, as are most long term large scale projects.

    We propose Eagle Power Peace Bonds as a means to fund these many long term capital and infrastructure improvements, delivering energy from sustainable sources and energy to power better water treatment and waste management.

    The present policies of printing money that is spent on buying votes and Chinese made consumer products is simply draining away the resources that need to be spent on real improvements.
    Posted by Chuck Nolan

    • Tristan Fischer

      Great comment. I like the Eagle Power Peace Bonds concept!

  • james(migloo) graham

    Very interesting reading my question; if taking from the aquifer water has a use by date how does the thing get toped up????
    Posted by james(migloo) graham

    • Tristan Fischer

      It does get topped up – it just takes thousands of years to do so. The 25 year anticipated life expectancy for these aquifers assumes that people take out their current levels every year plus the addition from normal rainfall that gets into the ground water.

  • Rob P

    The main driver of the French Revolution was hunger. There had been a series of bad harvests. It was bread that was the Tipping Point. Not sure that MA ever really said “Let them eat Cake” but the point is when many people are starving, all barriers to revolt go away

  • Sid Abma

    America has natural gas, and lots of it. Coal power plants are over time going to be converted to natural gas. Trains, highway trucks, city vehicles will also be converting to natural gas, and ocean shipping lines are also looking at it.
    Natural gas is an energy source that can be consumed so much more efficiently than what is being done today.
    Natural gas is an energy source that can be consumed to near 100% energy efficiency. Natural gas can be consumed so efficiently that the water can be recovered out of the cooled exhaust gases.
    This is all possible with the technology of Condensing Flue Gas Heat Recovery.
    These converted power plants could be set up to operate at near 100% energy efficiency. Near Zero Emission Power Plants across the country.
    The recovered energy from the power plants exhaust could be used to produce bio fuels, creating hundreds of jobs.
    It’s just a decision that has to be made. Does America want to become Energy Independent and Energy Secure. Becoming energy efficient with natural gas will reduce a lot of HOT exhaust from going into the atmosphere, and reduce a lot of CO2 emissions, and create water, so we can conserve our ground water.
    Posted by Sid Abma

    • Sid Abma

      The US DOE states that for every million Btu’s of energy recovered from these waste exhaust gases, and this recovered energy is utilized back in the building or facility, 118 lbs of CO2 will NOT be put into the atmosphere.
      They also state that if a 60 watt light bulb is left on for 24 hours, it will generate 3.3 lbs of CO2.
      How many light bulbs have to be changed or turned off HOURLY to keep up with the CO2 reduction happening hourly in the buildings boiler room?
      Is climate change and global warming for real. I don’t know for 100% either, but I do know, I do not want my grandkids and or great grandkids coming to me one day saying Grandpa you knew this was going to happen, and you did nothing?
      Posted by Sid Abma

  • Robert Marks

    I’m sorry, but I’m not being pulled into this game. I made an observation that your article suffers the same failing of so many others – of advocating a worst-case scenario future when there is little evidence that one is at hand. We live in a changing world, not a climate-caused apocalypse. I’m not going to be drawn into diverting the discussion away from this fact.

    This is from the last five paragraphs of your article:

    “This moral erosion will change the type of leaders that a country has. We should expect our leaders to be more ruthless and intolerant of dissent. Laws and systems that have been put in place over the past 11 years under benevolent governments to monitor citizens for “terrorist” activities will be used by different kinds of leaders as a means of repression.”

    […]

    “To wrap up, new global food dynamics exasperated by climate change, will significantly affect world trade in food, requiring a higher level of national self sufficiency. Food shortages will trigger epic waves of immigration which could potentially swamp receiving countries. This will require a military response by national governments, which will require ruthless and immoral governments.”

    I notice that you do not cite a source for this – I imagine this may be because you appear to be taking your lead from “‘V’ for ‘Vendetta’.”

    I would point out two things – first, this is a group for the discussion of history, recent and distant, not for wild and unfounded predictions of a dark and apocalyptic future. Second, “‘V’ for ‘Vendetta'” is not a valid primary or secondary source.
    Posted by Robert Marks

    • tristan fischer

      Robert,

      History is a continuum. In a few years time, what has happened today – the present – will be nothing more than history. What happens in the future can only be possible due to events that have occurred in the present and in the past.

      This article starts off in the past and then produces a scenario of what might happen in the future, based on what we have experienced. There is no guarantee that this future will happen, but one of the great advantages of studying history is that it can make future scenarios more realistic.

      You agree that the world is changing. You agree that the world is getting warmer. Forget about whether you agree or disagree about the causes of climate change. Focus on the facts that you agree with – it is changing and getting warmer.

      In a warmer climate it is reasonable to expect impacts on food production. Do you think that the world will cope with these changes in the same way that it has done in the past? You can easily search for information on underground aquifers and can see that they are running out of water and you can easily see that the world population is getting larger and that people want more protein based diets.

      If you do not think that this is a difficult future, how would you describe it? What technological breakthrough are you anticipating that will enable the world to feed 10 billion people on 2/3 rds of the resources that are available today?

      This is a serious question and deserves a serious response.

      • Robert M

        Again, I’m not being drawn into the discussion you want to provoke. Your conclusion remains flawed, and I’m not going to be diverted away from that.

        You’re taking the fact that in times of great famine, you get large population movements – which is true – and extending that to causing totalitarianism and oppression in the countries said population immigrates to. The problem is that, to my knowledge, there is not a single case in history supporting that progression.

        The most famous case of population movement due to famine is probably the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852, which caused around a quarter of Ireland’s population to move elsewhere. Most of it moved to the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. In the United States, the Irish were certainly treated as second-class citizens, and fell into the definition of “the other,” if you want to put it that way. But not a single one of these places fell into totalitarianism as a result of this population movement. Nobody in the United States government decided to take military action against Ireland, or gun down Irish refugees from the famine while they were on the boats.

