World Population and Food Security: Adding Some Granularity

Guest essay by David Archibald

Things have improved over the last 25 years according to this recent WUWT post. The future doesn’t look so rosy if you look at a larger data set. The world’s population growth will at some stage hit a resource constraint with dire consequences. How that will play out in detail can be determined from grain production and import statistics. As Chairman Mao said,“Take grain as the key link.” Mao should know with the biggest score of deaths caused by any communist leader. His personal tally was 45 million, mostly from the 1959 famine caused by taking grain from the provinces to pay for imported machinery. He also left a time bomb in Chinese demographics. In 1960, Ya Minchu, then president of Peking University, called for the introduction of population control in China but was exiled to the country because Mao thought that history belonged to the ‘big battalions’. Population control in China wasn’t introduced until the 1980s. China’s population grew from 600 million in 1960 to some 1,380 million now. If they had stayed around 600 million people, they could easily feed themselves and environmental degradation in China would be much less than it is. China now imports 15% of its grain consumption and is vulnerable to potential crop failures in the northern provinces.

There is a strange notion that most countries’ populations are at their ideal level right now and they would be worse off if they were lower, where they had come from. Japan’s population in 1950 was 83.2 million after a few million came back to Japan after World War II. It is now 126.7 million. Young Japanese have reputedly lost interest in sex let alone spending a few years changing nappies. So Japan’s population is falling and the average age is increasing. Japan, though, has chronic underemployment. Japan spends only 1% of its GDP on defence but 6% on make-work schemes in the countryside such as concreting river beds. If Japan’s population fell back to the level of 1950, they would be able to feed themselves from their own efforts and remove a big existential risk to the country. Nobody would want to be a food importer in the next few decades if they knew what was coming.

Let’s try to divine what’s coming from graphical representations of the history of food production and some projections from those, starting with ground zero which is the Middle East.


Figure 1: Afghanistan Wheat Consumption 1960 – 2015

Afghanistan’s recent history is written in its wheat statistics. It was mostly able to feed itself up to the mid-1970s when imports started rising. Production and imports collapsed a few years into the Russian occupation but population growth didn’t fall below 2% per annum. When the U.S. got involved in 2001, Afghanistan’s population was 21 million. The U.S. occupation provided perfect breeding conditions for the Afghans because you don’t want people starving to death while you are trying to do some nation-building. So the population growth rate accelerated and there are now 12 million more Afghans than in 2001. One day the grain trucks will stop arriving and then Afghanistan’s population will fall below its carrying capacity of some 13 million.



Figure 2: Egypt Wheat Production and Imports


Egypt had been the granary of the ancient world. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Egypt’s population was 4 million. It is now 96 million with a doubling time of 36 years. They ran out of spare water decades ago so all that population growth is made possible by imported grain.



Figure 3: Egypt Wheat and Corn Production and Imports

More than half of what Egypt eats is imported. Near the end of President Morsi’s period in office, the country was down to three weeks of stocks. That precarious situation was possibly one of the drivers that got the Muslim Brotherhood regime chucked out. The Egyptian government subsidises bread production with price of each type of loaf related to the proportion of corn flour in it.



Figure 4: Egyptian Oil Production and Consumption

Egypt used to pay for its food imports with the revenue from its oil exports. It is now a net importer as well as a major grain importer though the large gas fields being developed will help offset that.



Figure 5: Iran’s Population Growth from 1960 with the Proportion fed from Imports


Iran has reached the limits of its agricultural production system and now approaching having half its population is dependent on imported grain to keep body and soul together. Iranian agents have murdered Jews at gatherings as far afield as Buenos Aries. More recently Iranian proxy forces have been lobbing ballistic missiles from Yemen at Saudi population centres. If they upset enough people, eventually the rest of the world will stop feeding them. This is an option going forward.



Figure 6: Tunisian Wheat Consumption per Capita

The Tunisians are the world most enthusiastic wheat eaters with wheat providing most of the daily calorie requirement. Tunisian population growth is down to one percent per annum but, with imported wheat providing half of what they eat, that won’t save them when some other country with more money wants to bid up the wheat price.



Figure 7: Yemen Grain Consumption

Yemen’s population growth is still galloping away despite the civil war there. What is interesting about Yemen’s situation is that wheat imports took off as soon as the country started exporting oil in the mid-1980s. That was followed by imported corn which is cheaper to feed chickens with. Oil production has been in decline for years and the country could not afford to feed itself with or without the civil war.





Figure 8: Domestic and Imported Grain in the MENA Region


The whole Islamic belt from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east is much the same with imported grain providing more than half of consumption. Israel is no different but Israeli GDP per capita is some eight times that of the surrounding region so they will have a better chance of getting themselves fed. The Israelis are able to grow commercial crops using desalinated seawater. It takes one thousand tonnes of water to produce a tonne of grain. Nuclear power at $0.03 per kWh would produce wheat from desalinated seawater at $700 per tonne, more than three times the current price.



Figure 9: Wheat and Rice Production in India

What is remarkable about India is that their grain production has kept pace with population growth. In fact India is now exporting wheat to Afghanistan through an Iranian port. Their last famine was in 1967 when a drought killed one million people. The Indians are well aware that they are reaching the limits of their agricultural production while population growth is grinding on at one percent per annum. To ameliorate that they intend to apply more nitrogenous fertiliser. This will provide more protein if the crop is not water-limited.



Figure 10: U.S. Grain and Soybean Production

Wheat has the best amino acid profile of the major grain crops and is a near-complete foodstuff for those who do not have allergies to it. The amino acid profile of soybeans complements that of corn with the ideal ratio between them being 30 percent soybeans and 70 percent corn. The reason for this is the essential amino acid make-up of each component. Maize protein is deficient in lysine and tryptophan but has fair amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids: methionine and cysteine. On the other hand, the protein of food legumes is a relatively rich source of lysine and tryptophan but is low in sulfur amino acids. This is a near-complete meal for adults but is not suitable for children without an animal protein supplement. Given that human corn consumption is only limited by the availability of soybeans, US soybean production of 90 million tonnes per annum would allow human corn consumption of 210 million tonnes. US production of wheat, soybeans and corn combined could feed just over one billion vegetarians on the basis of per capita consumption of 350 kg per annum.



Figure 11: U.S. Corn Production by End Use.

The mandated ethanol requirement increased corn production by over 100 million tonnes per annum, showing how quickly US agriculture can respond to a price signal. It is also an indication of further latent potential in the system. The 100 million tonnes of corn going to the ethanol requirement could, if combined with 42 million tonnes of soybeans (just under half of the soybean crop), could feed 400 million vegetarians at a 350 kg per capita rate. The United States has a substantial agricultural buffer over its minimum domestic requirements and it should strive to maintain that buffer. Another way of putting that is that every extra immigrant increases that chance that someone within the continental United States will starve during a climate-driven reduction in grain production.


Figure 12: Mexico Grain and Soybean Imports

NAFTA wiped out three million small holders in Mexico when they could not compete with the more efficient gringos. That suggests though that there might be some latent capacity in the system that might be awakened by a price signal. The Mexican population growth rate of one percent per annum means that their population is ratcheting up at one million souls or so each year, in turn requiring another 300,000 tonnes of grain as adults to keep those souls with their bodies. All this will come across the border from the U.S.


Figure 13: Mexico Oil Production and Consumption

As with a number of countries, Mexico has been able to pay for it grain imports with the revenue from its oil exports but is now close to the crossover where it has to start paying for imported oil and food.


Figure 14: China Grain and Soybean Consumption

China’s economy started taking off from about 2000 and so did its grain consumption as it changed the animal protein to vegetable protein ratio in the Chinese diet. China is at its limit of agricultural production with state subsidies for application of nitrogenous fertiliser wringing the last out of the system. Nitrogenous fertiliser in China uses coal as the feedstock, not natural gas. Chinese coal production is forecast to peak in 2020 after which making things from coal will become more expensive. China’s oil production peaked a couple of years ago.


Figure 15: US and Brazilian Soybean Exports and Chinese Imports

China has the world’s largest herd of swine. Pigs have a protein conversion efficiency of 13 percent, halfway between cattle at five percent and chickens at 25 percent. Pork is so important in the Chinese psyche that the Chinese government keeps an emergency stockpile of frozen pork and live animals. To keep its swine herd fed, China has become a giant vacuum cleaner for soybeans, taking close to 100 million tonnes of the combined U.S. and Brazilian exports of just over 120 million tonnes. Soybeans have three times the protein content of wheat so, in protein content terms, those imported soybeans equate to about 300 million tonnes of wheat. Processed through pigs, imported soybeans provide 20 percent of China’s minimum daily protein requirement.


Figure 16: Russian Wheat Production and Consumption

Under communism, Russian wheat production used to be less than its consumption. After 1990, consumption fell as waste was removed from the system and more food options became available. It took a few years for production to recover as de-collectivisation dragged on, with droughts thrown in. In the last few years though production has taken off suggesting that market signals are extending through the system and Russia’s latent potential has started to contribute. Russia has 40 million hectares of cleared land that is producing nothing. At 2 tonnes to the hectare, wheat production could double from here.


Figure 17: South Africa Wheat and Corn Production and Imports

To make the stuff that white people eat, bread, South Africa is now importing more than half its wheat. The country tends to import more corn when droughts impinge upon domestic production. The staple diet of black South Africans used to be sorghum. It is now corn and that has caused an epidemic of squamous carcinoma of the oesophagus. This is caused Fusarium fungi grow freely on corn, producing fumonisins, which reduce nitrates to nitrites and synthesise cancer-producing nitrosamines. Fusarium fungi do not grow well on sorghum with the production of fumonisin from sorghum being two orders of magnitude lower than from corn. Another Sword of Damocles hanging over South Africa is its HIV rate. which is 13.6% in blacks and 0.3% in whites. In the 15 to 49 year old age group, the incidence is 16.6% of the population. South African life expectancy fell from 62 years in 1992 to 51 years in 2006. It is now 56 years. HIV isn’t the killer it once was because of anti-retroviral drugs. Provision of these drugs costs the South African government US$1 billion per annum and a further $0.5 billion from donor countries. There are localised hotspots of higher infection rates with some schools in the Natal province having 28% of schoolgirls HIV-positive. If the government broke down to the extent that the anti-retroviral drugs weren’t distributed, then the black population growth rate would go negative. It is currently 1.6% per annum. Of HIV-positive mothers, one quarter of the babies they bear is infected with the virus. If South Africa failed as a state, it would be missed. Amongst other things, it produces 68% of the world’s platinum.


Figure 18: Wheat Imports in Some African Countries

Africa now has the world’s fastest growing populations with most of that growth fed by imported grain. There are plenty of projections of Africa’s population exceeding 800 million by mid-century but those ignore the question of where the food is going to come from. A major famine in the Middle East is likely to trigger panic stock-building which will exacerbate the situation. That is when grain ships will stop arriving at African ports with a consequent African population collapse. The Middle Eastern oil producers have the money and so they will get the grain.


Figure 19: African GDP per Capita 1980 – 2015

There is a theory that once a society gets wealthy enough and the women of that society get an education then population growth will fall to the replacement level or below. Africa’s GDP per capita figures suggest that few countries on the continent will reach that escape velocity.


Figure 20: Philippines Grain Consumption

The population growth of the Philippines is still galloping along at 1.6 percent per annum. So with a population of 105 million, another 1.7 million new Filipinos are created each year who, as adults, will consume the equivalent of half a million tonnes of grain per annum. That grain has to arrive in ships.


