Krugman's corny caper

Tom Nelson observes some interesting and inconvenient data to rebut The Guardian’s Susanne Goldenberg and Paul Krugman of the New York Times: For warmists trying to convince us that carbon dioxide causes lower US corn yields, an *extremely* inconvenient graph

America’s corn farmers high and dry as hope withers with their harvest | Environment | guardian.co.uk

[Warmist Suzanne Goldenberg] …because of a brutal combination of triple-digit (40C) temperatures and prolonged drought. Scientists see both as evidence of climate change.

The Burning Land – NYTimes.com

[Warmist Paul Krugman] I’ve been searching for something useful to say about the epic heat wave and drought afflicting U.S. agriculture…

Yet with so much of the American political spectrum in fierce denial over the issue, there is no prospect whatsoever of getting action.

But the data says otherwise Ms. Goldenberg and Mr. Krugman. Have a look for yourself, one year, one drought, does not a trend make.  But Krugman is relying upon the heated hyperbolic opinion of Joe Romm, so I suppose we can understand how he was taken in.

CARPE DIEM: Corn Yields Have Increased Six Times Since 1940

Roger Pielke Jr. pulls out his handy BS button for this one, citing Krugmans passage:

In yesterday’s NYT Paul Krugman writes:

==============================================================

[R]eally extreme high temperatures, the kind of thing that used to happen very rarely in the past, have now become fairly common. Think of it as rolling two sixes, which happens less than 3 percent of the time with fair dice, but more often when the dice are loaded. And this rising incidence of extreme events, reflecting the same variability of weather that can obscure the reality of climate change, means that the costs of climate change aren’t a distant prospect, decades in the future. On the contrary, they’re already here, even though so far global temperatures are only about 1 degree Fahrenheit above their historical norms, a small fraction of their eventual rise if we don’t act.

The great Midwestern drought is a case in point. This drought has already sent corn prices to their highest level ever. If it continues, it could cause a global food crisis, because the U.S. heartland is still the world’s breadbasket. And yes, the drought is linked to climate change: such events have happened before, but they’re much more likely now than they used to be.

Now, maybe this drought will break in time to avoid the worst. But there will be more events like this. Joseph Romm, the influential climate blogger, has coined the term “Dust-Bowlification” for the prospect of extended periods of extreme drought in formerly productive agricultural areas. He has been arguing for some time that this phenomenon, with its disastrous effects on food security, is likely to be the leading edge of damage from climate change, taking place over the next few decades; the drowning of Florida by rising sea levels and all that will come later.

And here it comes.

=========================================================

Pielke Jr. writes:

Instead of looking at the musings of a “climate blogger” (as entertaining as that may be) like Krugman does, let’s instead look at scientific research that has examined trends in US droughts. A crazy idea, I know. Fortunately, scientists have examined empirical data on the frequency and severity of drought on climate time scales.

Here is Andreadis and Lettenmaier (2006) in GRL (PDF):

[D]roughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, less severe, and cover a smaller portion of the country over the last century.

Read Pielke Jr.’s full post here, and don’t forget to get a look at his great book, The Climate Fix

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dp

[D]roughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, less severe, and cover a smaller portion of the country over the last century.

Obvious evidence of human meddling! Nature has been subjugated by the jack booted thugs of Big Energy! /sarc

Kelvin Vaughan

In the UK drought used to mean 14 days without any rain. Now it means water shortage.

Grimwig

US corn yield graph – sure looks like a hockey stick to me! All due to CO2 no doubt?

Sleepalot

The digging of wells, and irrigation of crops dates back to the stone age. The Romans were experts at moving water to where it was needed.

That must be the first stupid, ignorant and badly misinformed thing Krugman has ever said, right?

I like Krugman’s “one degree F above the historical norm” I do not think that the climate has a historical norm.

John S

If Ms. Goldenberg and Mr. Krugman are so worried about shrinking corn crops and the resulting worldwide famine, then they should be fighting against the EPA’s mandated ethanol gasoline blends.

pat

Krugman always has the conclusion before he even attempts to look at the evidence. Further, he is lazy and tends crib the work of other ideologues.

One of the reasons that that crop yield exploded when it did, was the combine !!!

