Thursday, November 8, 2018

Guest Post: The Vicious Cycle of Climate Change and Agriculuture

The below is a post submitted to me by Alan Oakman:

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The Vicious Cycle of Climate Change and Agriculture



2016 was a tragic year. The death of the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla Harambe and the Orlando gay club shooting were indeed unfortunate events. But it was the devastating Louisiana floods of 2016 that opened our eyes to the imminent dangers of climate change. Considered to be one of the worst disasters in American history, the Louisiana floods not only led to property destruction but also caused the Louisiana agriculture industry to face losses worth $277 million.

The adverse effects of climate change on crop produce and agriculture was apparent to me. And the more I researched about it, the more I got convinced that we are stuck in the vicious cycle of climate change and agriculture. Before I explain my statement, let’s quickly see how climate change is affecting the agricultural industry.

Climate Change’s Wrath on Agriculture

Sunlight, abundance of water, soil nutrients, normal local weather and optimum temperatures for vegetation growth are the most basic requirements for producing high yield crops. But every time an extreme natural disaster, like a drought or a flood, strikes, it directly affects the crop produce. These extreme environmental conditions have become common occurrences in the last few years, and climate change is to be blamed for it. The following graphical representation shows the steep drop of corn yields in the U.S. during extreme weather conditions in the past 5 decades.
 


Image Credit: https://cityofphiladelphia.github.io/climatechangeisreal/sites/production/files/2016-08/uscornyields-large.jpg
 Every time a drought or a flood ruins a crop produce, it creates a phenomenon called food shock, where the poor yields of grains, wheat and other crops are sold at exorbitant prices, making the majority of the population fight for it. Back in 2010, Russia faced the worst drought in 40 years, ruining the majority of its crop produce. This led to a huge decline in the export of wheat that caused unrest and violence in African countries as people fought over food.    
Apart from the direct ill effects of extreme weather conditions on agriculture, even an increase in temperature and a rise in CO2 levels may create a positive or negative impact on crop produce. Higher temperatures are considered to be good for faster growth of crops but it in turn decreases its yield. With 2016 named as the hottest year, rise in temperatures across the world is making crops grow faster without giving enough time for seeds to grow and mature completely. This reduces crop yields. Also, increase in CO2 levels may positively affect crop produce but it may also lead to growth of weed plants and fungi that can severely restrict the yield and can cause health hazards. Till date, there have been numerous instances of higher temperatures and increased CO2 concentration causing negative effects on crop yield.
Not just crops, climate change has had a negative impact on animal husbandry and fishing industries as well. Scientific research on global warming highlight that extreme weather conditions and increased temperatures affect the health of livestock as it leads to an outbreak of a plethora of diseases. Climate change affects the produce of fodder and green pastures on which the farm animals feed.
How Agriculture Causes Climate Change
While the impact of climate change on agriculture can be witnessed clearly, it might surprise many that human activities in farming and animal husbandry in turn contributes to climate change. Industrial farming, which is widely prevalent in almost all developed countries, is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In order to produce high yields of crops while tackling unpredictable weather conditions, there has been increased use of fertilizers and pesticides that release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, etc., in the atmosphere. Farming industries are highly dependent on tractors and other equipments that run on fuel. They utilize electricity for irrigation as well as drying and cooling of crops. They also utilize a lot of natural resources in packaging and shipping of the crops to different parts of the world. All these agricultural activities that we consider necessary to mitigate the threat of climate change to our food produce is in turn contributing heavily to climate change.
According to statistics, industrial farming is responsible for almost 20-25% of U.S.’s carbon footprint. Thus, a vicious cycle has been created where climate change negatively impacts agriculture, and industrial farming, in an attempt to negate the effects of global warming on crop produce, is contributing more towards climate change.
The Solution: Organic Farming
While we can’t curb all agricultural activities, a few changes in the way we do farming will help in breaking this vicious cycle of climate change and agriculture. By adopting green farming or organic farming, we can use natural fertilizers like compost, green manure, etc., that are organic and don’t contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. Techniques like crop rotation and companion planting helps in increasing soil nutrients that will lead to an increase in crop yield. Organic farming is growing in popularity and might be the road forward to tackle the effects of climate change on agriculture without contributing more to climate change.       