Figure 21: Indonesia Grain and Sugar Imports

There was a prediction in 1976 of the fall of the Soviet Union based on increased infant mortality rates, indicating a society in decay. Therefore an indication of declining infant welfare in Indonesia deserves close scrutiny. After declining over decades, childhood stunting in Indonesia has increased from 28.6% to 36.4% over the decade from 2005 to 2015. Indonesia’s GDP nearly doubled over that decade so lack of money shouldn’t be the cause of the increased infant malnutrition. Most of the income growth went to a small subset of the population though. McKinsey counts 45 million members of a consuming class with household income of US$7,500 or more. Some 82 percent of Indonesia’s population, 200 million people, live on less than US$4 per day with half of those under US$2 per day. Indonesian rice production has plateaued at about 35 million tonnes per annum from 2003. Domestic rice production per capita has declined from a peak of 171 kg per capita in 1991 to the figure now of 144 kg per capita. Food imports started taking off from the same year as per Figure 21.

The situation is a little more complicated than that in that Indonesia has significant corn production now approaching 10 mpta. A significant proportion of that and the imported soybean meal would be going to conversion to animal protein for the consuming class. While Indonesian per capita foodstuff consumption has increased, for the bulk of the population the quality has declined, as reflected in the childhood stunting statistics. Though the stunted children might be getting an adequate amount of food, they are missing the micronutrients that come with animal protein. The most important organ in the body is the brain with most of the brain cells being created and refined in the first four years of life, so nutrients are prioritised for brain development and the rest of the body misses out. Severe protein deficiency results in kwashiorkor, the symptoms of which include brain damage.


Figure 22: Percentage of Grain and Soybean Consumption Imported

The Asian region is a big net importer of grain and soybeans. Of the larger countries in the region, Malaysia is one of the most vulnerable to supply disruption.



Figure 23: Colombia Domestic and Imported Grain 1990 – 2016

All of Colombia’s population increase has been fed on imported grain. None of the Latin American countries north and west of Brazil are self-sufficient in food.





Figure 24: World Animal Protein Production per Capita

Though it is possible to survive as a vegetarian, we have teeth shaped for cutting flesh. Animal protein consumption has doubled over the last fifty years, mostly in chickens and farmed fish.



Figure 25: Protein Conversion Efficiency by Major Animal Type

The reason for the relative rise in the production of poultry and fish meat production is the fact that these are the most efficient animals for converting vegetable protein into animal protein and therefore produce the cheapest meat. This was aided by the cheap grain of the last 30 years or so. Cheap meat from penned and caged animals made meat from grazing animals less valuable, and the land they grazed on. When grain prices rise again, there will be a ‘grass arbitrage’ making grazing land more valuable. Lactose tolerance developed in Europe and Africa because of the efficiency of cows in converting grass into protein through milk which is eight times more efficient than growing cows to kill and eat them.



Figure 26: World Production of Major Grains

With the world’s population at 7.6 billion, total production works out at an average of about 350 kg per head.





Table 1: World Population Growth relative to Grain Supply

The world’s population growth more than tripled since 1930 but grain prices are at their lowest level in human history. The reason is that grain supply outran population growth by a wide margin with the excess grain converted into animal protein and fats.



Figure 27: Wheat Yields in Developing Countries

The Limits To Growth isn’t discredited, just a couple of generations too early. This is largely due to the efforts of Norman Borlaug who pioneered the development of wheat, corn and rice varieties that didn’t use energy for making stalks more than absolutely necessary so the proportion going to the head could be increased. It seems that all the potential gains from that technology have been achieved with wheat yields in developing countries plateauing from 2000.



Figure 28: Wheat and Corn Prices 1916 – 2017

This graph begins at a time when horses provided motive power on farms. The horses required that 20 percent of a farm’s production was feed to keep the horses going. Much the same holds today if a farm tried to make its own biodiesel for tractors. About 20 percent of the farm’s land area would be required with a consequent 20 percent reduction in food output. Farming only takes two percent of fuel consumption but it is the most vital two percent. This graph ends with what appears to be the first signs that the world’s agricultural system is near its limits. The right price signal will increase the area under grain until the world bumps up against its land area limit. That is mostly 40 million hectare in Russia and possibly another 150 million hectares of as yet uncleared Brazilian rainforest. This might keep world population growth going up until the mid-2030s until that wall is hit.




Figure 29: Wheat and Corn Prices 1784 to 2013

When the current age of abundance is over, the situation will return to what it was like prior to 1916. For most of human history grain prices were much higher and far more volatile. In the graph above, the big spike on the left hand side was due to the eruption of Mt Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. The price of oats, what horses are fed on, in the northeast U.S. went up close to 10 fold. In Switzerland people resorted to eating their horses and then their cats. Climate-caused famines in Europe over the last thousand years have been well documented. A cold period due to low solar activity in the late 17th century killed 30% of the population of Finland with lower numbers further south. A sudden cold snap in Ireland in 1740 killed of 20% of the population. This was 100 years before the better known potato famine.

Why This All Matters

There will be an end to the global warming hysteria at some point. But global warming is only the warm up act to an even bigger monster called the UN Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 of them. Global warming, now one of the lesser gods, is goal 13. Goal 1 is to end world poverty and Goal 2 is to end world hunger. The UN’s ambition has grown from the $100 billion per year they wanted under the Paris climate agreement. They want to spend $175 billion per year and $267 billion per year respectively on Goals 1 and 2.

There will be no rest.

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare

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December 9, 2017 9:10 pm

World population will level out. If there is not enough food, energy, etc. the population will respond (not grow as fast). It will adjust to what is available as far as food, energy, housing, land availability, economics, – all those things. – The population will adapt. It will have to (or die).

Mark B.
Reply to  J. Philip Peterson
December 10, 2017 12:11 am

How does that jibe with population growth rates dropping, not in stavring countries, but in wealthy and developing countries?

old white guy
Reply to  Mark B.
December 10, 2017 5:01 am

It has something to do with prosperity and wanting to enjoy the fruit of their labor as opposed to the drudgery of surviving day to day and raising starving kids. A very long time ago I read a thesis on that but can’t recall who wrote it.

Reply to  Mark B.
December 10, 2017 5:24 am

Perhaps you need to see an exposition by the late Hans Rosling. He explains that “peak children” has already been reached and that the world’s population will peak at around 10 billion when they have all grown up. The situation in the world is better than you might think.

Reply to  Mark B.
December 10, 2017 10:56 am

Technological advances in developed countries increases agricultural output. The drop-off in population growth in developed countries means demand will taper, and excess in supply is made all the more available for export. Once world demand tapers, supply decreases across the board to achieve equilibrium.

But then governments intervene and that tends to mess things up.

Reply to  Mark B.
December 11, 2017 11:25 am

Growth rates are dropping everywhere.

Reply to  J. Philip Peterson
December 10, 2017 12:57 am

I think David Archibald left off the ‘sarc’ tag

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 2:47 am

No sarc tags needed with off the wall commentary like this:

Iranian agents have murdered Jews at gatherings as far afield as Buenos Aries. More recently Iranian proxy forces have been lobbing ballistic missiles from Yemen at Saudi population centres. If they upset enough people, eventually the rest of the world will stop feeding them. This is an option going forward.

If anyone was still thinking this was not a spoof article at that stage any doubts would be dispelled.

I may have missed the graph explaining that hundreds of thousands of Yememi civilians currently facing starving was somehow linked to their grain imports – currently blockaded by Saudi warships – ( and not the war crimes being committed by Saudi Arabia’s darling prince SbM using weapons and assistance of US and UK ‘advisers’ ) because I stopped reading at this point.

I may also have missed the other graph showing the exponential growth in extra-territorial assassinations by Mossad agents and Israeli grain imports, sorry but using a pretence of science as a sounding board for myopic political rants is not what I come to WUWT to find.

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 3:24 am

The issue with ‘eventually the world will stop feeding them’ is that the ‘world’ is not an entity, the Russians will continue feeding the Iranians as long as they act as their ‘proxy’ against the interests of the West in the middle east.

kokoda - AZEK (Deck Boards) doesn't stand behind its product
Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 4:18 am

Greg is 100% correct.
Mr. Archibald seems to have a MSM news IQ for international affairs.
The evil empire (US) has joined with Israel and Saudi Arabia to foment war in ME against Shites (especially Iran) all in favor of the head-chopping Sunni’s.

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 8:57 am

“The evil empire (US) has joined with Israel and Saudi Arabia to foment war in ME against Shites (especially Iran) all in favor of the head-chopping Sunni’s.”

No, the US is fighting against radical Islamic extremists of both factions, the Sunnis and the Shiites. The Mad Mullahs of Iran just happen to be the most dangerous of them now. You act like the Iranians are innocent bystanders. Hardly. War with the Mad Mullahs is inevitable.

Note that the Islamic Terror Army was made up of Sunnis, and the US killed a whole bunch of them. The US doesn’t play favorites when it comes to radical Islam.

The Iranian Shiite extremists are no better than the Sunni extremists and it is the job of the US to wipe them *all* out. I guess you are not going to like that.

Trump has made a pretty good start with wiping out the Islamic Terror Army, and he is going to straighten out the Mad Mullahs of Iran, too.

The radical Islamists are not facing a cowardly American president any more. The radical Islamists have been confronting society for a long time and now Trump is going to confront them back.

You did note how easily Trump/US Military wiped out the Islamic Terror Army, didn’t you? Obama could have done the same thing by just allowing his military to do their job like Trump did, but Obama chose to sit back and watch while the Islamic Terror Army proceeded to kill and dislocate millions of people in Syria and Iraq. I wonder why he chose that inaction. He didn’t give the radical Islamists a very good idea of American power. This may cause them to misjudge the US in the future and might end up being the death of them.

Trump isn’t going to sit back and watch while the Mad Mullahs of Iran try to take over the whole Middle East. The fight is on.

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 4:57 pm

“No sarc tags needed with off the wall commentary like this:”
Nothing off-the-wall about it.

“Iranian agents have murdered Jews at gatherings as far afield as Buenos Aries.”

“More recently Iranian proxy forces have been lobbing ballistic missiles from Yemen at Saudi population centres.”
Try this:
Somewhere in the mountains of northern Yemen, the missile lifted off in a dense cloud of fire and smoke and began its arc over Saudi Arabia. After roaring north for some 600 miles, the Iranian-made Qiam-1 reached its target, the international airport just outside of Riyadh.

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 11, 2017 11:27 am

I love how Greg always comes forward to present his one sided “the US is always wrong” analysis.
Lets not investigate any of the history that might justify the actions of Saudi Arabia. Let’s just declare that they are US puppets only seeking death and destruction of others.

Jimmy Haigh
December 9, 2017 9:17 pm

Food for thought…

Donald Kasper
December 9, 2017 9:26 pm

Take every inch of the Amazon, mow it down, grow corn. Take the Sahara, add desalination water, grow corn. Lack of food is a matter of perception based on current social norms and engineering. The planet can clearly hold 5 to 10 time current population. How? Lower their standard of living.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
December 9, 2017 10:38 pm

“Lower their standard of living.”

Lead the way…. 🙂

Reply to  Donald Kasper
December 10, 2017 2:18 am

Yeah. Let’s suppose this is right. What is the purpose of such a population growth? Are we going to export human beings to Mars? or outside the solar system?

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 11, 2017 11:29 am

Why does it have to have a purpose?
As to exporting humans, that will come, in it’s own time.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
December 10, 2017 4:36 am

Can’t be done. The Amazon basin is to be used for wind/solar farms.

Reply to  Gamecock
December 10, 2017 5:18 am

Why couldn’t you plant corn under the wind farms? They wouldn’t block that much light.

Obviously that would preclude the building of solar farms, which is sad. Deserts get all that sun, you know.

old white guy
Reply to  Donald Kasper
December 10, 2017 5:03 am

we still live on a finite piece of dirt and eventually starvation back to sustainable levels will occur.