Then let them plant agave and drill baby drill.

Steve

Hybridization (GM) is why corn yields have increased.
Once again, the corn starch used to make ethanol is not consumed by humans. Nor can farmers in these regions grow something that they lack the machinery for, and lack transportation to market for. What is raised around here is animal feed, and renewable feedstock for industrial processes, such as ethanol, biodiesel, plastics,fructose, etc.
So the impact on global food is unmeasurably small. The price of meat will go down, then up, because ranchers will have to slaughter their herds if they can’t afford the feed prices, which will first glut the market, and then create scarcity. Ethanol production will go down because it won’t be profitable.
If you are worried about food, you need to look at the global rice and wheat crops, which are generally speaking, not raised in the Midwest.

Jimmy Haigh

Dr M.H.Nederlof, geologist says:
July 23, 2012 at 9:16 am
“I like Krugman’s “one degree F above the historical norm” I do not think that the climate has a historical norm.”
He meant “hysterical” norm.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Why let reality intrude on the telling of a fairy tale?
Of course this one from the “Big Book of Climate Fables” is so oft-told and awful I wouldn’t mind if it was interrupted by projectile vomiting or explosive diarrhea.
But enough about McKibben’s and Romm’s writing styles…

Steve R

The huge increases in agricultural productivity are generally attributed to technological advancements. This is no doubt true, but is it possible that some fraction of the increase is due to increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Seems like it would make a good story for a reporter /hint/

Chris

Corn yields have increased largely as a result of the continuing development of hybrid seeds, and since roughly 1990 greater planting density. There is some indication that the increased density has had the effect of moderating temperatures: the increased density gets the ground covered sooner and more thoroughly, intercepting more sunlight.
Whatever the reason, 100 degree temperatures are not nearly as common as they used to be in Iowa, the current extreme temperatures are notable because it has been so long since they last occurred.

Tom in Worcester

Why do people listen to this guy at all again? I saw this yesterday, and couldn’t even get through the whole thing.

cdquarles

Interesting. One wonders how much redefinition of terms is going on around here.

gator69

If this trend continues (and don’t they always), Manhattan will be submerged under 300 feet of corn by the end of the century!

Solomon Green

If Krugman is only capable of reading fiction perhaps he might try “The Grapes of Wrath”.

pokerguy

All well and good, but what i’d really like to see is some letters to the editor. Where are the letters? Where are the op-eds? I see nothing from the opposition in the NYT’s. Of course it’s possible they refuse to publish skeptical letters. And it’s very likely they do not and will not accept skeptical op-eds. But I get the feeling no one’s trying. Krugman needs to be taken to task.
I’ve sent perhaps a dozen letters over the years, and they’ve not printed any of them. BUt I’m nobody.

Resourceguy

Just keep the $1 trillion annual deficits going on the problem and it will get better, right Dr. Krugman? Of course Greece is much closer to solving this problem than anyone else.

“Krugman always has the conclusion before he even attempts to look at the evidence. Further, he is lazy and tends crib the work of other ideologues.” – Pat
I’ve also noticed that he tends to be less than familiar with the counter arguments in any given situation. When he tries to rebut his critics, missing the point by a country mile is the norm with Krugman.

Chris

Adjusting for inflation, corn prices are not at record high levels. Corn is currently around $8 per bushel. In terms of 2012 dollars, the average price of corn was over $10 per bushel from 1973 through 1976, and over $13 per bushel in 1974. The annual average price of Corn was below $7 (adjusted to 2012 dollars) in only 4 years between 1960 and 1981.
Price of corn from a University of Illinois website for the annual average price of corn received by Illinois farmers.
CPI from US Dept of Labor.

MarkW

Enhanced CO2 enables corn, and other plants, to better withstand drought.

MarkW

Wasn’t the Little Ice Age a time of extensive North American droughts?

Taphonomic

I have seen multiple articles that the current drought and heat are not as bad as the 1950s and are much less severe than the dustbowl of the 1930s. This sort of begs the question of how can Susanne Goldenberg state: “Scientists see both as evidence of climate change.”
Weather is weather, weather ain’t climate.