        In light of the lack of any evidence linking immigration of famine refugees to the rise of totalitarianism, your claim that Britain having to deal with large numbers of famine refugees will cause it to fall into systemic oppression is baseless. The rise of totalitarianism and oppression can be linked to a number of things – internal poverty, a perceived external threat of military invasion, a perceived internal threat – but famine refugees is not one of them.

        • tristan fischer

          Robert,

          I am getting closer to understanding your objection: that while major movements of people do take place as a result of famines, you don’t think that they will result in a totalitarian regime emerging on the recipient country and say that there are no examples of this happening.

          Here are two:

          Example One:
          The massive waves of Germanic tribes moving into the late Roman Empire (see articles:http://www.historyfuturenow.com/wp/how-climate-change-will-drive-new-barbarian-hordes-into-europe/ and http://www.historyfuturenow.com/wp/the-north-african-threat-and-mediterranean-reunification/) did have an impact on how the Romans dealt with immigrants, who were, in many cases, starving.

          They started off with oppression, confiscation of property and enslavement of immigrants. They then handled a particular border dispute ineptly and were overrun by immigrants who then ran riot through the western Roman Empire. This critically undermined the Roman state, resulting in Germanic kingdoms being established in France, Spain and North Africa. Eventually Italy was taken over by Germanic tribes. Whilst the initial reaction was not specifically “totalitarian” as that is widely associated with Second World War governments of Italy, Germany and Russia, it is also hard to see that as being benevolent either.

          Example Two:
          If you want a more modern analog, you can turn to Greece today where the Golden Dawn fascist party are specifically targeting the 2 million immigrants in Greece (see article:http://www.historyfuturenow.com/wp/the-new-rise-of-european-political-extremism-greece-today-where-next/). They claim that immigrants are taking Greek jobs (resulting in internal poverty – which you agree as a factor for the rise of totalitarianism).

          While Golden Dawn are not the government in Greece (yet?), it is historically accurate to link Hitler’s electoral success and the rise of Nazi Germany to high levels of unemployment in the early 1930s and the hyperinflation of the 1920s. It was widely accepted that most communists in Russia and Germany were Jewish. It was an easy step for Hitler to link the end of World War One (which most Germans found bizarre as they were still in French territory at the time of the Armistice) to a betrayal by communist agitators. This then made it easier for him to embark on oppression of “the other”, with all of its horrific results.

          It is not a big step to say that famines cause migrations, migrations increase the population of the recipient country and if the recipient country is doing badly economically with large numbers of unemployed already then the recipient country is likely to have a hostile reaction to the immigrants. This hostility can go many ways, but extreme forms of hostility can be horrific.

          You are right – the Irish migrants in the US after the famine there (see articlehttp://www.historyfuturenow.com/wp/why-land-deals-in-africa-could-make-the-great-irish-famine-a-minor-event/) did not result in the rise of totalitarianism in the US. But that was because the US was still a land of opportunity – there was more land than there were people and land was, in many cases (eg Mid West), being given away for free. The Irish were greatly oppressed in America and it took nearly 100 years before them to be given any respect – with the Presidency of JFK.

          So I hope I have given two decent examples.

          I am still not sure why you don’t want to be drawn into the far more interesting discussion, however, which is how you think countries will react to large levels of attempted migrations due to famines.

          I dont want to be right as it is depressing. I would be happier being wrong. Please give an alternative, optimistic, view!

          • Robert Marks

            Okay, first of all, regarding the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes, you’ve got some misunderstandings. You are conflating the population movement with the earlier Roman expansion, and there is a difference. During the expansion of the Empire, conquered peoples in Northern Europe were indeed enslaved. But during the Barbarian migration, there was a different mechanism at work.

            The Romans used what was known as a Foederati (I think I spelled that correctly) system – it means “federated peoples” or “federated tribes.” This was a mechanism by which a deal was struck with incoming tribes that allowed them to settle at the outskirts of the Roman Empire in return for safeguarding Roman borders against other invading tribes. It did allow the Germanic tribesmen to participate in the Roman Army – it did not, however, allow the Germanic tribes to have any other real involvement or integration with the Empire.

            This was a problem because the Germanic tribes in question admired the Roman Empire and wanted to join up – they WANTED to be Romans. The Romans, on the other hand, did not really understand these Barbarians (Roman society was based around the group, and Germanic society was based around the individual), and they did not want them anywhere near the Empire as a whole. This left the Barbarians disenfranchised from the very Empire they had agreed to protect (and which was becoming more and more dependent on their military protection), which caused tension, and eventually things reached a breaking point.

            I think it is of great note that after the Roman Empire fell, the Barbarian kingdoms under rules like Theodoric kept the Roman bureaucracy operating for a couple of centuries, and even the Roman system of Great Estates used in the provinces survived as the basis of Feudalism.

            So, in the case of the Roman Empire, the idea that immigration caused a totalitarian situation really does not hold water (a level of isolationism, perhaps, but not totalitarianism – Rome had been having fun with levels of totalitarianism since the Caesars).

            As far as modern Greece goes, I am not entirely up to speed with that (my specializations are Medieval Studies – in particular the Viking Age – and the early 20th Century along with some of the War on Terrorism), but I will point out the following:

            1. Totalitarian parties always target “the outsider” as a scapegoat, as they require an outside threat to demonstrate that they are worth supporting. This is also a common political trick.

            2. Having experienced fascism within living memory, as well as shed a lot of blood to combat it in World War II, I think this makes the probability of a Greek fascist party rising to full power relatively low. Even Canada has Communist and Nazi parties – but they never win any elections.

            That said, the article you linked to is quite disturbing. But, I think it is very important to recognize the difference between a cause and an excuse. Immigrants taking Greek jobs is an excuse. Widespread unemployment due to massive problems in the basic structure of the Greek economy is a cause.