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The End of Climate Change Denying


I found Etched in stone, an article written by Peter Dykstra to be a rather salient article, hitting on several issues I've observed in recent years. Stating, "Rigid beliefs die hard, or not at all," Dykstra sets out discussing how there are people who hold beliefs that are not rational and they will hold firm to those beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He specifically mentions Vietnam vets who are convinced comrades are still being held prisoner in Vietnam; beliefs concerning Obama's birth certificate and religious beliefs; and beliefs concerning vaccines. I can add a number of others that I have encountered in my work, in my classes, among my friends, and even in my family - beliefs such as the Moon landings were faked; 9/11 was a government conspiracy; chemicals are being sprayed into the atmosphere by jet airliners to change the climate; any number of conspiracies surrounding Hillary Clinton that are too numerous to list here; there's a face on Mars; evolution science isn't valid; and the list goes on.

Oh, yeah. Climate change isn't real.

The science concerning anthropogenic climate change (AGW) is conclusive and settled. Over 99% of published climate scientists agree that manmade climate change is real. The data is monumental. And, yet, there are those who cannot be convinced otherwise. For the most part, this isn't important. As Dykstra pointed out, climate change denialism is rapidly fading away and the adherents are increasingly isolated fringe elements.

This is the first point I took from his article. No matter how much science is presented, these individuals will stick to their hardened beliefs. Years from now, when even the Republicans finally admit the science is real, there will still be a cadre of tinhats firmly holding onto their claims that AGW isn't real. There is nothing that can be done about that and I try my best to never discuss it with these people. They are not rational and no amount of science or logic will ever persuade them they are wrong. In fact, it is not possible to even persuade them there's a possibility they might be wrong. So, why bother?

However, mainstream denialism is dying out. This is a second point from Dykstra's article that I have personally observed. The paid shills of the fossil fuel industry are having an increasingly difficult time getting their ridiculous claims printed in the mainstream media. This is partly because the vast majority of the public has realized they only produce sophist arguments for the purpose of deception. The vast majority of the public now acknowledges AGW is real and this percentage is increasing. Few people are interested in listening to the anti-science crowd tell them how climate change isn't real when all the while there are more frequent and severe heat waves, wildfires, floods, winter storms, rising oceans, hurricanes, etc. They can see with their own eyes that climate change is real. Therefore, anyone telling them it isn't has no credibility in their eyes. You can see this by the comments people make on the few articles that still appear. There are the deniers, frequently Russian trolls, but their claims are so shrill and off topic that no thinking person pays them any attention. And, that's it. There are no longer any civil, rational, logical arguments presented in the comments section supporting the claim that the science isn't real. If their claims are valid, it should be easy for them to present valid arguments. So, why don't they?

I suppose we could chalk all of this up as a victory, but I can't. The reason is that these people won. They delayed any action on climate change so long that we are now stuck with the new reality. Politicians, bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, have succeeded in stopping any action to address the issue. Now, the issue is here to stay. They fought hard to ensure their billionaire buddies continued to make obscene profits at the expense of everyone else, and they succeeded.

And, this is the last point I want to discuss. Any effort to stop global warming is doomed to failure. I look at the data and repeatedly see a shift in the late-2000s. Sometime between 2005 and 2010, the data consistently shows an inflection point. The data has a lower rate of change before that point than after. To me, this says the tipping point has already been crossed. I've discussed it in private with others and I'm not the only one saying it.

But, even if I'm wrong and, as many scientists claim, there is still time to address global warming before we cross the tipping point, it doesn't matter. This would only be important if we were addressing our emissions at a sufficiently rapid rate, which we're not. Emissions are dropping around the world, but we're still pumping the atmosphere with greenhouse gases in amounts too large for the planet to deal with. Some of these gases will remain in the air for centuries. That means, even if we have time to avoid the tipping point, we are failing to use our remaining time wisely. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is still growing and it's growing at a rate that guarantees we will see a more hostile future. There is nothing that can be done about it.

Does this mean we're locked into a catastrophic future? No, at least not as a race. For many people, it will be catastrophic. The people suffering through Hurricane Florence right now might call it a catastrophe, but the rest of the world will continue and, as a race, we will increase our numbers by 200,000 people today. We'll do that again tomorrow. A new major city every week.