Steve says:
July 23, 2012 at 9:44 am
Ethanol will be profitable for a long time because of government subsidies and for no other reason.

Mike86

Regardless of any dubious linkage to climate change, it is hot in the Missouri area and very dry. There are farmers starting to bail soybeans to try and get something for the crop. Many corn fields are looking desparate. The 70% chance of rain on Thursday is the best hope in the next week.

DesertYote

Krugman is an embarrassment to all mankind.

Chris

PaulID

Ethanol will be profitable for a long time because of government subsidies and for no other reason.

What subsidies? The blender’s credit expired Last Dec 31. It went to the blender not to the producer.
There are currently ethanol producers suspending production because it is not profitable at current price levels,

Barefoot boy from Brooklyn

Please, Anthony, or somebody else with clout, do a Pielke on Elizabeth Kolbert’s Krugman-esque fulminations in the July 23 issue of The New Yorker. It’s paywalled, so I cannot link you. Those New York intelligentsia are now going to be even more impossible for me to deal with.

Bill

As an economist what this fool should be writing about is the horrible “unanticipated” effects from the forced use of ethanol from corn mandated by congress and how this will lead to higher food prices and could lead to deaths from starvation in some parts of the world this year. Not something that might happen in 50-100 years from “climate global changy warmification” or whatever they are calling it now.

“…Think of it as rolling two sixes, which happens less than 3 percent of the time with fair dice, but more often when the dice are loaded…”
I tried this. I loaded a pair of dice so that a seven would come up more often – and the number of 12’s went down. I also got thrown out of the casino.
The problem with his “loaded dice” scenario is that if one number comes up more often, the other numbers should come up less often. They’re using the loaded dice story to say that EVERY weather event happens more.

Gail Combs

Steve says:
July 23, 2012 at 9:44 am
Hybridization (GM) is why corn yields have increased….
_________________________
Sorry those are two different things Hybridization is where you have two pure bred parents and cross them to produce a hybrid off spring with hybrid vigor. – goes back to the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. Hybrid corn was common by the 1930’s. In 1930 farmers were getting 100 bushels of corn from 2-1/2 acres. By 1945 it only took 2 acres and in 1975 only 1-1/8 acres to produce 100 bushels. There was no more advances. You still got 100 bushels of corn from 1-1/8 acres (1987). link
GM or GMO is where you have genes inserted. The soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens is used to carry out trans-Kingdom horizontal gene transfer. The transgenic plants created by the T-DNA vector system unfortunately have a ready route for horizontal gene escape, via the same Agrobacterium.

…Interesting then that a contributor to the FAO’s Forum, Professor El-Tayeb, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology at Cairo University commented that: “..currently available (GMO’s) mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security – and positively to the stock market.” http://www.warmwell.com/gm.html

I am not ideologically against GMOs, I just want them to go through the same type of FDA testing that is required of anything new. The fact that Monsanto’s tame Lawyer in the FDA, Mike Taylor, labled GMO as G.R.A.S. or generally recognized as safe, so no further study is needed and made sure GMOs are not labeled makes me very uncomfortable.

Chris, a mandate for “13.2 billion gallons of ethanol in highway fuel this year” is a distortion of the market. It will allow ethanol producers to force gasoline suppliers to keep those ethanol producers in business.
Meat will be expensive.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From Barefoot boy from Brooklyn on July 23, 2012 at 11:09 am:

Please, Anthony, or somebody else with clout, do a Pielke on Elizabeth Kolbert’s Krugman-esque fulminations in the July 23 issue of The New Yorker. It’s paywalled, so I cannot link you.

Paywalled? I Googled for “elizabeth kolbert new yorker july 23” and got a straight link to the piece, “The Big Heat”:
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2012/07/23/120723taco_talk_kolbert

It is now corn-sex season across the Midwest, and everything is not going well.

Anthropogenic Climate Change now being blamed for ruining corn sex.
‘Nuff said.

Steve says July 23, 2012 at 9:44 am
Hybridization (GM) is why corn yields have increased.
Once again, the corn starch used to make ethanol is not consumed by … [et al]

Sez who? And no article or paper cites (“assertion w/o cite”) … ‘as worthless as an opinion’ if I do say so …
.

more soylent green!