            So, I’m sorry, but while I will concede that immigration can be – and has been – used as an excuse for totalitarianism and oppression, it’s an excuse – not a root cause.
            Posted by Robert Marks

          • tristan fischer

            Hi Robert,

            We seem to be edging closer here to a compromise agreement.

            Your points about the Germans wanting to become part of the Roman Empire are apt – in the same way that most North Africans today would love to be part of the European Union. In the event of a mass famine in North Africa (a natural / human disaster analog to the Huns on the Visigoths) you could expect North Africans wanting to get into the European Union more forcibly.

            As you point out the Romans had been allowing border crossings for decades before that, all of which had gone reasonably smoothly and helped both parties. I was referring in my Rome analogy to the 376 AD Visigoth border crossing on the Danube when the Visigoth leader Fritigern asked the Emperor Valens permission to cross – as they were being pushed towards the Roman border by the Huns. After much dithering Valens agreed and the Visigoths entered Moesia, on the Roman side of the border, which promptly had a failed harvest. The Roman governor sold food to the Visigoths at extortionate prices, which forced some of the Visigoths to sell their children into slavery. The Romans tricked the Visigoth leadership at a banquet and then killed most of them. In response, the Visigoths revolted, and kicked off a six year rampage that ended up with Valens dead.

            Regarding your point about Greece today and the Golden Dawn party, I think that you are splitting hairs when asking whether immigration is an excuse or a cause of totalitarianism. Hitler harnessed the German people’s anger about the end of World War One, the massive war reparations to France and the UK that helped cause hyper inflation in the early 1920s and the mass unemployment in the early 1930s. That was a good starting point. Clashes with Communists in the 1920s helped to solidify a generally anti semitic slant that Germans had. Jews (and the few Gypsies that lived there) were seen as parasites on German society. Germany had very few real foreigners, however. Had Germany had a large immigrant population competing for jobs with unemployed Germans you can be pretty confident that those immigrants would have been attacked and oppressed too.

            Anti immigrant groups exist in all societies. When times are tough, as they are in Greece today, and you are competing for the few jobs that are available, getting rid of the competition is a valid human desire. If immigrants appear to be taking “your job” and a party comes along saying that they will kick immigrants out, then it would be natural for those with no jobs to want to support the party that promises to “solve” the problem.

            Also note that not all immigrants are the same. The Northern Europeans who have second homes or retire in Greece are generally welcome as they don’t compete for jobs and actually inject money into the economy. Thus anti immigrant feelings are not so much about not liking other nationalities, religions or race groups, but rather not liking people who are perceived to be taking something away from you. North Europeans give and North Africans take. Of course, the fact that North Africans are frequently doing jobs that are too dangerous, dirty or poorly paid for Greeks to do is conveniently forgotten! If Northern Europeans stop spending money in Greece, but hold on to property, you should expect them to be accused of being parasites by Golden Dawn at some point.

  • Kelly PARKER

    f we’d get over our politically correct paranoia about genetically modified crops, then any of nature’s climatic changes would be manageable.
    Posted by Kelly PARKER

    • Tom Koltai

      Kelly…Do you work for Monsanto or Dow? PC paranoia…seriously? As a professed lifelong learner and teacher, what dark hole have you been hiding in? Tristan…we haven’t missed the boat, we’re just late in the game. Sandy may have been humanity’s alarm clock. Not until we see the tremendous monetary (and human) costs of tragedies associated with climate change will we begin to include these costs into alternative ways of fulfilling our energy needs. If these costs are included..the difference in $/kw (or comparable measures) diminish greatly. Reps bitched about Bo spending $90B on clean energy as horrific waster. Costs of Sandy will dwarf that. After that..who knows whats coming? Your question as to what if the science is right is the correct question to ask. How could we possibly go wrong by taking better care of the planet? It would be like telling an individual not exercise because it consumes too much valuable time or money. As to Monsanto and genetically modified foods…this is an issue of poisoning nature not over heating it.
      Posted by Tom Koltai

      • tristan fischer

        Tom – ultimately there will always be a boat to catch! It just might not be the best boat! I think that we have missed the chance to catch a pleasant boat already. After a few bouts of unpleasantness we will wake up and catch another boat.

      • Kelly PARKER

        No, I don’t work for Monsanto or Dow, Tom. I just happen to appreciate the environmental and health benefits genetic modification of foods has given us. How do you think China is able to keep it’s people eating rice, for example? Anyway, anthropogenic climate change is a vain notion.
        Posted by Kelly PARKER

        • Tom Koltai

          http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan/Publications/Book_chapters/Rahmstorf_Zedillo_2008.pdf
          http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/11/us-china-gmo-goldenrice-idUSBRE88A05Z20120911

          A little light reading on both matters. I mean no offense Kelly but it always amazes me that there remain such skeptics on both these subjects. These views and of course the financial beneficiaries of them have won the day so far. As such we poison large segments of the human population through the growing ambient presence of chemicals in our air and water and watch slowly as our ice caps disappear, our droughts worsen, and historic storms that would have once been bounced out to sea by conflicting cold fronts now more consistently crash into the Caribbean and US shores. This line of questioning is becoming cliche but…what if you’re wrong?
          Posted by Tom Koltai