So, the race will not end. But, it isn't going to be as comfortable, either.




Saturday, August 11, 2018

Guest Post: Manipulated by the Referees!


Submitted by Peter Johnson:
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MANIPULATED BY THE REFEREES!

In response to comments I made on the following website:


I disputed the claims of another commenter who used the name Bodhisattva 1, and who used a photo of the Dalia Lama next to this screenname, but, I have had some of my best posts removed. In one of those posts, I disputed the commenter’s claims that climate scientists have failed to prove that virtually any climate warming at all has happened in the last 40 years—a claim that taken on face value, is completely absurd! So, I used the following link to provide some info about Roy Spencer which contradicts his claims to have never accepted money from any source for his support of climate change deniers (or as he prefers) from skeptics.



“Spencer is a registered speaker at the Heartland Institute's “America First Energy Conference” (AFEC 2018) in New Orleans, Louisiana. [100]
“The purpose of this event is to promote and expand energy freedom in the United States, as outlined in President Donald Trump’s bold America First Energy Plan, a proposal first released during the 2016 presidential campaign. The president’s plan marks a decisive change in direction from the Obama administration’s 'war on fossil fuels' and focus on the theory of catastrophic man-caused climate change,” the conference description reads. [101]


And about Spencer’s supposed lack of ties to anti global warming special interest groups--take a look at this link:



“A research scientist with the University of Alabama at Huntsville's Earth System Science Center (ESSC), Roy Spencer is a climate contrarian with solid academic credentials. And his website bio notes that he "has never been asked by any oil company to perform any kind of service. Not even Exxon-Mobil."

“But Spencer doesn't disclose his leadership roles in climate skeptic groups financed by Exxon and other key players in what's been dubbed the "climate denial machine": the network of companies, think tanks and foundations that have sought to deny and downplay the scientific consensus that global warming is real and is caused in large part by human activity.”


The bottom line is, even if he (willingly) accepts funding from special interests without being directed by them, he is still accepting money from those who would likely expect his research to mirror their own claims.

And from the following links I provided evidence that the Dalai Lama actually acknowledges human caused climate change, and urges us to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:



“Yesterday, the Dalai Lama released a video urging world leaders to take strong action at the UN climate talks starting on November 30 in Paris. The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader is one of growing number of religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, to call for immediate climate action.”


And here are some of his comments reported in the following link from The Guardian;



“Logically, human beings have the responsibility to reduce these problems and finally eliminate these problems because we created them,” he said.
Like Pope Francis’s plea for younger generations to take more action in his environmental encyclical, the Dalai Lama also appealed to the young to “take a more active role in protecting this planet, including the Tibetan plateau.” We can only pray that world leaders will actually listen to these hopeful young voices, though.”


Why the Dali Lama needs to hide behind the screen name of Bodhisattva 1, I’ll never know. And as the quote above indicates, he rejects man’s role in causing (dangerous) global warming. Here is a link to another Guardian article:



“Perhaps the darlings of the denialist community are two researchers out of Alabama (John Christy and Roy Spencer). They rose to public attention in the mid-1990s when they reportedly showed that the atmosphere was not warming and was actually cooling. It turns out they had made some pretty significant errors and when other researchers identified those errors, the new results showed a warming.”

“To provide perspective, we know the Earth is warming because we can measure it. Most of the heat (93%) goes into the oceans and we have sensors measuring ocean temperatures that show this. We also know about warming because we have thermometers and other sensors all over the planet measuring “the temperature at the surface or in the first few meters of air at the surface. Those temperatures are rising too. We are also seeing ice melting and sea level rising around the planet.”


So, the evidence is clear. What Christy and Spencer focus on is the temperatures measured far above the Earth’s surface in the troposphere and the stratosphere. Generally, over the past few decades these two scientists have claimed the troposphere temperatures are not rising very rapidly. This argument has been picked up to deny the reality of human caused climate change – but it has been found to be wrong.” Take for example statements made in regard to his studies science worthiness;



“The editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing, Wolfgang Wagner, later resigned over publication of Spencer and Braswell (2011),[23] stating, "From a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process. [...] the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view ...but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal."[24] Wagner added he, "would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate skeptics have much exaggerated the paper's conclusions in public statements".[23][24]


Andrew Dessler later published a paper opposing the claims of Spencer and Braswell (2011) in Geophysical Research Letters.[25] He stated, among other things:
“First, [they] analyzed 14 models, but they plotted only six models and the particular observational data set that provided maximum support for their hypothesis. Plotting all of the models and all of the data provide a much different conclusion.”
 