Steve says:
July 23, 2012 at 9:44 am
Hybridization (GM) is why corn yields have increased.
Once again, the corn starch used to make ethanol is not consumed by humans. Nor can farmers in these regions grow something that they lack the machinery for, and lack transportation to market for. What is raised around here is animal feed, and renewable feedstock for industrial processes, such as ethanol, biodiesel, plastics,fructose, etc.
So the impact on global food is unmeasurably small. The price of meat will go down, then up, because ranchers will have to slaughter their herds if they can’t afford the feed prices, which will first glut the market, and then create scarcity. Ethanol production will go down because it won’t be profitable.
If you are worried about food, you need to look at the global rice and wheat crops, which are generally speaking, not raised in the Midwest.

If we use the corn for animal feed and not human food, it still raises the price of food, at least it does for the majority of Americans who aren’t vegetarians!
The ethanol business is unprofitable now, except for the special tax breaks, mandates and tariffs.
And we do grow corn in Kansas, but not as much as we grow wheat.

GeoLurking

Steve R says:
July 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

“… but is it possible that some fraction of the increase is due to increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Seems like it would make a good story for a reporter /hint/ “

You have to do better than that. Remember these cretins are too lazy to look around. You have to actually point them in the right direction… like here:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/30/memo-to-doubtersi-was-tempted-to-say-deniersco2-is-plant-food/

“Anthropogenic Climate Change now being blamed for ruining corn sex.”
… nah. I’m just not going there.

David G

It seems that barely a week goes by when one of the New York Times’ twin sisters of Climate-Hysteria, Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman,don’t write hectoring lectures on climate for us the unlearned masses. Even though neither Krugman nor Friedman have any expertise in this area; they abuse their prizes given in `completely different fields to make us think their opinions have any more value than those of a drunk venting in the park.They don’t. These two columnists feel that if they just beat us over the head with big lies, that we will all finally knuckle under. The Bernaysian style propaganda blitz we have seen for nearly 25 years has not converted the mass of Americans into hysterics and this makes these two self-appointed prophets angry, very angry. Krugman today calls people like myself climate deniers, throws us in the same corral as those who are called Holocaust- deniers, and says “we don’t have ‘the best will in the world”, but of course he is to be trusted implicitly despite the fact that he doesn’t know anything and that his opinions, are just that, opinions, unsupported ones at that mixed in with great greasy dollops of nastiness. It’s time these two posers were exposed, stripped of their priestly robes and auras of expertise with which they have arrayed themselves. In California, green politics and climate nonsense is putting the state into a depression. If we Americans force everyone to join the green party,we will have a Nazi-lite kind of state, This must not be. Skepticism is one one of the most important things scientists bring to the table; we cannot allow the shrill voices of unschooled fanatics to turn those of us who don’t buy the Big Lie of Climate doom, into war criminals who are committing crimes against the planet. Neither Friedman nor Krugman seem to understand the history of cycles that rule our climate.In no previous period of our history has earth ever caught a cold, in no previous period of history has the earth’s climate been out of control. The limit of our knowledge is only the frontier that science must cross and to do that, scientists must take with them the healthy skepticism that incredible claims must be met with. It’s time the Times put a muzzle on their barking dogs, Krugman and Friedman. The noise is keeping us all awake and to no good end.

Sundance

Krugman looks out his window and thinks he sees Venus in his backyard.

George E. Smith;