          • John Gelmini

            The north polar icecap is melting but this is more than offset by the ice cap in Antarctica thickening by 25% and covering an area about 25% bigger.
            Neither the Russian,Chinese or Indian Governments believe in Global Warming or Climate Change in the sense that the flawed IPCC Report and Stern Review imagines will happen with 4 to 6 degree rises in sea temperature when the reality is we have only seen a 1 degree rise in more than 100 years.
            Lord Lawson of Blaby did an excellent critique on Stern and its alarmist ,Malthusian prognosis using logic,reason and the truth of numbers to demolish the IPCC report and the 1000,s of hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia showed that Professor Jones and his henchmen were effectively manipulating the data to show a worse case scenario than actually existed.
            The earth goes through a 1500 year cycle when for 40 years we are closer to the sun.
            This 40 year period has come to an end so what the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Government fear is Global Cooling.
            This is why China has bought huge tracts of land in Cambodia and Brazil on which to grow food and why the Russians have done the same in Ukraine and why they both have sought the aid of and encouraged the immigration of efficient English farmers sick and tired of DEFRA and low prices,to assist them.
            Professor Richard Lindzen ,the world,s top oceanographer from MIT disproved Global Warming by measurement as you can also see by looking at Lord Christopher Monckton on You Tube.
            Global Warming is a scam on the part of the Club of Rome and the Bilderbergers aided and abetted by the BBC and others who ought to know better to trick the world,s public into paying environmental taxes to solve a non existent problem.
            People are skeptical quite rightly and should not be taken in by lies,statistical manipulation and nonsense of this kind a moment longer.
            Posted by John Gelmini

          • Tom Koltai

            With all due respect the Lord is not exactly being touted as a responsible expert. I personally do not have the expertise to suggest definitively that man-made global warming is fact. I am prepared however to accept the widely supported notion that it may be an issue. More importantly I accept that there exists more downside in ignoring the possibility than in working towards solutions that better protect the planet. In the longterm mankind, my children, my grandchildren can only benefit from the development of cleaner energies even if it only means breathing cleaner air. Of course China, Russia, and India will continue to pose themselves as non believers. So will oil and coal companies. Both predictable.
            Posted by Tom Koltai

          • John Gelmini

            You mention Lord Christopher Monckton but not Richard Lindzen or Carl Wunch or Piers Corbyn on sunspots and offer no evidence for Global Warming.
            We buy a great deal of what we consume from China and India and the people who came up with Globalisation were in fact the Club of Rome despite the fact that the additional shipping movements that this caused were left out of the IPCC figures.
            The Chinese and the Indians have their own scientists and have come to different conclusions based on the evidence which points to global cooling and has seen Polar Bear numbers quadruple despite the warnings and scaremongering of Al Gore.
            The Russians do not export very much to us and they have just as many capable scientists as we do but none of them believe in global warming either based on the hard evidence which shows that the sun is the main cause of cooling and warming not what we do.
            Malthus was the first of the doomsayers,Professor James Lovelock with his pagan Mother Earth Goddess nonsense about Gaiia was the second and now we have John Holdren ,President Obama,s Chief Scientific Advisor talking about “New Cornocupians” and wanting along with Illuminised Freemasonry to reduce the earth,s population by 6 billion people.
            We have had talk like this before from the Adolf Hitlers of this world ,now we are all supposed to passively await our fate so that 6,500 people can hold sway over the earth.
            Global Warming is snake oil and we are not buying it any longer.
            What is needed is Singlepoint energy and the cessation of the suppression of Toroidal energy and other devices by the energy companies and the plutocrats in the shadows who like engineered scarcity,wars and bogus shortages such as peak oil.
            The planet ,if it needs saving at all needs to be saved from the scourge of these deceivers who like a giant vampire squid suck the substance out of us all and lack the sense to see that in the end they are deceiving themselves.
            Posted by John Gelmini

          • Tom Koltai

            http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/08/100816-global-warming-antarctica-sea-ice-paradox-science-environment/

            I will refrain myself…this is funny though…and brilliant verbosity. You clearly feel strongly and you are fully entitled to do so…as are the rest of us. Will be looking over my shoulder for the giant vampire squid.
            Posted by Tom Koltai

          • John Gelmini

            It isn’t a matter for levity for people to be taxed to solve a nonexistent problem when real problems exist,it is deeply damaging to living standards for millions of people throughout the world.
            Destroying forests to enable bio fuel to be produced which then causes food shortages which only a few people profit from is also not a matter of levity,particularly when it is done to save the planet.
            You talk about the”rest of us” as though you are in some kind of majority when the facts are otherwise and the issue of “Climate Change Science” is anything but settled.
            Similarly you fail to address the Climategate e-mail scandal ,the flourishing of Polar Bears,the thickening of the Antarctic icecap or the fact that the earth has only warmed 1 degree in 105 years rather than the 4 to 6 degrees which was the Stern Report extrapolation of what it would take to produce a Waterworld style catastrophe.
            I am old enough to remember being taught geography in which we were told that the gap between the last ice age and it,s predecessor was larger than the gap between the last age and the then present day and that in the 21st century we would experience another mini ice age and that it would probably occur in 2014.
            What you should do to gain broader perspective on some of these issues is to view Foster Gamble,s film on http://www.thrive.org ,from beginning to end and then read Lord Lawson,s book.
            Currently the gap between a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and someone on average earnings is 1000 to 1 and the comparable figure for the UK is 450 to 1.
            Scientific American reviewed all the world,s major companies and found that about 147 of them controlled most of the others.
            If you drill down further you then find that about 6,500 people control all the world,s wealth and that ultimate control is in the hands of 21 families and 2,500 people with one man at the very top controlling a small group of 120 people who decide whether we are at peace or war,the price of food,fuel and energy and the state of the world economy.
            As a conservative since the age of 11 I have never thought that total equality was possible but history teaches us that when a country or Empire gets to the stage where the gap between the wealthiest and those on average incomes gets too big,society becomes unstable and the whole edifice collapses with very dire consequences.
            It happened to ancient Rome when the leadership kept imposing new taxes and despite the ability of the Roman legions to put down rebellions using the Roman roads and forced marches in the end there were so many rebellions that the barbarians were able to take over.
            In the West,we are in similar danger due to uncompetitive tax regimes which encourage avoidance,low worker productivity and malfeasance which in turn allows wealth and power to flow eastwards while we saddle our economies with unsustainable costs to solve the wrong problems and allow a great deal of wealth to be plundered.
            During this financial crisis something like $10 trillion USD was effectively stolen from the people of the world and then laundered through the hedge funds and Caribbean tax havens prior to being converted into gold,property and fine art.
            The Icelanders have shown us what needs to be done by the appointment of a superbailiff with 100 assistants and powers of arrest,asset seizure and financial discovery.
            He and his assistants are recovering money,repatriating assets,making arrests,securing convictions and putting the criminals behind bars,something which we should be doing on a much bigger scale but seem reluctant to do.
            Eventually this strategy of overtaxing ourselves and rendering our economies uncompetitive with environmental levies will turn us into a series of vassal states and hollowed out economies and whilst you and I will not live to see it our children and grandchildren will live with the folly of the decisions we are making today and I can promise you they will not be laughing.
            Posted by John Gelmini