Reply to  old white guy
December 10, 2017 5:24 am

“Sustainable”. Code word for “We’re doomed and there’s nothing that can be done about it, so why not just commit suicide now? (You, of course, not me)”

That word saves so much typing, doesn’t it?

Reply to  old white guy
December 10, 2017 6:49 am

“Sustainable”? In the 1800’s that was far smaller a number than now. It’s a fluid term.

Actually, human beings usually wipe out themselves with far more efficiency than nature does. No need to wait for starvation.

Reply to  old white guy
December 11, 2017 11:30 am

We could easily support 3 to 4 times the current population.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Donald Kasper
December 10, 2017 9:08 am

Donald Kasper,
You are apparently unfamiliar with the fact that the lateritic soils of the Amazon lose their fertility quickly, and even worse, when exposed to the air become untillable. The wind blown sands of the Sahara are not fertile soils either! Both of your suggestions require massive amounts of energy, which is at the core of the problem that alarmists are concerned about. Your ‘solution’ strikes me as being akin to the opposite of the advice, “When you find yourself in over your head, stop digging.”

John in Oz
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 10, 2017 1:06 pm

May I amend your last sentence?

“When you find yourself in over your head, rename it as ‘Trench Warfare'” – reworded due to recent Lew/Mann/et al hissy fit paper

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 10, 2017 1:21 pm

There’s also a fertilizer limit. Phosphates, and natural gas aren’t going to last forever.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 11, 2017 11:31 am

Then we’ll use nuclear power to create the fertilizers.

December 9, 2017 9:29 pm

Very interesting. Thank you.

December 9, 2017 9:32 pm

Meh, they have been saying this forever. Still waiting. We have large amounts of land fallow that could be used to grow food but because the price of food is ridiculously cheap, it just isn’t worth it. There are better things to do than terrace the sides of mountains and massive irrigation schemes. When scarcity brings the price of food up then there is ample land to use to grow more. Our options are endless as long as we have energy and direction.

Population increases don’t matter as long as you can feed them and as long as you can get them to do something useful – it makes everyones lives better. More people often means everyones lives are better not poorer – the key is getting them to do something useful through good governance.

Reply to  Mydrrin
December 9, 2017 10:37 pm

“the key is getting them to do something useful through good governance.”

And NOT destroying things with bad government.. like in say Zimbabwe.

Used to be a thriving breadbasket of central Africa.

Har old
Reply to  AndyG55
December 10, 2017 4:37 am

“Good governance ” is an oxymoron.

Governments are the main cause of famine.

Reply to  AndyG55
December 10, 2017 6:51 am

Har old: How about minimal governance?

Reply to  Mydrrin
December 10, 2017 2:20 am

but it does no make any sense, the growth per its own sake. What is the purpose of population growth?

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 2:53 am

To make more people who can enrich the bankers. It’s basically a livestock operation. Continued growth of the credit bubble requires constantly rising population numbers. That’s “the meaning of life”,

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 5:28 am

Are you serious? If so I’m sure you have sterilized yourself.

Reply to  F. Leghorn
December 10, 2017 5:37 am

I made my own sort of control. I had only two kids. I made not any sense for me to breed future slaves. More more children you breed the more poor they would become. Unless you are filthy rich.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 7:50 am

Three of my four kids are doing just fine. Good jobs, good husbands, healthy children. The fourth is still a kid, but he will do just fine too. Optimism is very effective. It leads to success.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 6:56 am

leopoldoperdomo: Interesting belief. In history, large numbers of children were associated with poorer people and the need to have children to take care of you in your old age. As incomes rose, the number of children dropped. However, the number or children one has has less to do with the increase in population than how many children survive. If you have 4 kids and 2 die, it equals out to 2 kids. I suppose one could hope for more dying children or just stop treating childhood illnesses and that would help. Poverty enslaves people, not the number of children. You seem to see cause and effect backward.

(Also, until the 1960’s there was not much for effective birth control, short of not having relations and thus not reproducing. This “solution” was not popular, needless to say.)

Joe Crawford
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 8:13 am

Don’t forget. In the US we need population growth to support the Social Security Ponzi scheme.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 9:06 am

There is no “purpose” to population growth, it is just an outcome of human societies depending on a large number of factors. Resource availability is one of the major drivers, but is not always the dominant one. From an evolutionary perspective, larger populations mean greater genetic diversity, which is better than the alternative. The more people we have, the greater the talent pool is which drives innovation and technological progress forward. Obviously there is a point of diminishing returns, but attempts to calculate that have been dismal failures. History is replete with failed attempts to predict future population growth and the limits of resource availability.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
December 10, 2017 10:06 am

oh, I was thinking technological innovation was being worked by a minority of people.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 9:36 am

Leo – its just happening but its already slowed down signifixcantly. We are 80% of peak already and it will level off by itself. You seem to think we plant people like we do corn. Its a natural thing, do I need to say? Prosperity is the path which slows population growth. Incidentally, to get a handle on the “size” of the population, Lake Superior could hold the entire world population, each person with15 sq metres to tread water in! If we wanted to be more intimate at a square metre, the lake could hold 90 billion.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 10, 2017 10:04 am

ok, there is not any problem with population. So, I would sit and wait. I am 80 years old. So I am not impatient.
Then, you said prosperity is the sure path to slow population growth. That’s nice. We can wait for poor nations to prosper.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 11, 2017 11:32 am

Why does it have to have a purpose?

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 11, 2017 11:33 am

It didn’t take long for Greg to once again fall back to his evil bankers controlling everything shtick.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 11, 2017 11:34 am

leopold, with your attitude, I’m glad you only bred two more parasites.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 11, 2017 11:35 am

Poor nations are prospering, when their government permits it.

Reply to  MarkW
December 11, 2017 11:54 am

well, this idea is disputable. But I am a rare breed of conservative. I distinguish two aspects in the idea of prosperity.
1) is the population growth.
2) the other is the future prosperity.

Then, the point 1) that if a country has a population growth it has some measure of prosperity because if their people were famelic or really hunger their population would not be growing.
Why? Because for the ovaries of a female to work properly she need to have some reserves of fat. If she is too thin or too emaciated she would not ovulate. Then, she would not conceive a baby.

As for the point 2) population growth means future problems ahead. As Malthus predicted, even if he was wrong at the time, it is very easy for a nation to outgrow its capacity to feed his future children.
Malthus was wrong because he was unable to foresee the world full of machines working by the combustion of fossil fuels. Nobody knew at his time the incredible life we have at present. But… it is not sure human scientists and engineers would be able to make another miracle, for the future time when our present fuels would be depleted.
I have had some arguments with leftist people and they do not agree with my arguments.

Shawn Marshall
Reply to  Mydrrin
December 10, 2017 4:49 am

And we can use nukes to desalinate water for irrigation. Make the Sahara green again.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Shawn Marshall
December 10, 2017 9:26 am

Shawn Marshall,
It takes more than water to grow things! You apparently know little about how the food you eat is produced.

Reply to  Shawn Marshall
December 11, 2017 11:57 am

When I was a child we were using this argument. I do not believe is a serious argument.

Reply to  Shawn Marshall
December 11, 2017 12:40 pm

leopoldoperdomo December 11, 2017 at 11:57 am

When I was a child we were using this argument. I do not believe is a serious argument.

Shhh! Don’t tell the Israelis. They get a third of their water from desalination, and when their latest plant comes online, it’ll be close to half their total water coming from the sea … so don’t tell them it won’t work, they might get depressed …


Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mydrrin
December 10, 2017 9:22 am


If you stop to think about it, people put the most fertile and productive land into production first because it maximized their output. When pushed (the best land is already taken) people will try to make less productive land do the same job. Many of those have died trying to do so, or moved on, as during the Dust Bowl era. There is a very good reason that there is land that is currently unused . People that were half-way intelligent realized that the land was best either used for grazing or left alone. Yes, if the price of food gets high enough, people will try to put less productive land into production. But that means you will have reached a point of diminishing returns and you can’t expect the shallow, infertile, soils to match the production of the best soils, no matter how much energy you throw at it.

“Population increases” may not matter to you, but I want to do more than just exist. The quality of life is important to me. That means, I don’t want to live in big cities and put up with all the negatives such as filth, crime, and perversions that are the result of the crowding.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 11, 2017 11:36 am

A lot of that “less productive” land because it was in lots that were too small to farm efficiently with modern combines.

Reply to  Mydrrin
December 10, 2017 9:28 am

Yeah, The grassed yards of suburbia, unused parking spaces and road margins of NA could feed millions if intensely farmed. Or replace half the trees with fruit bearing ones. No end to potential if you just look around.

December 9, 2017 9:39 pm

DA ,for more support, see Ebook Gias Limits published in 2012. Lots of illustrations.

December 9, 2017 9:41 pm

That you, Mr. Erlich, for another flawless prediction.

Reply to  Maxbert
December 10, 2017 2:31 am

Earlich could had been a stupid… well no so stupid for he sold of his book, The population Bomb” some 30 million copies. Then, he could had been wrong in his predictions, for the drought of those years, passed away after a time. The book was published first time in 1968. Remember when some scientists were fearing the next glacial age was coming? Russia and other regions of Asia had had severe droughts. Remember the Mao Zedong famine?

This occurred during the 60’s when temperatures were dropping and the rains were scarcer. Some educated people was fearing the start of the new age age.
We are tempting ourselves if we think there is not any evil in population growth. Make a check on the growth between the rich and poor countries. Then make comparisons.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 5:31 am

And you suggest what? Forced sterilization?

Reply to  F. Leghorn
December 10, 2017 5:41 am

Tubal ligation paid by government. You can offer a money reward to women that have had already a couple of babies.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 7:53 am

Wouldn’t forced sterilization be more effective? That seems to be your desire (you know – to “save the planet”)

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 6:58 am

So “free health care” solves everything? Why then, do people in the utopian socialist countries have more than 2 children? They have free everything.

Reply to  Sheri
December 10, 2017 7:11 am

We are doomed to die anyway. So, most people do not care at all if they had many children or not. Only a few rational people care about how many children to breed. They have as many children as cats or dogs can except the time between a baby and the next is more extended among humans. A typical proud of lions can have an average of two cubs per female. As they are sort of two males in the pride. The average for 12 females and two males, results in a growth of 171 % per year. But we have not an epidemic of lions, because most of them are devoured by jackals or other predators. The average growth would depend on the during of the life of an adult. Assuming the average lion die of old age at year 15th this means, they only need 1/15=0,0666 or 6,66% per year. So they lions overbreed. Then, we should not worry about human being overbreeding either. They eventually would die a way or another, or they would have a war that would help a lot for them to die.

Mike Wryley
December 9, 2017 9:44 pm

Quite the bedtime story.
Venezuela may be a harbinger when government malpractice is added to the equation, even in the midst of adequate supplies.
With all the potential of future grain shortages, what really concerns me is what will happen to the price of bier.