Many years ago; way back in the Plasticine age, when SciAm was a Scientific Magazine, instead of a political science homework assignment; they published a special edition all about world energy and food, and related subjects. One of the principal papers in the issue, was a study of food production in societies from the most primitive to the most developmentally advanced; as a function of the ENERGY INPUT to their food system.
An example of a primitive society food system, was that of “Eskimos”, aka natives of the icy north, Inuit and their brethren. Traditionally they used dog sleds to operate their land/ice transportation system, and their animal skin canoes that they used to go out and harpoon, seals, walrusses, narwhals, and other whales for food.
Along with “civilization” came new sources of energy for them . “Gunpowder” for their new hunting rifles, that had longer range than their spears and harpoons, and of course gasoline for their new snowmobiles. All of this energy enhancement, raised their food supplies.
Well the upshot of this study was to show that no matter the level of technology or lack therof, worldwide, the production of food, was directly proportional to the energy input to the food system. This could be fuel for farm machinery, Chemical processing of fertilizers, and pesticides/herbicides; development of new climate tolerant crop species; you name it, the more energy input in every form to the food system, the more food, and the conversion factor is not largely dependent on the size of the operations.
In that study, only two countries on earth exhibited a significantly greater food production versus energy efficiency, and fell well of the other waise straight line graph. Those two countries were France and New Zealand. In both cases it generally related to local weather and farmland peculiarites; not to any great special knowledge. Problem was of course, that together they don’t really matter a hill of beans in total world food supply.
Mostly, the USA, Russia, and Canada, have plently of agricultural arable land, land in the case of Canada, and also parts of Russia (Siberia) the growing seasons may b e short.
So basically, if the USA doesn’t get energy, the world doesn’t get food.
All of the “green” revolutions have contributed to the food keeping up with population (so far); but the bottom line is that these are just different forms of energy expenditure.

Gail Combs says July 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

I am not ideologically against GMOs, I just want them to go through the same type of FDA testing that is required of anything new.

A few questions if I may ….
(1) Do you expect more or less allergic (human) reaction(s) from (when eating) GMO crops?
(2) Can you explain to us what cooking does do to the proteins and carbohydrates in these GMO crops?
As a side note, there _are_ changes that undoubtedly take place, for instance, I have a slight allergic reaction to uncooked green beans which I do not have if those same beans are cooked (just boiling even) … and unfortunately I have always lost my voice after eating watermelon …
.

Camburn

Mr Krugman has demonstrated he is poor in two areas.
1. Economics
and now
2. Climate
Nough said.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

@ _Jim on July 23, 2012 at 11:55 am:
I worry about two things with GMO crops.
1. Spread from where planted to neighboring areas.
2. Gene transfer to similar species.
There are many “heirloom varieties” bred for specific temperature, moisture, and soil conditions, as well as ordinary plants that are native to an area. GMO crops are designed with modern agricultural practices in mind, from planting to fertilization to irrigation etc. If they would displace local varieties, or transfer genes that would render local plants less suitable for natural conditions, that could be detrimental.

Echo Alpha

Steve says:
July 23, 2012 at 9:44 am
Hybridization (GM) is why corn yields have increased.
Once again, the corn starch used to make ethanol is not consumed by humans.
— That may be correct, but unlike the economy, cropland is closer to being a zero-sum game. You can plant one crop per growing period. Planting ethanol-optomized corn means you cannot use that land to grow feed-optomized or food-optomized corn, and that will drive the price of edible corn higher.

Rob Potter

Gail and Jim,
This thread has nothing to do with GM crops, so I will be short. FDA only regulates drugs and food additives, not whole foods and certainly not new varieties of existing crops. However the pre-market review of GM foods is orders of magnitude beyond that for other new crop varieties and the voluntary pre-market consultation is followed by everyone who develops these crops (not to mention the fact that they have to be be approved by Health Canada as a Novel Food before they can be marketed in the US anyway, what with NAFTA etc.).
GM crops can theoretically be either higher or lower in existing allergens and (since they can express proteins not present in the non-modified crop) also have new allergens. This is a major focus of the pre-market review.
Jim, cooking alters the allergencity and toxicity of many proteins. There are lots of plants that are pretty toxic if eaten raw, but highly nutritious when cooked. Existing toxins and allergens are well-characterized and any changes in levels in a GM crop is a serious red-flag requiring quite a lot of work to show no impact on human health. In most cases, developers dump these events because it isn’t worth the effort.
OK, back to the real story…..

RockyRoad

Krugman’s decades-long advocacy for raising taxes and committing more stimulus money to save the economy has failed. It should be interesting to see if his foray into “climate science” has the same impact on that failed ideology, too.

David Appell’s comment there is worth noting :
“Joe Romm works for an organization, the Center for American Progress, that refuses to reveal who funds it:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1208/16318.html
Krugman doesn’t mention that in his paragraph about funding of “climate change deniers.”