          • Tristanfischer

            John, I happen to agree with many of your secondary points (from “What you should do to… ” onwards). And unlike Tom, I have given up trying to persuade people about anthropomorphic climate change. People of a conservative nature generally seem to see environmentalism as a badly disguised form of socialism (see article: http://www.historyfuturenow.com/wp/green-is-not-red-but-blue-environmentalism-and-the-mystery-of-right-wing-opposition/).

            But in the same way that you probably have home insurance in case of a fire and the way you probably support military spending in case of a war why not think of environmentalism as a slightly ineffective insurance policy on climate change. Compared to the cost of the military or bail outs to financial institutions it is pretty cheap.

            Then, for the sake of argument (you dont have to agree) imagine that climate change IS happening and that we cant or wont do anything to stop it.

            If we will get higher temperatures, bad harvests and flooding, what impacts do you think might happen to societies?

          • John Gelmini

            Tristan,
            I have imagined it,but I am a former insurance man of 29 years who understands risk.
            About half your risks are known ,can be calculated and insured against.
            The remaining 50%,according to McKinsey,are unquantifiable,sometimes contingent and frequently incapable of replicating themselves in the same form.
            Such risks are today called “Black Swan events”.
            They cannot be insured against because there would never be enough money in corporate or personal coffers.
            What can be done is that a measure can be built in within affordable limits for increased resilience,robustness,speed and agility.
            The best example of this is my turbocharged Mercedes Benz saloon which is fast when it needs to be with its kickdown facility,has crumple zones to protect me if the car hits something or I hit it,has ABS to enable me to steer,brake and take evasive action simultaneously.
            There is no harm in building fuel efficient cars with these capabilities,lagging lofts and pipes also makes good sense as does harnessing tidal power rather than going to war over oil.
            One could add to that, supporting our farmers rather than letting 150 of them commit suicide each year and 5000 of them to become bankrupt and unemployed .
            We as an island should not be importing food because twice in the last century we were nearly starved to death ,first by E boats in World War 1 and then by U Boats in World War 2.
            Our insurance then was a powerful navy which used to take an entire day to present itself to the King.
            Now we have been reduced to not even being able to afford our coastal protection vessel and “co-operation with the French”.
            Where I draw the line is at what is likely to come next which will be the application of “personal carbon footprints” and living in smaller houses or the prognostications of Prince Philip who has said publicly that he wants to come back reincarnated as a “deadly virus”,John Holdren ,President Obama,s Chief Scientific Advisor who says he wants the earth,s population reduced to 1 billion , the inscriptions on the Georgia guidestones which talk about 1/2 billion people or the Orwellian Agenda 21 proposed by the UN.
            This kind of thinking spawned the bio ethnic weapons designed to kill only one particular race which have been developed at Fort Detrick and similar facilities at Porton Down in Wiltshire and the philosophy of Kissinger and Hitler in his time talking about “useless eaters”.
            Posted by John Gelmini

          • Tom Koltai

            speechless…
            Posted by Tom Koltai

          • John Gelmini

            I am already breathing easier because nature or God(dependant on your personal philosophy),has a way of reasserting itself even when humankind engages in madness and produces people who think they are Gods who can either live forever or for a very long time courtesey of life extension drugs,cybernetics and the technologies of the Geron Corporation.
            Some of them are to be found in the Transhumanist Movement whilst others are more secretive or “taught to be cautious” as they like to put it.
            They want to use “climate change” as a method to control people by restricting their movements on the basis that this will reduce their carbon footprint,restricting their rate of reproduction on the grounds that the planet will run out of food and restricting the amount of disposable income they have by levying carbon taxes.
            Of course when they travel to Davos and Bilderberger and Club of Rome meetings,none of these niggling considerations seem to apply to them or to their apologists ,Prince Charles Jonathan Porrit the environmentalist and the strangely silent George Monbiot who still writes nonsense for the Guardian.
            Posted by John Gelmini

          • james(migloo) graham

            What an interesting point of view!
            …life is such a journey and is it
            not a good thing that the ‘group dynamic’
            plays a huge role in our journey!!!
            Posted by james(migloo) graham

          • John Gelmini

            People who think in the ways I have described actually exist in the form of Ray Kurzweil of the Transhumanist Movement and Peter Theil the billionaire founder of PayPal who is now commissioning the building of floating offshore cities which will be moored in international water and where businesses can start up , trade entirely free of tax and probing eyes and be initially funded by people like himself.
            My “interesting point of view” is that people should not try and get above themselves imagining that they are gods with the innate right to force or trick the rest of us into doing their bidding by creating imaginary problems ,the answer to which is always to pay more taxes on the basis without any hard evidence that X or Y calamity will befall us if we do not accept their prognosis.
            Posted by John Gelmini

  • Mery Pérez

    When I first look this debate i think it is going about history and historicians here in this group and worldwide do not talk about climate change and its origins and effects, despite of relevance of this issue. But, reading the article in web page referencing and the subdebate generated between Mr Fisher and Mr. Marks i figured out that it was nothing like what I thought, although in a way it puts the climate change theme up.