Tom Halla
December 9, 2017 9:46 pm

An illustration of playing the Malthusian game. If one makes the assumption that there is no change in agricultural technology, or population growth rates, the gloomy reverend was right.
The problem is that the predictions of imminent doom have been made repeatedly since well before I was born ( and I am getting to be something of an old fart), and they have yet to happen. “Just you wait” gets tiresome after awhile. Harold Camping had the good manners to shut up.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2017 1:12 am

Correct. There’s no real theme to this (interesting though the detail is) which might cause us to reconsider Malthus’ basic error. What it does show pretty clearly is just what a mess much of the world makes of its own economics, and the large extent to which vast swathes of the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have become extremely dependent on Western production, technology, and charity. There are consequences of this, of course, but nothing that changes the effectively limitless ability of the world to feed itself.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2017 2:43 am

We cannot criticize the doom sayers. Sooner or later, we should stop making too many babies. This is not the problem. The problem is a sudden change in circumstances and we would be unable to solve a critical problem. We are not thinking fossil fuels, or natural gas, would last forever. Do we? That Malthus was wrong in its XIX century predictions it does not mean, he would be wrong forever. In 60 or 80 years, Malthus would be right, if we are unable to make more miracles.
Do you think the fall of Rome was for some degree of moral decadence? It was a climatic crisis. Climate got colder and droughts began to be very frequent. The German tribes north of the Rhin and the Danube were suffering extreme hunger and migrated towards the Roman Empire

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 3:00 am

Malthus’ error is not time dependent. It is wrong fundamentally. It won’t lie down because so many people find it hard to grasp the concept that any resource could be limitless, but in practice that is how it works out. The late Julian Simon called his masterpiece ‘The Ultimate Resource’, by which he meant human ingenuity, which puts it concisely. I guess we will always have ‘deniers’ of this thesis but, as far as can see, the science is settled!

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 3:44 am

of course is time dependent. He could not had guessed the miracles that fossil fuels and machines could had performed. In this sense, we would never stop making so many babies, because we can imagine some miracle would solve our problem.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 3:20 am

Who we? Who ‘we’ should stop making babies?

There are no (well that I know of) readers of wuwt from countries, where the total fertility rate strongly exceeds the replacement level.

‘We’ does not include any Western country, including Oz and Kiwis. It does not include China or Russia. Nor it includes Brazil or Iran. India, whole South America, northern- and southernmost Africa are not an issue. Nor an issue is any of the very small populations like the one at the Carteret atoll.

There is one country that is causing trouble at large, that is Niger. The central Africa is late in development, but will make it. Don’t worry.

The problem of next 60 years will be population decline. Ehrlich screwed it.

Reply to  Hugs
December 10, 2017 3:41 am

I can accept that Ehrlich screwed it except that he won some money with his book. And the question of excess population is a good question. When it would be too many people in this planet is a slippery till our fossil fuels would get exhausted.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 5:38 am

Malthus realized he was wrong. Read his later writings. He’d taken a crisis period and extrapolated into the future.

Pessimism is never a good idea – it completely discounts human ingenuity.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 7:00 am

leopoldoperdomo: You really have drank the koolaid. I am speechless at the moment…..

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 10:06 am


You said, “Malthus’ error is not time dependent. It is wrong fundamentally.” I disagree. Clearly there is an upper limit on the number of people that the Earth can hold. The mass of humans cannot exceed the mass of Earth! From there, we can look at more practical limitations. Pseudo-scientific claims that the entire world population can be held by the state of Texas overlooks the fact that humans need more than their personal space to survive. They need protection from the elements in the form of homes. They need natural and synthetic raw materials to be manufactured and fabricated into their clothes, tools, and toys. That is we need room for factories. They need quarries and mines to produce the raw materials for homes and transportation. They need food to be grown, an infrastructure, that allows food and water to be supplied, and refuse removed. All of this takes space. So, any consideration of how many people the Earth can hold needs to take into account the space required for the infrastructure and the supply of raw materials and energy. As you add more people, you have to make room for them by taking away from the infrastructure, such as producing less food.

It is important to realize that there are real limits, and to try to work around them with compromises have costs beyond money. I would submit that if we get pushed to the point that we start putting people underground to allow food to be grown on the surface, then we have transitioned from living to surviving.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 11, 2017 4:46 am

That argument of you make me recall a coworker that said,
“I do no see any problem with population growth. We got still the moon and the planets to colonize them all.”

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 2:41 pm

Pseudo-scientific claims that the entire world population can be held by the state of Texas overlooks the fact that humans need more than their personal space to survive

What an odd thing to say. The claim I’ve seen is that the current population of the earth can fit into the state of Texas with the same population density of New York City. That doesn’t mean they would all be standing around in a little square of land, it means buildings and factories and theaters and even Grand Central Parks.

Of course, not everything that New York need come from inside the city. For a Greater Texas Metropolis you’d need farms and mines and other things outside of it, but that isn’t really a problem, is it.

The only real problem is, not everyone wants to live in a big city (or in Texas). So it’s preferable to have lots of smaller cities spread around, and plenty of less population dense areas for those who prefer them. Let’s people live where they want.

Kind of like what we have now, at least in the West. And what the developing nations are striving for.


Reply to  schitzree
December 11, 2017 4:43 am

oh, my god! Dies Texas has enough water for 7 billion people?

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 11, 2017 11:38 am

As always, are neo-malthusians reveal themselves to be, at their core, anti-human.

Reply to  MarkW
December 11, 2017 12:05 pm

just suppose the next glacial age starts. And we have not any means to stop the glacial. This glacial age would be anti-human as you said. But nobody is proposing a new glacial age. It simply occurs that some people have some reasonable fear about the future and thinks the more children we would have the more problems they would inherit. Just imagine that they are going to inherit the planet. All the good places of the planet have already some landowners. If you are a landowner, you must divide your state among all your children. But if you have not any land or property your children would inherit only the wind or the dust bowl. They manpower would be worthless slavery.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2017 6:00 am

Sometimes dooms appears without any warnings. But even Cassandra was coursed by Apollo that nobody would believe in the prophetic dreams of Cassandra. Think about Eastern Island, someone had predicted the catastrophe implicit in breeding too many babies. But nobody believed the dreams of Cassandra.
It is about crude oil. Visit the link.
Theres is a phrase worth to be recalled,
what crude oil gives, crude oil will take away.
Here is a fragment of the article, below the photo of Aleppo destroyed.

Here, I argue that the origins of the Syrian collapse are to be found in the economic downturn generated by the gradual depletion of the Syrian oil reserves. Crude oil had created modern Syria, crude oil has destroyed it. This phenomenon can be termed the “Syrian Sickness” and the question is: “which country will be affected next?”
Crude oil is a great source of wealth for the countries that possess it. But it is also a wealth that comes as a cycle. Normally, the cycle spans several decades, even more than a century, so that those who live through it may completely miss the fact that they are heading to an end of their wealth. But the cycle is faster and especially visible in those areas where the amount of oil is modest; there, wealth and misery appear one after the other in a dramatic series of events.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 5:11 pm

“Here, I argue that the origins of the Syrian collapse are to be found in the economic downturn generated by the gradual depletion of the Syrian oil reserves.”

Argue it all you want.

Doesn’t stop it being a load of bollox.

Syria was never more than a marginal supplier of oil (ranked around 60th globally), and never extracted enough to seriously deplete its reserves.
comment image?s=syriacruoilpro&v=201711211358v&d1=20070101&d2=20171231

Note that oil production was level until the beginning of the civil war.

Reply to  catweazle666
December 11, 2017 4:41 am

you mean they had not extracted all the oil.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2017 9:38 am

Tom Halla,
It is true that Malthusians have a bad record of predicting the future. But, that isn’t because their fundamental premise is wrong. It is because few people have the ability to see the future. What the Malthusians miss is the role of technology being like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. Technology has saved us many times, and probably will continue to do so. However, woe be us if we depend on there being an infinite number of rabbits in the hat and that they will be produced ‘magically’ as we need them. More to the point though, do we always want to be in a reactive mode, expecting technology to provide us with the ability to support an ever increasing population? Would it not be better to decide what an optimum population would be, and then have society provide incentives to achieve that goal with a minimum amount of pain and suffering?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 10, 2017 12:41 pm

You are right. In past times, I mean a few hundred years, few people could marry or could breed children. This was for a good reason. Agrarian productivity was no so good as today, not only because of they lacked the machines we have today, but also because some centuries ago, climate was a few C degrees colder than today. Even the wars of religion in Europe were caused by climate reasons. Climate often make failed harvests, when not here it occurred in another province no so far away. People began to loose reserve fat, and adrenaline levels rose well above normal levels. This was the cause of so many wars. Hunger beget wars.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2017 12:30 pm

You’d also have to add in no change in water storage, treatment and distribution. No change (for the better) in energy production and distribution.

John MacDonald
December 9, 2017 9:49 pm

Good article David.
Certainly a little scary. I see a few big problems that you allude to obliquely.
1. War plays the major destabilizing role in many areas today. The resources wasted need to go to better farming systems.
2. The bugaboo fear of genetically engineered foods has to be solved. Ever more efficient production and energy conversion is needed.
3. Planning for saving fossil fuels to produce the energy needed to farm and transport food is lacking.
4. Similarly, methods of producing nitrogenous fertilizers today rely on gas and coal. Windmills can’t help.
5. Using 40% of US corn production for ethanol is stupid in the long term.
I am sure others can see more problems.
I have faith in man’s ingenuity to overcome.

Reply to  John MacDonald
December 10, 2017 2:58 am

5. Using 40% of US corn production for ethanol is stupid in the SHORT term, too.

James Francisco
Reply to  Greg
December 10, 2017 8:54 am

But the fuel conversion could be quickly stopped if the crop was needed for food. It seems to me a way of having a large reserve in the field in case something goes a rye with crop production in some locations. Storage of grain as was done in the past by government caused the grain prices to remain low.

I’m not for government forced food to fuel policy but it may have a small upside.

Reply to  John MacDonald
December 10, 2017 7:03 am

War also reduces population. Historically, it was one of the most common ways of reducing population. When war became more “civilized”, the number of casualities went down. I’m not recommending war as a solution, only pointing out that as humans became more focused in war, the population reductions no longer happened.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  John MacDonald
December 10, 2017 9:45 am

John MacDonald
December 9, 2017 at 9:49 pm
“I have faith in man’s ingenuity to overcome.”

Absolutely. It is this under appreciated factor that Malthusians, including David Archibald, it appears, sell short every time. See my comment on a more pleasant future going forward below:

Gary Pearse
December 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

“David, you are good at the stuff you know. But this is something else, no different than the starvation and drastic depopulation we were supposed to have before 2000.”

Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 11, 2017 6:26 am

Malthus was wrong because he was just a philosopher, and was not acquainted with engineers working to make steam engines, He was unable to see a future full of machines, or those huge tractors and combiner systems use in farming today. He could not envision either the modern means of transportation. Not only Malthus, not any politician could foresee these inventions, and probably not even the engineers working on developing better steam engines,
The question I am presenting here is, what is easier, to make the population breed less babies, or just expect in the near future we would be able to make another miracle, like present oil?
Would our scientists be able to take another rabbit out of their top-hat?
I consider myself conservative, but I do no believe to make miracles is easy.

Reply to  John MacDonald
December 11, 2017 6:16 am

At least this corn wasted to make ethanol, can in the near future, when it will be really needed, to stop making this ethanol shit and use to feed people.

Extreme Hiatus
December 9, 2017 9:50 pm

Thanks for that valuable compilation. Much interesting detail. Adding Canada would be make it more complete.

Extreme Hiatus
Reply to  Extreme Hiatus
December 9, 2017 9:52 pm

Oops – delete “be”

December 9, 2017 9:52 pm

This is an interesting article. I have followed the science, always wrong, since 1974. But this piece speaks in subjects that I can analyze. Not necessarily agree with mind you.

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  Pat Childs
December 10, 2017 5:14 am

How can you “disagree” with raw data?

Reply to  Intelligent Dasein
December 10, 2017 6:07 am

Raw data can be as fake as the climate data of global warming alarmists.
You can take raw data end knead it, and put some yeast in it, and after all this you can “adjust the data” so they can conform with the theory. In the same manner, Malthus had an idea, it was philosophical and he was not in a proper situation to present some scientific argument. Most of the riddles of life cannot be analyzed rationally. But sometimes, you can analyze a problem with wrong arguments. This is a very common case.

Reply to  Intelligent Dasein
December 10, 2017 7:04 am

One does not disagree with data, but rather the interpretation of the data.

