Global warming kills spaghetti crop
Sigh, “The End of Pasta?” reads more like “The end of journalism”
Some days, there appears such blatant stupidity in the MSM, you wonder if there isn’t some sort of award than can be handed out for it. I think Mark Hertsgaard is deserving of such an award for this moronically mendacious missive where he manages to work the two poster children for ridiculous climate alarmism into one paragraph:
Hurricane Sandy’s recent devastation of New York and neighboring states reminded Americans of what Hurricane Katrina demonstrated in 2005: global warming makes weather more extreme, and extreme weather can be extremely dangerous. But flooding coastlines aren’t our only worry. Climate change is also imperiling the very foundation of human existence: our ability to feed ourselves.
This colossal disconnect (name a hurricane that hit the wheat belt) makes me want to call him up and scream at him. His premise is this:
But if humans want to keep eating pasta, we will have to take much more aggressive action against global warming. Pasta is made from wheat, and a large, growing body of scientific studies and real-world observations suggest that wheat will be hit especially hard as temperatures rise and storms and drought intensify in the years ahead.
Now the important thing to note here is that his piece is being advertised as “science” yet I fail to find any science in it, only unsubstantiated opinion and talking points. Here’s some science; if only Hertsgaard had bothered to check some data like I did. The data plot shows US Department of Agriculture data for corn (in case his next story claims children of the future won’t know what Doritos are) and wheat yields in bushels per acre:
You can get all the source data right here at USDA, available to most anyone with the ability to open a web browser and do a search.
So looking at the graph above, it seems there’s no obvious worry about wheat or corn disappearing any time soon. Sure, there is a downspike in 2011, due to a summer heatwave and drought in the USA. There were other downspikes of similar magnitude in the last 100 years also, so the 2011 downspike isn’t particularly unique. Despite those downspikes in yield, the trend remains upwards.
The basis of the claim for “end of pasta” by Hertsgaard is this statement:
Frank Manthey, a professor at North Dakota State University who advises the North Dakota Wheat Commission. Already, a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit of global temperature rise over the past 50 years has caused a 5.5 percent decline in wheat production.
Well, I plotted the data, both for USA temperature (using the alarmist’s favorite temperature data, Jim Hansen’s GISS data) and USA wheat production from USDA, and I call bullshit on the claim:
Clearly, US wheat production is healthy, increasing, and shows no sign of the 5.5% decrease, and if anything it seems to indicate there is a positive effect from temperature on wheat yield. Improved farming practices and improved wheat seed stocks have helped too. If I really wanted to embarrass these two guys I could add the Keeling curve for CO2 also, and point out that crop yields increase with increases in CO2 as well.
How do people like this get a broad voice to such opinions that don’t stand up under the simplest of tests? I don’t know, but you can write them here to ask them:
There is no contact info for Hertsgaard, so you have to complain to the editors for this dreck:
The professor may answer, but Hertsgaard is probably a lost cause to mental mendacity, as he also believes (according to some obscure activist group)that Climate Change is killing 1000 children a day.
If that were true, don’t you think the rest of the MSM would have daily headlines about it? So far, not a peep. Apparently, fact checking is not a journalism skill Hertsgaard possesses.
UPDATE – Commenter Richard III writes:
A quick look at the this page will show how just how dangerous a little knowledge can be. There’s a lot more than a 1 degree temperature difference between south Texas and Northern Montana. It used to be that a college professor would know that. http://www.smallgrains.org/whfacts/growreg.htm
UPDATE2— I trust Anthony won’t mind me adding a little historical perspective to this. The best source for this kind of crop production and yield information is the FAO. Here is their history of wheat production and wheat yield.
Note that to put it mildly, Mark Hertsgaard’s pasta claims are true only in some alternate reality. In the larger sense, yield and total production are still rising. – Willis Eschenbach.
UPDATE3 – here is the source of the 5.5% claim by David Lobell of Stanford.
Climate Trends and Global Crop Production Since 1980
David Lobell – Stanford University
Wolfram Schlenker – Assistant Professor in Economics at Columbia University
Justin Costa-Roberts – Stanford University
Science, May 2011
Efforts to anticipate how climate change will affect future food availability can benefit from understanding the impacts of changes to date. Here we show that in the cropping regions and growing seasons of most countries, with the important exception of the United States, temperature trends for 1980-2008 exceeded one standard deviation of historic year-to-year variability. Models that link yields of the four largest commodity crops to weather indicate that global maize and wheat production declined by 3.8% and 5.5%, respectively, compared to a counter-factual without climate trends. For soybeans and rice, winners and losers largely balanced out. Climate trends were large enough in some countries to offset a significant portion of the increases in average yields 16 that arose from technology, CO2 fertilization, and other factors.