    Well, this debate has reminded me the controversy between Malthus and Marx about food issues and poblational growth in century XIX, and the Marx optimistic way and the Malthus apocalyptic way, and the so so and so far victory of optimistic way as Marx thought.

    However, really there are other prices “we will pay [or that we are payng right now] for refusing to address the problem of climate change when we had the chance”,
    Posted by Mery Pérez

    • Robert Marks

      Mery, in certain fields historians talk about climate change all the time. You can’t talk about the rise and fall of the Greenland Norse without looking at the rise and fall of the Medieval Warm Period. You can’t understand Viking trade routes without taking into account the higher seawater levels, as some of the deep water Viking ports in Scandinavia are not deep water ports today. The Roman Warm Period comes to an end around 400 AD (or CE, depending on how traditional you’re being) – it would not surprise me in the slightest if this had a role in the movement of the Germanic Tribes westwards to greener pastures around the same time.

      The problem is that when it comes to modern climate change, paleoclimatologists are NOT historians – they lack the training, and what you get from them when it comes to periods with historical and archaeological evidence tends to be faulty at best. So, you get ridiculous claims being made about the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman Warm Period (which was 2 degrees above the Medieval Warm Period) that ignores the way historians treat and handle evidence, and for that matter ignores the evidence that has already been uncovered.

      Take the famous hockey stick graph, for example, which was the first time anybody claimed that we were warmer today than in the Medieval Warm Period. McIntyre and McKittrick tore it apart some years ago in an article in Geophysical Research Letters, pointing out that the model would generate a hockey stick even if random noise was fed into it. In response to the massive controversy that followed, the paleoclimatologists and the scientists who depended on the hockey stick to be right declared that we could say for certain that we were warmer than the last 400 years, but prior to that we had no way of knowing what the climate was like due to poor proxy samples (a claim that causes considerable difficulties considering that there have been hundreds of peer reviewed proxy studies on the Medieval Warm Period disputing that claim, which are then cherry picked in the politicking).

      The problem was that proxy samples have never been the be-all and end-all of historical evidence. We have a mountain of evidence that allows us to calculate the climate of Europe. We have records such as the Domesday Book, which allow us to know what was being grown, where it was being grown, who was growing it, and to a degree how well it was grown. An entire sub-field of archaeology revolves around finding and identifying old seeds. The altitude of old vineyards in Eastern Europe – confirmed by both archaeology and monastic records – gives us a sense of what seasonal temperatures were the norm while those vineyards were in action. Records of mountain passes through the Alps can also give us a sense of historical climate, as there were passes in use in Roman times that are permanently snowed in today.

      So, it’s not that climate change is not discussed – there are historical events that don’t make much sense if you don’t look at climate or environmental change – it’s that historians don’t fall into predicting apocalypse scenarios. Claims that we’re in an unprecedented warm period and therefore 90% of the world’s population will be dead in a hundred years (a claim that I remember being made during the Copenhagen conference) are met by facepalms by historians specializing in the Medieval and Roman periods who know better. The history shows that warm periods tend to have higher food and crop production than cold periods, so you can imagine how a claim that the modern age will be the opposite comes across.

      If you want a very good book examining the role of climate and environmental change in a worst-case scenario throughout history, read Collapse, by Jared Diamond – it’s about why societies fail, and it takes an intriguing look at a number of societies that were wiped out in part due to the environment around them changing, be it from climate or human activity.
      Posted by Robert Marks

      • Mery Pérez

        Mark, I like and thank you for your good comments about climate changes themes handle by historicians and your books recommendations.

        However, I just referenced about what I thought when I read debate header, and not because I think historicians has done nothing at all about climate changes study. And I must to add that I thought the debate went not just about historicians talks but also anybody talks and facts regarding climate issue.

        Well, as I commented previously, so far Marx expectations about food availability defeated the Malthus expectations, even when the Malthus ones were based in “scientists” studies. However, even the price to pay argumented in this debate could br questionable, there are other prices “we will pay [or that we are payng right now] for refusing to address the problem of climate change when we had the chance”, And promote think green is good for all world.

        Surely as you said historicians don’t fall in “predicting apocalypse scenarios”, however, as a sample, if an historician investigating about issues regarding to mining in forestal areas as a geohistorical study, will be possible and even desirable that in a point he covers the damages at medium or long term -based in arguments scientists, in a compared way- that mining could cause in environment, and maybe his conclusions can be considered as entering in the “apocalypse scenarios”.
        Posted by Mery Pérez

  • Marc Asker

    Some pretty brave statements there gents and this is a controversial subject that will continue to be debated by people who always seem to have completely polarized views.
    There is no one single answer and in between the opposing viewpoints probably lies the actual situation.
    I’m not a radical but I do believe we are seeing some effects of climate change. That said, whether real or not it’s what we do (or don’t do) that will (or won;t) make a difference. Just out of interest I put an article about this on our Facebook page recently (link below) – not so far from the top and entitled Climate change is rubbish – I’d be interested in your comments.
    http://www.facebook.com/OptimumEnergySolutions
    Posted by Marc Asker

  • Jim Montgomery

    Cliff, have you read “Ringworld”? It’s an old book now. I think that something like it may well be our future; instead of living on the inside surface, we’ll live here at its node. Otherwise, we’re on the backside of the wave. We’ll paddle like hell – and miss it. We’re at the point of needing to change the rules; a very dangerous proposition.
    Posted by Jim Montgomery

  • Donn Birdsall

    Man cannot predict the weather accurately 5 days out…how can we then accept the word of “Scientists” that we are doomed in 50 years if we don’t stop driving cars? The whole argument smacks of politics, not science
    Posted by Donn Birdsall

  • Darwin Concon

    Nice debate. However, before I retired from the military, I attended a conference in D.C. where the main issue was Climate Change and how would US Department of Defense (DoD) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) deal with the problems of world unrest and instability: http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsb/climate.pdf
    Irregardless of which political camp you fall under regarding climate change, change is occurring. During the conference, we looked at the historical records of population movement (herd instinct) of following food and water resources. Realizing that, other than the Westernized countries, developing nations tend to be agricultural based. When agriculture is threatened, then you have the problems of invasion, conflict, genocide. Add in an acute water shortage for survival, then you will have water wars. Look at the Jordan River Valley to get an idea of the potential for large scale water wars.