Reply to  Pat Childs
December 11, 2017 11:06 pm

You said Science is always wrong. Science simple means “to know”. But this “knowledge” are not foolproof. Most of the times, our knowledge is worthless or false. The things that are working well, the computers, the planes, the big machines, our cars, heating or cooling systems, are working properly. Those are pieces of true knowledge. But outside the mechanical world, most things we know are false or dubious.

December 9, 2017 10:05 pm


Tim Groves
Reply to  Charles Gerard Nelson
December 10, 2017 12:27 am

Charles Gerard Nelson = Micawber because he expects something will turn up.

Reply to  Tim Groves
December 10, 2017 2:01 am

Tim Groves=Miss Haversham.

Leonard Lane
December 9, 2017 10:16 pm

Most thought provoking post in some time, and to interpret it we need to ponder on the factors which control food production and our ability to manage them. Thanks.

December 9, 2017 10:19 pm

We have several tigers by their tails. If we mess up on any of them, there will be disaster. This fact drives well meaning people to decide that they must tamper with the economy by ending capitalism. link

When well meaning people start tampering with the system, things almost always end badly. They’re not nearly as smart as they think they are and we will all pay the price for their hubris if they can’t be stopped.

Reply to  commieBob
December 9, 2017 11:32 pm

Well said Bob .
You only have to look at the world population figures and the countries with low birth rates have by far the higher standard of living and the countries that are doubling their populations in a short space of years are very poor.
.I don’t know what the answer is but if the poor countries encouraged birth control it might slow down the inevitable food price escalation that comes with shortages
.In my lifetime New Zealand’s population has doubled to 4.6 million and we export high quality animal protein and dairy products to feed 45 million people .Some bread making wheat is imported from Australia and fruit and nuts are imported from around the world.
I have to agree with you Bob that free enterprise and the capitalist system is the only way to grow more food to feed the increasing population.

Mark B.
Reply to  gwan
December 10, 2017 12:16 am

Rising standard of living leads to dropping population growth rates not the other way round.

Reply to  gwan
December 10, 2017 5:58 am

Yeah, but New Zealand is populated by Hobbits and they don’t eat much.

December 9, 2017 10:24 pm

Excellent article. World population doubled twice in my lifetime and is now just on eight billion. A further doubling is unsustainable. As the world cools the growing seasons become less productive.

The AGW brainwashing propaganda prevents current population from preparing for the future.
The whole process of evolution is adapt or die.

Reply to  Richard111
December 10, 2017 1:27 am

“.. A further doubling is unsustainable……”

No, no, no it isn’t. Doubling is unlikely to happen anyway because as wealth increases, population growth falls, Maybe more likely that the problem will be a shortage of people and a stagnation of progress, although by then we will have so much wealth created by our armies of robots that we may not need to worry.

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 5:36 am

Mothcatcher, you are one deluded person, you know that? Armies of robots, seriously? The low-hanging fruits of automation have long since been picked and further automation only results in the destruction of capital, not in its creation.

Furthermore, Malthus did not commit any “fundamental error,” as you moronically stated up-thread. He was not in error at all, fundamental or otherwise. There are always hard limits to what an economy can produce with a given resource base and a given set of production procedures. The fact that these limits can be extended in various ways does nothing to alter that; it only results in the phenomenon of “rolling Malthusianism” where a challenge is met by a successful response. But it is impossible to win every time. Eventually, every society will meet a challenge to which the fail to find an appropriate response in time, and then the limits imposed by Malthus will kick in with a vengeance. The history of the world, littered as it is with the ruins of former empires, is sufficient proof of this thesis for anyone whose face isn’t glued to his own gluteus, as yours apparently is.

Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 6:06 am

Mothcatcher? This conceited fellow “intelligentdumbass” (or whatever) isn’t worth responding to.

Though I don’t really need an “army” of robots – a dozen or so is plenty.

Reply to  Richard111
December 10, 2017 4:09 am

The main problem is that hunter gatherers never had problems with population. The reproductive system of females only works when they had accumulated some amount of fat, to guaranty to end pregnancy and a part of breast feeding of the baby. So, we had not evolved any controls on breeding. But the problems of excess breeding are real since some thousand years ago. Aristotle would had not said, the ideal age for a man to marry is between 40 and 43 years. In fact, in past times, well before the industrial revolution, existed a lot of controls to reduce the amount of people breeding. The servants and slaves were not permitted to breed, for obvious reasons. And people too poor could not breed either but as an accident, for salaries were so low as dissuade breeding among the poor.
If you check the statistics, hoe much growth had occurred among rich European nations and the rest of nations of the planet, you can see which is the main variable is behind poverty.

Reply to  Richard111
December 10, 2017 6:16 am

When I was 1o years old, the school book said we were 2.5 billion people in the planet. Now we are more than 7 billion.
This adapt or die makes not much sense sometimes. If tomorrow the Yellowstone supervolcano explodes we would have not had the time to adapt at all.
When supervolcano Toba erupted nearly 70,000 years ago, humans were on the verge of extinction. Most of them died, and only a small fraction of them survived.
You think about next glacial age, or next Little Ice Age comes out in the next few years. All this bounty of food we have today would disappear. Climate can change easily for the worse. It only needs to cool.

Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 7:10 am

I believe Darwin considered all of the above completely natural. Human beings survive or go extinct based on their fitness to survive. No, we cannot survive the Yellowstone supervolcano, at least not if we are near it. However, nothing in the real world says humans are entitled to exempt themselves from natural consequences. Ice ages, massive volcanoes, etc are all rediculous to use as the starting block for why we can’t adapt. Let’s be rational and discuss the real world and common occurances.

Reply to  Sheri
December 10, 2017 7:21 am

To adapt is an idea of Darwin. He needed to say this in order to make sense of his theory. It is not any clear if we adapt or not really. It is an idea we cannot prove. Think a bout a war, like the IIWW. Most people who died were not the soldiers, but common people that had to suffer hunger. They do not adapted themselves, they simply die. It does not make any sense to say that the survivors of WWII adapted. Simply they were lucky and had food during the war. Perhaps because they were soldiers and you have to feed your soldiers if you want to win a war. So, some soldiers were unlucky and died, and others were mutilated. But others were alright and survived, because they were soldiers, and the command of the army was feeding them.
I do not believe in adaptation. You either survive or not. And nobody would care if you are alive or dead, unless someone needs you for some purpose. If someone needs you, they would hire you. If nobody needs you, you must solve your personal problem if you can. That’s all.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Richard111
December 10, 2017 9:52 am

Richard, linear thinking alert. The population growth has been slowing notably over the past 25 years. We are 80% the way to the peak population. It may even shrink back a bit as prosperity spreads – this will be a final blow to the ever so destructive Malthusians and what they have wrought. Even the global warming BS is part and parcel of this totally wrong-headed linear thinking that has created damaging fantasy and nearly broken down our civilization. Man’s ingenuity is always left out of consideration, mainly because the proponents of the fears don’t have a lot of ingenuity themselves.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard111
December 10, 2017 10:18 am

You said, quite uncivilly, “This conceited fellow “intelligentdumbass” (or whatever)…”

Just for the record, you have left me with the impression that you are more deserving of the insult than he is. He articulately states his position, while you just insult. I’m not impressed by your grasp of reality.

Gerry Cooper
December 9, 2017 10:31 pm

From the graphs it appears the common thread, other than the consumption of cheap grain is the availability of cheap transport. It would be interesting to see a sail powered 100,000t bulk grain carrier.

Reply to  Gerry Cooper
December 10, 2017 2:20 am

…..Or a sail (wind) or solar powered harvester combine?

By the way, many people would find it instructive to go back and read what Malthus actually wrote rather than reading just those things that other people have said that he wrote.

Reply to  Gerry Cooper
December 10, 2017 6:28 am

Sounds crazy, but some people are actually taking that idea seriously. Towards the end of the article.

December 9, 2017 10:33 pm

In Australia, Tony Abbott was hounded because of his ideas to open up the northern part of Australia by building dams and irrigations systems to catch monsoon rains.

There is a lot of empty, but water is currently scarce.

Time will tell how much the Chinese what to put into the area.

Reply to  AndyG55
December 9, 2017 11:43 pm

Yeah, that was an unusual moment of sanity for him IMO. I had had the same idea before he brought it up.

I heard a few years back that desalination technology had just menaged to reduce the cost to 1% of previous costs using graphene, I think. If true, those plans could be viable and we could feed the whole world.

Reply to  Jer0me
December 9, 2017 11:47 pm

Ever heard of Project Iron Boomerang?

Reply to  Jer0me
December 9, 2017 11:49 pm

Add water, turn the land along the link into farmland….


Reply to  Jer0me
December 10, 2017 6:22 am

Just imagine you are feeding the world already. The most you feed the world, the most population you will have. Thus, I think it is needed a different approach to the problem. If feeding people is not a problem, they would keep growing till there is not any more solid space available to sit down on solid ground.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  AndyG55
December 10, 2017 9:58 am

We live on a water planet and yet we have simpletons hyperventilating about a lack of water!! My biggest fear is that we are destroying education and curbing ability to reason and think. Human ingenuity is THE RESOURCE. All other resources come from this, not from bean-counting estimates of resources. We don’t demand zinc. We demand rust resistant culverts and barn rooves!!! I was told by someone years ago that we could make a radio with iron, quartz and could make the case out of concrete!!!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 10, 2017 10:32 am


What if we were to turn that human ingenuity to improving the quality of life instead of just preserving life, and allowing the food supplies to be tested yet again? If no thought is given to what kind of a life we want to live, and are focused on just ramping up food production, we are always going to be playing catch-up.

Your remark about Lake Superior reminds me of a joke.
Q: What do you have when you have all the world’s lawyers floating in Lake Superior?
A: A good start.

Richard Carlson
December 9, 2017 10:50 pm

What nonsense. World pop. Growth is collapsing, technology is still moving and a huge chunk of world food goes into idiotic biofuels. The mini-warming and CO2 increase is adding to food production. Population growth is over in 3/4 of the world — the whole Western Hemisphere and most of Eurasia. Population growth continues only in Africa, the Mideast and the Indian sub-continent. Population is collapsing in Europe and Russia. The regions with continued population growth are in trouble, but it’s their problem not ours.

Reply to  Richard Carlson
December 10, 2017 1:39 am

Richard C .
If you lived in Europe with millions of refugees flooding in to take up space I don’t think you would be saying
What Nonsense
Population growth is not showing any reduction in those countries and when the people become refugees or insist on emigrating to your country it then becomes your problem .

Reply to  gwan
December 10, 2017 4:18 am

yup i noted the absence of the EU pop figures
both natural and now with massive immigration.
for every one that leaves africa and mid east someone will produce a replacer , so its not going to do anything to reduce poverty or crowding at all.not while the west keep supplying food anyway

and no figures for israels pop increase they keep using as an excuse to invade past their set borders into palestinians farmland? how many billion of usa $ go to them every yr? hardly a needy nation either.

russias just had massive harvests, aus is around avg due to some weather losses.
an wheat and corn n soy arent complete or that productive compared to quinoa which IS complete food produces massively for the input and will grow in damn near seawater.
ok it doesnt make a good bread;-/ but other uses its fine

as for borlaugs short stems yeah so wheres the hay? for the animals when the crops short?
feeding animals grain is bloody stupid, theyre designed to digest fibre and woody stems
as well as the tendency for all the grains from it to be susceptible to UG99 from the genetics he spliced in? like most GMO big claims and the faults show up later.
green revolution was a can kicker basically
instead of some dying an pops stabilising to what they could support we 3 crops a yr did feed extra mouths who kept breeding up.
meanwhile the bugs changed too and also bred up ie brown/green leafhoppers.(more pesticide)and soil degradation.more artificial chem again) corn borers are gmo resistant now. and they can survive a single soy tweenplanting n come rightback
seeing as most western pops are supposed to be close to 50% overwegiht to morbidly obese and rising
it isnt shortage BUT distribution, and sheer piggery by some while others go without.
oddly enough.its only in the first world we see obese but undernourished masses.
3rd world the starving look like they are starving,

Richard Carlson
Reply to  gwan
December 10, 2017 7:34 am

All of Europe has fertility rates far below replacement of 2.1 kids per female. What little growth there is is entirely from immigration. Actual decline has started in Russia, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Portugal, Croatia, Serbia and Greece. Altogether European population growth is zero.