Here is approximately what I said in the last paragraph of my comment, and which has also mysteriously vanished;


“How do you sleep at night? First you slander the Dalai Lama by calling him Bodhisattva 1 and misrepresenting what he actually says about man’s role in global warming. Then you failed to mention all of the associations (Spencer) has with big oil companies and special interests even though you tacitly rely on claims that Spencer has never been asked to do anything for such companies. The bottom line is that whether Spencer is asked by big oil companies to do bogus research or not, voluntarily, or by way of bribes, he has willingly provided inaccurate and dishonest information to the big oil and think tanks which support them! But, those who really want to communicate the truth don’t need to depend on lies to bolster their positions—shame on you!”


May I also point out that, since the screen name of this commenter is Bodhisattva 1, and includes a photo of the Dali Lama, that this commenter is only avoiding charges of slander by way of calling him or herself, Bodhisattva 1, and thus  did not overtly claim that  he or she represents the specific opinions held by the leader of the Tibetan Buddhist faith—however the purpose for his or her using that screen name is clear! I posted some of the things he or she said near the end of this comment.

Although this comment was not available via the printout of individual posts made on the Katherine Hayhoe thread, I was able to go back to my primary forum notifications which were received via email and make copies of them:

And, although his or her screenname would not copy, the following statements including the graph, were posted by the commenter using the name Bodhisattva 1 on the same website when discussing the views of Katherine Hayhoe.

“Exactly why the word "skeptic" does not apply to those who are full of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change Alarmism. They refuse to see over 20 years of data... in fact now going on 40 years... that show that the gloom and doom predictions of their ilk are false. Here's one small part of the proof:”



Personally, I think the black line indicates the exact opposite of what Bodhisattva 1 claims. In fact, even when disregarding actual amounts of increase, almost all the charted lines on it, are indicative of rising or increasing global temperature averages.

Thanks, Pete,

In closing I would also like to note that on many supposedly liberal forums such as Media Matters, I have consciously tried to avoid obscenities and nasty comments towards others. But, if one simply glances down the list of comments made on any controversial website, one will see so many obscene and childish comments tossed at one commenter by another, that one will be tempted to laugh.

So yes! When site moderators refuse to publish my comments---at least until after they have been banished indefinitely to my disqus page—even though nothing in them breaks the rules---how can these moderators honestly say that someone who flings around mentions of the F word, and whose entire response consists of one ad hominem insult after another, is leaving more polite and reasonable comments than mine?

I find that, on many websites, on which one would think my rebuttals would be welcomed, even the moderators on those left leaning sites are censoring comments made by liberals and/or left-wing commenters? —what for I don’t know? —even if such comments are written respectfully and without the use of obscenities or insults, they are still not permitted? —Why? Anyone’s guess is as good as mine?

Peter W. Johnson
Superior WI.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hurricanes 2018

There was a lot of press about the 2017 hurricane season. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, killed thousands, and left untold more injured. By themselves, these three storms caused an estimated $265 billion in damage to the U.S. That figure is from January 8, 2018 and is likely to be even higher by now. Official records show 64 deaths in Puerto Rico, but analysis indicates this number is extremely low and the real number of fatalities lies between 1000 and 5000 people.

The question that was immediately asked was how much manmade global warming had to do with all of this. The deniers in government responded that 'this wasn't the time to talk about that.' Of course not. They didn't want to be held accountable for their actions. But, that didn't stop the conversation and the analysis. The conclusion? Yes, AGW most certainly made these storms worse. Attribution science shows global warming made the storms stronger, slower, and wetter. They are also growing in strength faster. Three independent studies last fall found that human activity made the damage from Hurricane Harvey more intense. The disastrous rainfall from Harvey was three times as likely as from a storm a hundred years ago and 15% more intense. The seven day rainfall was as much as 40% greater than from a similar storm even a few decades ago. The lead researcher on one study, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, stated,
This multimethod analysis, drawing upon both observed rainfall data and high-resolution climate models, confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system.
[Of course, much of the damage could've been avoided if not for the climate-change denying director for the Harris County Flood Control District, Mike Talbot, who insisted climate change was a hoax and allowed construction in known flood plains for many years. It would be wonderful if Talbot was arrested for his crimes, but it won't happen.]