    I digress. The problem with the historical record (humanity wise) is the dearth of information on any type of international response (plenty of examples for local, regional and national responses. The conference itself dealt with a international response with NATO representatives in attendance.). With the world population counted at around 7.6 billion and growing, then to keep WORLD STABILITY will require a gradual and measured approach by the world community (Other than war, the world community has never done large scale crisis management in regards to worldwide natural disasters/climate change. The situation is truly virgin territory.) . If the international community decides to do nothing, then expect a return of “Barbarians at the Gate” mentality with the possibility, due to biological/nuclear weapons, of food and water shortages becoming more of an international rather than a regional issue.
    Posted by Darwin Concon

    • tristan fischer

      Darwin – a very interesting addition to this debate. The report that you reference to is 175 pages. For the benefit of those will only a little time, could you extract some of the key findings. I am fascinated.

      • Darwin Concon

        The biggest issues would be as follows: Population Displacement-island nations, etc.
        Water Wars/Water Extortion
        Fragile Economies made weaker.

        Other than the top three issues, the report goes more into mitigation. The report assumes that the developed countries (NATO, Japan, Australia, etc.) would take the lead in an international effort coordinated by the UN.
        Posted by Darwin Concon

      • Darwin Concon

        I suggest reading the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY section of the report:http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsb/climate.pdf
        Posted by Darwin Concon

  • Christopher Webber

    I like the use of “exasperated” instead of “exacerbated”. In Australia, we have a realively tiny number of illegal immigrats arriving by boat every year (I think its something like 1500 people – many more arrive by aeroplane and this is much fewer than arrive in European countries) . The government has reacted with legislation to treat them as second class people with no status and put them in the equivalent of concentration camps for an indefinite period. They have even excised the islands off the coast of Australia from being part of Australia for the purposes of being able to claim asylum. This doesn’t sound like a tolerant, freedom loving government to me. There have also been recent abuses of terrorism legislation by police to arrest and hold innocent people.

    The article only refers to the effects of famine and doesen’t even mention the effects of sea level rises, which are already being manifested in places like Bangaladesh and Pacific islands. Many Pacific islanders have been forced to leave their homes and move to New Zealand and Australia because the sea not only gets onto their land but even before that it contaminates their water table so they don’t have any fresh water.

    The argument that a few scientists disagree with the findings of the majority and therefore the whole theory is rubbish is nonsense – if 90 car mechanics said your car was dangerous to drive but you found 10 that said it was OK would your try to get your car fixed? Over 90% of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is real and is man-made. Most governments view this as a simple risk management exercise, whether you believe the cause or not, something has to be done. There have been warming periods in the past but they were not caused by human activities, that is what is different about this one (as well as the speed and magnitude of the change and the massive extinction of species)
    Posted by Christopher Webber

    • tristan fischer

      Good typo spot, and amusing. I will keep it in to see if anybody else spots it!

      You got ahead of me on writing about sea level rises. What Sandy has reminded us is that you dont actually need a significant rise in sea levels to cause serious damage: warmer water allows for more moist air, allowing for bigger storms.

      Your points about contaminated sea water is also important to North Africa, where much of the available water comes from underground aquifers. Less water coming from the Atlas mountains due to droughts, for example, plus a few extra inches of water could result in significant contamination of fresh water.

      And your final point about 90 car mechanics telling you not to drive a car is correct. Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors at play which make the 10 mechanics that say your car is fixed more influential, which is why we are fundamentally ignoring the problem as a society. Factors include:

      Religion – God said no more floods and Man has dominion over nature, so global warming cant be true
      Political inclination – Environmentalism came about from socialism, so if you are conservatively inclined you have to be against environmentalism
      Business – like Rockefeller’s attempts to kill electricity at birth (Edison’s lights competed with his kerosene) incumbent polluting industries would be wiped out by legislation that made them pay for their wastes and are thus hostile
      Media – is paid for by advertising from incumbents and an apparent “equal” debate creates controversy, which sells
      Development – developing countries want to bring their people out of poverty fast, they can do that with old technologies. Telling them to stop polluting to save others is not politically viable
      MBAs and business schools – teach the world about IRRs, ROIs, and discount rates, which favour short term revenues over long term revenues. Thus a belief that doing something later is better than doing something now.

      When these religious, ideological and educational factors combine with money and power it is not surprising that it is so hard to make any headway in combating climate change.

      Which is why I think we need to skip past the prevention stage, as a lost cause, and into getting an understanding of what the impacts will be and what countries, companies and individuals can do to prepare themselves for what the 90% of scientists agree is happening.

      • tristan fischer

        It is probably worth noting that many of these factors were at play when it came to African slavery in the Americas.

        Despite the obviously despicable nature of slavery it lasted from the late 1400s with African slaves being used in Atlantic islands off Africa to the end of the American civil war 400 years later.

      • Tristan Fischer

        I should also add in the desire to be free to do what you want to do and not to be told what to do by any government as one of the factors.

    • Robert Marks

      Christopher, you have to be careful when it comes to the climate change debate – one of the things I have found when looking at it is that the public debate left the science behind a long time ago.