Reply to  Richard Carlson
December 10, 2017 5:03 am

South American nations, central America and Mexico are still growing.

Richard Carlson
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 8:14 am

The two largest countries in the Western Hemisphere, accounting for well over half the population, US and Brazil, have fertility rates way below replacement levels at 1.8 and 1.9 respectively. The rest of the region is near replacement or below. Fertility rates are dropping fast. Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela are at 2.2. Region as a whole has zZPG birth rate.

Reply to  Richard Carlson
December 10, 2017 6:24 am

Population growth is collapsing? In which part? Perhaps in Japan or in Sweden.
You know of more places where population is collapsing?

Richard Carlson
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 8:15 am

Yes, Russia and nearly all of Eastern Europe.

December 9, 2017 11:01 pm

Best rationale I’ve read for Trump’s “Build the Wall.”

Control immigration and control your destiny.
A Rome in decline could no longer keep the Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals at bay from plunder and sacking of Rome and taking of former Roman territory. So another Trumpian, “MAGA!!”

One thing is certain. Africa already is a nightmare and it is going to get worse. Chinese companies are already buying off politicians there (corruption) to build huge mines to remove minerals from Zimbabwe, Zaire, the Congo, Central Africa to ship to Chinese smelters. Nigeria has lots of oil and gas to export with a small fraction going to internal consumption. The result will be the almost assured annihilation of Africa’s megafauna. As Africa descends further in to societal chaos, the problems for emigration to Europe are going to become extreme, unless the EU can turn around their disastrous open door policies that encourage Africans to try to get across the Mediterranean Sea. There is no reason to impose any fake Climate Change for the coming worsening in Africa. Their birth rates and internal corruption have that fate sealed.

The vast mineral reserves for China to eye is to their northwest; Russia and it’s Siberian region. The differential in population growth rates between the two ensures they are on a collision course by 2050. Russian can’t build a wall, and the only thing keeping China at bay for now are their nuclear weapons. China’s long-term strategy to conquer lots of Russia territory would be to provoke a war between Russia and US, so that the US eliminates the Russian nuclear stockpile.

A country’s Immigration policy means nothing if it can not be enforced. We have evil men like George Soros right now plotting how to bring hordes of immigrants to Europe and the US to destroy them from within.
Soros will ultimately fail, as national survival instincts are powerful.

Isolationism is coming again.
US and Canada, Australia, NZ are sitting pretty if we can get rid of liberal leaders who think One World socialism is the key. All that is a global feudal society. The Bill Gates “haves”, the other 99% “have-nots.”

The UK will be okay too if they can finish Brexit and tell the EU to F-off. Once outside the EU, the UK will be able to control immigration so long as Ireland doesn’t get stupid and take in huge numbers of immigrants while demanding an open border with Northern Ireland.

Build the damn Wall!

Reply to  joelobryan
December 10, 2017 12:51 am

Best rationale I’ve read for Trump’s “Build the Wall.”

Would a wall prevent people arriving by air, sea or across the Canadian border? I once crossed the US/ Canadian border entirely by accident when looking for a Provincial campsite. I stopped to ask a chap in a 4×4 where the provincial campsite was and he replied ‘We don’t have Provincial campsites in the US Sir”
Apparently, crossing the border in this way is frowned upon and you can end up being fined. But the gentleman in question was very helpful and understood that a Welsh family out camping were unlikely to be illegal immigrants and directed us back to Canadian territory.
The essence of the story is that building a wall to stop immigrants can only stop the really poor ones.Many will just get a flight to Calgary on a tourist visa and cross on one of the thousands on unmonitored logging tracks.

Reply to  Gareth
December 10, 2017 1:26 am

So are you contending that the US cannot possibly secure it’s borders? I would disagree with that contention. It is just a matter of allotting the resources. A wall may not be feasible along the northern border, but patrols with drones equipped with thermal imagining or FLIR for night operations backed by responding ground enforcement most certainly would be. No system is impenetrable, but then again no locks nor safes are fool proof either. The key is making it difficult in infiltrate and costly if caught attempting to.

Reply to  Gareth
December 10, 2017 2:33 am

…..The wall could be highly effective at slowing the numbers of those who are arriving as illegal — most of whom do walk across the border. Of course, those who come in by air legally on a temporary visa and then stay illegally past the expiration of their visa pose a whole ‘nother issue which would require a whole ‘nother strategy if control was to be gained. .

Shawn Marshall
Reply to  Gareth
December 10, 2017 4:59 am

e-verify and no welfare benefits is all that is necessary.

Reply to  Gareth
December 10, 2017 5:25 am

Exactly, and the Canadian refugees are the worst. They show up wearing their hand knitted toques, with their cutesy accent, their 5% beer and their love of fist fighting hockey, and they think we’ll just accommodate them. Well that’s just downright rude.

We gotta build a northern wall.

Reply to  joelobryan
December 10, 2017 5:02 am

the argument of Trump’s I am gonna make a wall, proves that to breed for the sake of breeding is going to cause a lot of problems to the world. There several reasons to explain it.
1) it the automation of industry. This means humans had become redundant,
2) the exhaustion of fossil fuels. We must be able to perform some miracles, y oil exhausts
3) We are really doomed, it a new Little Ice Age starts. Or the next glacial age.
The more people we are breeding the more people would die of starvation.

Richard Carlson
Reply to  leopoldoperdomo
December 10, 2017 8:20 am

I live in AZ and we really could use more walls on the border. E-verify, and seasonal work permits are more important.

December 9, 2017 11:04 pm

The most significant issue relating to this topic is the effect of disruption of food distribution systems.
My understanding is that more people died in WWII from starvation than did from bombs and bullets. This starvation was a direct result of the disruption of the food distribution channels.
Similarly, I understand more Japanese soldiers died from starvation than died in combat; for the same reason.
The world population is more dependent on food redistribution now than they were prior to WWII.
If we are were ever to take the clash of civilizations seriously, the most effective tactic would be to stop shipping food to the ME. The problem would be solved within a month.

Reply to  William
December 9, 2017 11:48 pm

You are right about distribution, but cutting off supplies would just start a war, and extremely quickly. I’d be more concerned about a Carrington event and our own distribution. Most cities would not survive 12 hours without communication and transportation.

Reply to  Jer0me
December 10, 2017 2:44 am

I think it is interesting that Washington, D. C, may be one of the least self-sufficient cities that exists on the planet — unless you count resources gained througn thievery and coercion as providing self-sufficiency, that is. Perhaps the belligerent, braying jackasses should be less belligerent and more appreciative of their ability to survive as burdens to the rest of the nation, don’t you reckon.

Richard Carlson
Reply to  William
December 10, 2017 8:28 am

Starvation was small compared to actual killing civilians in WW2. Food distribution is cheap and easy, farming low productivity land for food self sufficiency is stupid. Unchecked population growth where food production can’t keep up and imports are unaffordable will lead to famines and the ultimate moral dilemma: should we keep bailing them out?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  William
December 10, 2017 10:40 am

And think about what would happen to the world distribution of food if a Carrington Event were to happen any time soon, and all transportation would be crippled for months. We have built a fragile technological society with little resilience to either natural EMPs or produced by a North Korean nuke.

Michael S. Kelly
December 9, 2017 11:09 pm

“Oscar Wilde once quipped that people can’t predict for shit, “especially in advance.” In these increasingly unforeseeable times his words are looking more and more prescient.”

Brad Keyes, 24 November 2016

December 9, 2017 11:13 pm

It is projected that Japan’s population will in fact reduce by forty million within forty years. That trend is in play.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
December 9, 2017 11:45 pm

Why This all Matters [last para of the article]:

Please see an abstract of my article [accepted for publication]:

Role of Pollution & Climate Change in Food & Nutrition Security

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Formerly Chief Technical Advisor – WMO/UN & Expert – FAO/UN
Fellow, Telangana Academy Sciences
Convenor, Forum for a Sustainable Environment
Plot No. 277, Jubilee Hills-Phase-III, Road N. 78, Hyderabad-500 096, Telangana
Tel.: (040) 23550480; E-mail:;

Production and distribution are the two major components for the Food and nutrition security [FNS]. Successful distribution relates to the governance. In the case of production aspects, internationally FNS is linked to climate change by taking Climate change as de-facto global warming. Climate change is a vast subject that varies with space and time in terms of meteorological parameters. Pollution [air, water, soil & food] is the hall mark of development, a major culprit for hindering nutrition security in which water is the main player. Also water is the main player in agriculture. Therefore, understanding of (1) climate change issues, (2) water resources availability issues, (3) pollution menace issues and (4) agriculture production related issues at local and regional levels play the pivotal role in achieving FNS. Under these scenarios, to achieve sustainable FNS in India, governments must put thrust on studies to characterize agro-climate and sustainable water resources availability at local and regional scales. Also, in warm tropical country like India, controlling pollution is more important over Paris agreement on controlling CO2 emissions wherein CO2 is not a pollutant. Present day mono-crop system of agriculture must be replaced by multi-crop system that includes animal husbandry as a component of farming systems. To achieve food security, food production is not sufficient but governments must see the wastage is at a minimum. Governments must implement all facets of FNS Act of 2013 by giving priority to locally produced food items. Governments must discourage producing and distributing to needy the food items that are contaminated by pollution and food items adulterated by greedy wherein they counter the objective of FNS.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
December 10, 2017 1:14 am

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy—” Governments must implement all facets of FNS Act of 2013 by giving priority to locally produced food items.”
The government will just muck it up.
The give away that this is a impractical greenie day dream is giving priority to locally produced foods. That is another in the vast string of eco nutter ideas – we should have food from the most efficient producers, not necessarily local. Transportation is cheap. Fossil fuels are cheap and plentiful and their CO2 emission is harmless to man an nature.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Reply to  jim
December 10, 2017 2:56 am

Sorry friends, you might have not read the FSN Act: In this act on our request the NAC Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, wife of late PM Rajeev Gandhi and daughter-in-law of late PM Indira Gandhi, who was behind preparing this act in consultation with public included “Sorghum, Pear Millet and Ragi” at Rs. 1 per kg; wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and Rice at Rs. 3. It encouraged the state governments to procure locally produced cereals and thereby reducing the wastage in transport and storage — Supreme Court of India reprimanded the government the way it was wasting food at Food Corporation Of India storage outlets and advised supply it freely instead of wasting. The first three cereals are produced dry-land farmers and later two are produced under irrigation and under heavy chemical inputs.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
December 10, 2017 2:34 am

Sorry, but you keep demonstrating that as long as it is doom and climate it is publishable, no matter how wrong, if it is written by an academic.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Reply to  hunter
December 10, 2017 2:57 am

be specific then I can answer your point.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reply to  hunter
December 10, 2017 6:32 am

Dr.S.J. Reddy. I disagree that food production, storage and delivery is India’s problem. Your production increases every year but your population goes up more.

A popular tv show here has an Indian that doesn’t want to go home because “there’s so many people“. When people cling to the sides of trains for a free ride that says a lot.