The problem is that the average hurricane strength has remained pretty constant with the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) remaining relatively steady. But, while the ACE has remained constant, there has been an increase in storms in recent years of such incredible strength they are being referred to as category 6 storms, which would constitute a new level in the Saffir-Simpson index used to categorize cyclonic storms and would consist of storms with constant winds exceeding 175 or 180 mph.

The science is clear - global warming is resulting in cyclonic storms that develop faster, become stronger, move more slowly, and dump more rain. And, at the same time, the total energy of storms has remained fairly constant. How do you reconcile this contradictory information? One way is that small storms and large storms are both becoming more common. This results in the average remaining nearly the same. Another way is that very active years (2017) alternate with relatively quiet years.

This year, 2018, appears to be one of those slow years. The July forecasts are for below-average activity with eleven named storms and four hurricanes. Despite the fact that we've already had three full-strength hurricanes, it appears this should be a slow year. There are several factors leading to this conclusion.

Take a look at this plot of the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly:

Source: CCI

This image is showing us three really important things.

First, note the red area in the North Atlantic. The sea surface is hotter than usual here. That is causing a high pressure system in the North Atlantic. This creates a clockwise cycle of wind which goes down past the Iberian Peninsula and westward across the mid-Atlantic. Take a look at this graphic illustrating the wind patterns:

Source: Earth


The result of this is to cool the sea surface. This is indicated by the blue, lower-than-normal temperature region in our SST figure above and is the second thing to note. That area is known as the Main Development Area for hurricanes.

Hurricanes need warm ocean water. The threshold temperature is typically regarded as at least 79 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26 degrees Celsius). The winds blowing across the mid-Atlantic are keeping the sea surface temperature down, which is bad for hurricane formation.

The third thing to note in the image above is the red area west of equatorial South America indicating hotter than usual SSTs. This is an El Nino possibly forming. The July ENSO Diagnostic Discussion estimates a 65% chance of an El Nino this fall and a 70% chance for this coming winter. Even if it doesn't turn into a full-scale El Nino, it has the effect of creating high-altitude wind shear across the Caribbean Sea. Hurricanes gain strength by forming a rising column of air in the eye, resulting in a low-pressure area and sucking in hot, moist air to replace it. This air rises, condenses, releases its energy and then cycles around to continue fueling the storm. High-altitude shear winds crossing over the top of this column will essentially chop it off, robbing the cyclone of its reinforcing wind pattern. This is also bad for hurricane formation.

So, two bad things for hurricane formation. But, there's a third. Take a look at this satellite image:

Source: NOAA/RAMMB, via Weather Underground

What you can see here is a big cloud of dust blowing off Northern Africa across the mid-Atlantic and into the Caribbean. This dust is contributing to the lower SST for the region by shading the sunlight.

So, we have cool SSTs caused by wind and dust, and high-altitude wind shears. This is a bad combination for the formation of tropical cyclones. So, despite having three hurricanes already, the estimate remains that it will be a slow hurricane season in the Atlantic.

The interesting thing is all of those factors are made worse by AGW. The high-SST area in the North Atlantic is the result of ocean warming, as is the El Nino. Manmade global warming makes both of these events more likely and more extreme. The dust blowing off Africa is due to more extreme drought conditions, again made worse by global warming.

So, does AGW make tropical hurricanes worse? Or, better? Apparently, depending on the year, it can be either.








"This multimethod analysis, drawing upon both observed rainfall data and high-resolution climate models, confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-12-climate-harvey-rainfall-percent-intense.html#jCp
"This multimethod analysis, drawing upon both observed rainfall data and high-resolution climate models, confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-12-climate-harvey-rainfall-percent-intense.html#jCp
"This multimethod analysis, drawing upon both observed rainfall data and high-resolution climate models, confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-12-climate-harvey-rainfall-percent-intense.html#jCp