      Now, I don’t claim to be an expert, but here is what I’ve learned about the science: climatology consists of a very large number of people, most of whom are studying a tiny piece of the puzzle and publishing their findings. By this I mean that you’ll get a study on the impact of warming on some lake in eastern Michigan, or a study on the impact of CO2 on plant growth under controlled environments. When it comes to the actual question of the atmospheric sensitivity to CO2, we have only just started to get empirical results over the last couple of years – and the results seem to indicate a much smaller sensitivity than previously modeled. So, this is being investigated and explored, there is much work to be done, and no shortage of dissenting opinion on any number of things. That’s the science, and that’s how it’s supposed to look.

      If you want a good sense of what it looks like, check this out – it’s a list of AGW-dissenting peer-reviewed articles (they’re up to a tally of 1100+ now):http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

      If you go to the public debate, the science is left behind. Here you get claims that any dissent is fuelled by oil companies, that AGW scientists are part of a conspiracy for world government, that we’re entering a climate apocalypse, that being skeptical of a claim is the same as denying it outright – and it’s all quite silly when it comes down to it. Unfortunately, part of this is being fuelled by some paleoclimatologists who have effectively written themselves into a corner with their hockey stick graph, and that is a VERY useful thing for activists to latch onto – I think there’s a real “too big to fail” situation there.

      Now, I’m the first to say that I’m an AGW skeptic. I am also the first to say that the world is warming, that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that adding it to the atmosphere will create a warming effect. The claim that I have trouble with is that human-based CO2 is overwhelming natural forcings rather than the other way around. And when you have people like Michael Mann effectively ignoring history (along with hundreds of proxy studies) to make that case, I think it’s reasonable to call their claims into question.

      (Let me put it this way – there’s such a thing as the Medieval Warm Period Project, which has been collecting peer-reviewed studies on the MWP in part to prove that the research was done in the first place, and that it shows a warmer MWP than today:http://www.co2science.org/data/mwp/mwpp.php )

      But, one last thing – I am a SKEPTIC. This does not mean that my opinion is set – it means that it goes where the evidence takes me. My opinion is entirely changeable, and I am representative of a lot of the anti-AGW side. The public debate would have you believe that it’s warmists vs. deniers, and a scientific consensus. The science is somewhere else.
      Posted by Robert Marks

      • Laura Bozzay

        From an historical perspective famines have taken place far more frequently due to warfare where crops were burned and lands laid waste. Yes, people died due to famines. But in the long run societies came back and flourished. There have been periods of climate created and periods of direct human related famines. Yet humans have learned to adapt.
        Today we have more farming options than ever before including hydroponics which did not to my knowledge exist prior to the 20th century. So if climate is the issue industrial use of hydroponic technology can augment what is still produced in more temperate areas of the world.
        I think it is interesting to look at general food production trends besides looking only at one factor,climate. http://faostat.fao.org/site/339/default.aspx
        This clearly shows a dramatic increase in viable food production in the world.
        Posted by Laura Bozzay

  • Sid Abma

    The US DOE states that for every million Btu’s of energy recovered from these waste exhaust gases, and this recovered energy is utilized back in the building or facility, 118 lbs of CO2 will NOT be put into the atmosphere.
    They also state that if a 60 watt light bulb is left on for 24 hours, it will generate 3.3 lbs of CO2.
    How many light bulbs have to be changed or turned off HOURLY to keep up with the CO2 reduction happening hourly in the buildings boiler room?
    Is climate change and global warming for real. I don’t know for 100% either, but I do know, I do not want my grandkids and or great grandkids coming to me one day saying Grandpa you knew this was going to happen, and you did nothing?
    Posted by Sid Abma

    • Marc Asker

      Now that’s a great and thought provoking comment Sid.
      Posted by Marc Asker

  • Saturday Read: Lets assume nothing is going to be done about global warming. What will be the impact on food? http://t.co/TjeJ2Nzd

  • Robert Robarge

    Enough with the global warming already!If it was areal issue do you think Obama would be jetting all around the world or taking out his ten SUV support detail to play golf or basketball.Really?
    Posted by Robert Robarge

    • Christopher Webber

      Obama can do whatever the electorate lets him do and about half the US don’t even bother to vote
      Posted by Christopher Webber

  • Darwin Concon

    I really hate it when something as serious as climate change becomes a political football. The issue of POTUS flying around the US or the globe is a matter of national security and diplomatic engagements. The armored SUV detail is a secret service decision supported and encouraged by those who have the power of the purse-congress. The goal, of course, to prevent another successful assassination and It doesn’t matter the political affiliation of the current head of state. Also when the VP takes off for golf games on Air Force 2 or Marine 2, it is to ensure an unbroken chain of command if POTUS was killed, incapacitated or missing in action (Cold War holdover but just as important now as then.). The Speaker of the House also has their own security detail and aircraft to again ensure the line of succession. Speaking from my previous life, Department of Defense (DOD) seriously takes the matter of global climate change to heart and the consequences of those changes as it relates to national security and global instability.
    Posted by Darwin Concon

  • Darwin Concon

    I really hate it when something as serious as climate change becomes a political football. The issue of POTUS flying around the US or the globe is a matter of national security and diplomatic engagements. The armored SUV detail is a secret service decision supported and encouraged by those who have the power of the purse-congress. The goal, of course, to prevent another successful assassination and It doesn’t matter the political affiliation of the current head of state. Also when the VP takes off for golf games on Air Force 2 or Marine 2, it is to ensure an unbroken chain of command if POTUS was killed, incapacitated or missing in action (Cold War holdover but just as important now as then.). The Speaker of the House also has their own security detail and aircraft to again ensure the line of succession. Speaking from my previous life, Department of Defense (DOD) seriously takes the matter of global climate change to heart and the consequences of those changes as it relates to national security and global instability.
    Posted by Darwin Concon

  • Read: Dealing with the consequences of climate chance inaction: the impact of food – In a previous article… http://t.co/rjNnEIqeK7 #HFN

  • Dealing with the consequences of climate chance inaction: the impact of food – In a previous article History… http://t.co/rjNnEIqeK7 #HFN

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