India’s corrupt government is your real problem. As it is the problem in ALL malnourished countries. (Well that and the fact of how India so reveres cows)

December 9, 2017 11:52 pm

The late Hans Rosling gave a good talk about population growth and how family size is now falling rapidly.

It’s worth noting that on top of bio fuels munching through loads of food stuffs, the world wastes about 50% of the food it produces.

December 10, 2017 12:23 am

What a piece of junk article . Take a bunch of graphs , add a few strawman like desalination in Israel, a few scare stories like cancer in Africa mix them together and pretend it means something. Totally inane.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  ironargonaut
December 10, 2017 2:39 pm

The message that you don’t agree with the author does come across. Other than that, there is little substance to your complaint. One might call it “inane.”

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 12, 2017 12:01 pm

What does cancer in Africa have to do with world hunger? Like I said inane. He pratically admits sorghum is main food source in parts of world but ignores it’s production. Why separate graphs? Why not one? Because then he wouldn’t be able distract with the irrelevant examples.

Reply to  ironargonaut
December 11, 2017 2:33 am

ironargonaut or did I read Ignorant ,
There are none so blind than those who don’t want to see .
David Archibald has gathered these facts together and what he is showing is that many countries do not grow enough basic staple food to feed their populations and these countries are poor and their populations are still increasing at a fast rate .
People from these countries are becoming refugees and are pushing into developed countries around the world but the birth rates in these poor countries are not dropping and the populations are still increasing .
The problem becomes the wealthy nations problems and David Archibald is pointing this out and asking what could happen if the world grain crops failed by a percentage of say 10% to 20% over 3 years .
The world could feed many more people but a grain shock would create havoc in the short term .
If there is a crop failure in the northern hemisphere more land could be planted in the southern countries but there is the question of available machinery ,land ,fertilizer seed and manpower .These projects take time to organize and adequate rainfall plays a big factor .
Skilled harvester and tractor drivers and travel from the north to the south now .We have drivers from Europe driving for 6 months in New Zealand and Australia and they then return to Europe
Our arable farming would struggle without these drivers and farmers would be unable to plant to plant large extra areas without skilled staff .
I have farmed all my life and have grown maize wheat oats barley and soya beans for grain
I currently run a dairy farm and we grow maize for silage ,fodder beet and turnips

Reply to  gwan
December 12, 2017 2:43 pm

Sorry, did you say something? I stopped reading at the ad hominem attack as it means you can’t argue on substance and are unable discuss civily.

December 10, 2017 12:42 am

In the Uk where we rely on substantial amounts of imported food to keep the nation well nourished, things are changing. We have precipitated a sharp increase in food prices due to the daft idea to try and regain past imperial glories by leaving the EU. However, there may be a silver lining. If food imports continue to rise due to the falling value of the pound and increasing trade tariffs, it may be a stimulus to increase domestic food production, something the UK is pretty good at once we put our minds to it.
During WW2 substantial efforts were made with great success to achieve similar results. I’m aware that we live in different times with a much higher population, but we now have better crop varieties, technology and a warming climate which should produce higher levels of crops.
Sometimes living on an island in the Notrh East Atlantic with a generally mild wet climate has its advantages.

Reply to  Gareth
December 10, 2017 1:45 am

If the UK Government keeps its nerve and goes through with a proper Brexit, food prices will likely fall. EU agricultural policies have ensured unnecessarily high food prices in Europe for a generation. Sourcing food from the most efficent places makes the most sense, and that’s not Europe. Nor is it domestic production in most cases. We are on a pretty crowded island and, while we are rich enough to do so, many of us would like to see less land ring-fenced for agriculture and instead released for housing or recreation. We can only do this if we trade with the world freely on food products.

Nigel S
Reply to  mothcatcher
December 10, 2017 2:09 am

Correct, EU’s policies starve people in 3rd world to support inefficient, principally French, EU farmers.

Reply to  Gareth
December 10, 2017 5:18 pm

“We have precipitated a sharp increase in food prices due to the daft idea to try and regain past imperial glories by leaving the EU”

Total Remoaner loser drivel.

John F. Hultquist
December 10, 2017 12:43 am

Mostly, I have high regard for our weather reporters out to 2 days.
Sometimes out to 5 days. Beyond 10 days? No.

With the gloom and doom predictions, change days in the above to years.

Consider peak copper.
Concern about the copper supply is not new. In 1924 geologist and copper-mining expert Ira Joralemon warned:
“… the age of electricity and of copper will be short. At the intense rate of production that must come, the copper supply of the world will last hardly a score of years. … Our civilization based on electrical power will dwindle and die.”

[ ]


Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
December 10, 2017 2:50 pm

John F. Hultquist,
Obviously, Joralemon was a minority opinion. If all the mining companies shared his viewpoint, they wouldn’t have invested in further exploration and development. People can be, and often are, wrong. I would suggest that one should examine the arguments and decide whether the person is worth listening to. These kinds of predictions should always be prefaced with the caveat, “With what we know now, and assuming that there are no revolutions in technology, we can expect the following prediction to be valid:” That is the real value of such predictions. They act as a flag for possibilities, and encourage people to engage in long-range thinking about how to forestall what seems probable at the time the prediction is made. That is why understanding Malthus is important. It encourages society to see the potential problems before they become critical.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
December 11, 2017 11:44 pm

i found in youtube some videos about technical and engineering catastrophes. Collapses of bridges and whole buildings. This is due mainly to not believing in foreseeable catastrophes, and for disregarding to the construction rules. Some problems are predictable. This could be the case of population growth. But miracles are not foreseeable; that is why Malthus was wrong. He was
unable to foresee the miracle of fossil fuels and machines.

lemiere jacques
December 10, 2017 12:59 am

you don’t demonstate how much food can produce a country but importation/production…that s an economical thing….they can’t compete with low prices from high productivity countries .that s all. with money and technology ( and fossil fuel)..some improvments are possibles.

December 10, 2017 1:31 am

Food for thought indeed.
No mention of European indigenous population decline. No mention of Australia’s potential (apart from commentators), no mention of the beneficial effects of enhanced plant food (co2).
Here in Europe Frau Merkel and her acolytes are ‘solving’ the population hiatus with the import of fast breeding guests.
Perhaps these issues could be addressed in a follow up article?
Otherwise an interesting piece.
Thanks David.

December 10, 2017 1:56 am

Posted in 2013:

The scientific understanding of the Sun’s role in climate is imperfect. Many respected scientists say the Sun does not vary enough to be a significant driver of global temperatures. I disagree, although my understanding, and that of the science community as a whole, is less than adequate.

I (we) predicted the commencement of global cooling by 2020-2030 in an article published the Calgary Herald in 2002. That prediction is gaining credibility as solar activity has crashed.

Current Solar Cycle 24 (SC24), predicted as recently as 2006 by NASA to be robust, is a dud, with a projected maximum Smoothed Sunspot Number (SSNmax) of ~65. It is still early in the prediction game, but SC25 is also projected to be very weak, so we will probably experience two consecutive very-weak Solar Cycles in SC24 and SC25.

Here is what we may be able to infer at a macro level about the impact of the Sun on global temperatures:

Very-weak solar activity, as estimated by peak Sunspot Numbers, coincided with two very cold periods called the Maunder Minimum (circa 1700) and the Dalton Minimum (circa 1800).

I have no Sunspot Number data before 1700, but the latter part of the Maunder Minimum had 2 consecutive weak Solar Cycles with SSNmax of 58 in 1705 and 63 in 1717 .

The coldest period of the Maunder was ~1670 to ~1700 (8.48dC year average Central England Temperatures) but the coldest year was 1740 (6.84C year avg CET).

The Dalton Minimum had 2 consecutive weak SC’s with SSNmax of 48 in 1804 and 46 in 1816. Tambora erupted in 1815, one of the two largest volcanic eruptions in the past 2000 years.

Two of the coldest years in the Dalton were 1814 (7.75C year avg CET) and 1816 (7.87C year avg CET). Note the slightly-colder of the two was pre-Tambora.

Now Solar Cycle 24 is a dud with SSNmax estimated at ~65, and very early estimates suggest SC25 will be very low as well – so we probably anticipate two more consecutive very-weak SC’s.

Here is my concern:

IF the Sun does indeed drive temperature, as I suspect, then successive governments in Britain and continental Europe have brewed the perfect storm.

They have crippled their energy systems with excessive reliance on ineffective grid-connected wind power schemes.

I suggest that global cooling probably WILL happen within the next decade or sooner, and Europe will get colder, possibly much colder.

I suggest that Winter deaths will increase in the Europe as cooling progresses.

I suggest that Excess Winter Mortality rates will provide an estimate of this unfolding tragedy.

As always in these matters, I hope to be wrong. These are not numbers, they are real people, who “loved and were loved”.

Best regards to all, Allan MacRae

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
– Yeats

Nigel S
December 10, 2017 3:01 am

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

December 10, 2017 3:04 am

I totally agree with you – we are headed for an Ice Age. We shall have to watch as our windmills ice up and cease to turn and because there is very little sun the solar panels will not produce electricity. We are stuffed. Bring in the wood to burn. Montreal had 5 days of hell when electricity failed and rain turned to ice as it fell some years ago. They burned their furniture to stay alive.

Reply to  Vanessa
December 10, 2017 11:43 am

Hi Vanessa:

To be clear, I am suggesting moderate global cooling like Earth experienced from ~1940 to ~1975, or a bit more severe. I am not suggesting a full Ice Age, but possibly something more like the Little Ice Age.

Still, this cooling could make the growing season in Canada move ~~100km to the south, due to early killing frosts – such as we experienced circa 1960.

Timing is very difficult to predict, but the probability of moderate global cooling starting anytime from ~now to ~2030 seems more and more probable, imo.

I do hope to be wrong, because both humanity and the environment suffer during periods of global cooling.

Best, Allan

December 10, 2017 12:16 pm

you are right. It is a lot better to be wrong on the dooming predictions

Nigel S
December 10, 2017 3:20 am

I think on reflection that Uncle Monty phrases it better.

“The older order changeth, yielding place to new. God fulfils himself in many ways. And soon, I suppose, I shall be swept away by some vulgar little tumour. Oh, my boys, my boys, we’re at the end of an age. We live in a land of weather forecasts and breakfasts that set in. Shat on by Tories, shovelled up by Labour. And here we are, we three, perhaps the last island of beauty in the world.”

Or perhaps Danny the drug dealer.

“If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworth’s, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. ”

We survived the sixties somehow despite missiles etc. we’ll probably come up with a solution to the various challenges that beset us.

Nigel S
December 10, 2017 2:13 am

Wiki, but about right as far as I know.

Genocide scholar Adam Jones claims that “there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died and the Soviet Union moved to adopt a more restrained and largely non-murderous domestic policy.” He notes the exceptions being the Khmer Rouge (in relative terms) and Mao’s rule in China (in absolute terms).

Reply to  Nigel S
December 10, 2017 5:34 pm

Thanks David for the quantitative details on food production vs consumption. That provides clarity on the challenge ahead to continue growing population (and to supply transport fuels and fertilizer.)
On central planning, Stalin committed purposeful genocide against Ukraine by starvation, killing 7,000,000.
Stalin’s Forced Famine 1932-33 7,000,000 Deaths
Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” 1958-1962 caused an estimated 45 million deaths by consequent famine.
Unleash private entrepreneurship with such graphic details of the needs. Beware central planning.

December 10, 2017 2:13 am

Is this a population problem or a farming methods problem? The UK can produce as much wheat per year as Canada because it uses farming methods which promote production more intensely.

Nigel S
Reply to  aelfrith
December 10, 2017 2:45 am

Canada’s wheat exports are 10 times UK’s. But France (thanks to EU’s CAP) produces 40 million tons against Canada’s 27 million and UK’s 15 million. UK does produce 7 million tons of barley too so maybe it’s possible but what are we going to drink, Vichy water?

Har old
Reply to  aelfrith
December 10, 2017 5:20 am

“Is this a population problem or a farming methods problem?”

It’s a problem of government interference

Reply to  aelfrith
December 12, 2017 12:34 am

UK has a climate problem with cereals. Cereals need a dry summer to harvest. This only occurs if you are lucky in the south of England. Not on the rest. UK is good to harvest potatoes and beets, not to harvest wheat oats or rye. Even for maize is a little cold. If the prediction of cooler weather for the next decades is true, they are going to eat a lot of potatoes and cabbages

December 10, 2017 2:21 am

Thank you for a thoughtful essay.
My question would be how is this any different from the many many Malthusian failed prophecies of the past?

December 10, 2017 2:57 am

If you believe that “global warming” is a scam and we are headed for an Ice Age then the food will become even more of an issue. Crops of wheat etc. die in the cold and are unable to produce their “food”. Cattle feed will diminish etc. The world could be heading for a dramatic reduction in population and wars over food will “help”.

December 10, 2017 3:08 am

I think that “seven billion people” is quite likely as big a lie as global warming. Made up by the same people and for the same reasons. There has never been a global census. No one has ever tried to count the actual numbers in the third world. (The place ,I am told all those extra people are hiding.) I do know that the population in all of the “first world” (the only place they actually count heads) has declined for more than fifty years. So why should I give credibility to proven data fabricators? People who have been proven to lie time and again for political and monetary gain? This , like so much else, smack’s of panic mongering.

Nigel S
Reply to  Ray
December 10, 2017 3:33 am

Not sure the developed world’s population had been declining since 1960s (‘more than fifty years’). Europe is likely to be the first region in history to see long-term population decline largely as a result of low fertility in Eastern Europe and Russia. Europe’s population is projected to decrease from 740 million to 732 million by 2050. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, continued growth from higher births or continued immigration, or both, are expected, although these countries have not been immune to lower birth rates due to the recession. In the United States, for example, the TFR was 1.9 births per woman in 2010.

From Population Reference Bureau but maybe they’re making up the numbers. It feels right though.

Reply to  Ray
December 10, 2017 10:19 am

Ray .You sound like an ostrich Head in the sand .

December 10, 2017 3:10 am

Why do you have to poison an otherwise entertaining Malthusian fantasy with injections of tribalist propaganda, David?

► “Iranian agents have murdered Jews at gatherings as far afield as Buenos Aries.

Israeli agents have murdered Arabs as far afields as Dubai, using Australian passports for cover, but you nbever complained:
They’ve also murdered Iranians, and you never complained:

► “More recently Iranian proxy forces have been lobbing ballistic missiles from Yemen at Saudi population centres. If they upset enough people, eventually the rest of the world will stop feeding them.”comment image
(“Haifa, a seven-year-old victim of Yemen’s famine, weighs just 11 pounds.” CBS.)

* * * * *
“If they upset enough people, eventually the rest of the world will stop feeding them. This is an option going forward.” – David Archibald
* * * * *

2 days ago
“Trump asks Saudi Arabia to allow immediate aid to Yemen” – Reuters

Reply to  Khwarizmi
December 10, 2017 7:27 am

Your “proof” is Wikipedia?

The so-called “Palestinians” (i.e. mostly Jordanians that Jordan doesn’t want) voted Hamas as their government. ‘Nuff said.

Iran’s constitution calls for the total destruction of Israel. ‘Nuff said about that too.

Yemen is run by communist thugs. All communist country’s populations are starving to some degree. Though I do agree Saudi Arabia is at least partly at fault. if Yemen were a democracy their problems would go away.

Reply to  F. Leghorn
December 10, 2017 5:25 pm

“Iran’s constitution calls for the total destruction of Israel. ‘Nuff said about that too.”

Plus the destruction of the Great and Little Satans – the US and the UK.

Reply to  catweazle666
December 10, 2017 6:11 pm

No no no. You don’t get to be satan too. Not even little teeny weeny satan.

Reply to  Khwarizmi
December 10, 2017 5:23 pm

““Iranian agents have murdered Jews at gatherings as far afield as Buenos Aries.”

Which is indeed true, as is

““More recently Iranian proxy forces have been lobbing ballistic missiles from Yemen at Saudi population centres.”

Hector Pascal
December 10, 2017 4:20 am

“Japan spends only 1% of its GDP on defence but 6% on make-work schemes in the countryside such as concreting river beds.”

Where I live in Japan the local authority has spent three years digging out the foundations of the railway bridges, wiring them with mesh and backfilling with tetrapods and cobbles. This is to prevent the foundations being undercut by floods. And to prevent accidents and deaths

In my town we average 9 metres of snow every winter. I live opposite the station. Here the footpaths are heated by groundwater to stop the snow turning to hardpack. It works. The road authority is extending the expressway system through my town right now. As of today. This message is coming to from the deeply unfashionable north of Tohoku to you via fibre optic cable connected directly to my home courtesy of NTT

David Archibold, you are an ignorant twat. Here the money gets spent on infrastructre, not diversity consultants.

December 10, 2017 4:34 am

Once more: Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats.

December 10, 2017 4:47 am

More appropriate … Hans Rosling on population growth …

December 10, 2017 4:50 am

We’ve grown up in an unprecedented period of global warmth and adequate energy production to drive the incredible advances in knowledge, medicine, food production, transportation, infrastructure and the high tech marvels folks carry around in their pockets. Yet our governments are collectively pursuing a path that will simply eliminate our ability to perform the simple task of feeding their populations. What is missed in the population projections is the dramatic, one might say devastating, effect of minor changes in the climate caused not by warming but by cooling not to mention the impact of diverting resources to “renewables”.

Even the AGW crowd acknowledges we’re living at the end of one of the Pleistocene epochs interglacial periods of the Quaternary Ice Age (the Holocene) which explains their attempts to change the science by creating a fiction of a human caused warm period. There is nothing that will stop the cold from returning. It’s just a matter of when. The climate is, in fact, changing and in a way that will make food production very difficult or impossible in many regions. A critical production shortage of fertilizer can dramatically reduct food production if renewables, carbon taxes, etc., continue apace.

But cold is the killer. Reports of crops failing due to cold are increasing (example: France’s grapes). Even if one brushes off solar cycles and glaciation timelines, we have thousands of volcanoes that are active and planet tectonics that can create a Tambora or a Krakatoa event every century or so meaning we’re overdue. The volcanic winters that ensued from those events created The Year Without a Summer (aka Year of Poverty) along with chaotic climate patterns for years. One can easily project reduction in food production by 20% in one year followed by 10% reductions in the following years. Even if one simply wishes away the devastating impacts “green” energy, plants simply won’t produce without warmth and, for sure, humans will never be able to warm the planet enough to maintain “normal” growing seasons.

Simply put, when the next volcanic winter occurs, nations that have food surpluses today will struggle to feed their own populations. Those that are in deficit today will simple starve with their populations undertaking migrations that are nothing compared to what’s happening currently in the EU. The buffer described in this article is simply not sufficient to carry the world over these events. The Year Without Summer created a doubling of the death rates in a world where most nations were self-sufficient in food production.

Regardless of what happens to the world population, even if every nation becomes self-sufficient in food production, we would need a much larger buffer than what we have today to carry us over any one of these events. One can only imagine what the numbers would be if we had more than one such event occur back to back. Only an extinction level asteroid strike would be more devastating to the human race.

The Original Mike M
December 10, 2017 5:13 am

The “solution” to a food shortage is simple, put democrats in control. Look what it did for Detroit? Fewer people to feed and the ones still there are growing their own food!
comment image

Reply to  The Original Mike M
December 10, 2017 6:23 am

Do you have to completely destroy the economy and have one of the highest crime rates first?

Reply to  Latitude
December 10, 2017 7:23 am

It isn’t mandatory, but it helps.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Latitude
December 11, 2017 6:13 am

“Do you have to completely destroy the economy and have one of the highest crime rates first?” Yes, a dead polar bear told me that both help lower our carbon footprint. (and dead polar bears don’t lie).

December 10, 2017 5:52 am

There is always something foolish about saying “Don’t worry, technology will solve our problems,” but I still find it hard to believe there is any great wisdom in Malthus or Limits to Growth. We are not insects or bacteria. Back to a limited number of food sources, no way to increase production per acre dramatically, using a lot of energy just to get daily nutrition? I doubt it. The study on South Africa and corn is from 2005; a 2015 study says it comes down to micro-nutrients, which I gather may be a manageable issue. If you google South Africa cancer corn, you get the scare stories about RoundUp; I believe those stories have been discredited. Selective breeding allowed for tremendous increases in food production, going back (I guess) to the earliest days of agriculture. GMOs, even if there are steps backward, should give us more ability to produce food in the way we want, in amounts we need.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  lloydr56
December 10, 2017 3:00 pm

You said, “I still find it hard to believe there is any great wisdom in Malthus or Limits to Growth. We are not insects or bacteria.” After being an observer of humans for several decades, I have come to the conclusion that most people have great difficulty looking further into the future than the period of time that a weather forecast is reliable. That is, we are a little better than simple life-forms, but not by much. It is the rare person who has foresight and wisdom. That is why wisdom is so revered; it is so rare.

December 10, 2017 6:03 am

About half of perfectly edible and nutritious food is currently thrown away. Many groceries won’t carry anything but the most beautiful produce, and the rest is put in landfills. Consumers throw out food because they don’t understand what a “sell by” or “best by” date means. Additional food is lost to poor storage or transportation issues.

If we could solve these problems (the first two of which are quite simple), we could solve a lot of hunger.

But the notion of “eliminating world poverty” is faulty, because “poverty” will always be defined as the lowest x%. That is, what counts as poverty today might have been considered luxurious just a couple hundred years ago!

Nigel S
Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 6:41 am

Yes, my son was part of a presentation about this at a work conference, he had the role of ‘ugly carrot’ with an excellent improvised costume.

Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 7:15 am

renbutler wrote, “About half of perfectly edible and nutritious food is currently thrown away.”

The NRDC says, “Up to 40 percent of the food in the United States is never eaten.”

The NYT says, “The report estimates that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed … ”

Reply to  rovingbroker
December 10, 2017 7:31 am

Food waste in the US is in part due to the school lunch program feeding kids what they will not eat and due to lawsuits over food contamination. Detection of the tiniest amounts of ecoli or listeria result in millions of tons of waste yearly. Millions of eggs were destroyed due to “possible” salmonella contamination, chickens killed due to bird flu, etc. It seems unlikely that anything we citizens toss out due to spoilage comes even close to those two sources of waste. I am tired of being told the black, moldly banana I tossed out constitutes a crime against nature while the schools and lawyers waste 1000’s of times that amount daily.

(I realize food safety is necessary, but when there can be ZERO amount of many substances in the food, there is no way to avoid massive waste. It’s the precautionary principle—the one warmists love—in action. If we use it for climate, we use it for food. Learn to love it.)

Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 12:07 pm

I couldn’t find the original reference, but this is close to what was written:

Fully one-third of the world’s population lives in poverty. And thus it has always been so.

From a fellow named Forrester – in 1644!

Reply to  R2Dtoo
December 10, 2017 12:21 pm

at the time of this Forrester, hunger was more widespread than it is now.

Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 12:19 pm

That’s right. Hunger is not widespread, and I hope would not be in the next 100 years. These are my best wishes. Reality can tell us other news in the future.

Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 2:07 pm

And your point is? The article was just another bit of agitrop for AGW. What do you suggest? Bring every American down to Ethiopian levels of food production? The US produces 15-18% of the world’s food, and we use far fewer acreage to produce it.

Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 8:52 pm

I recently resigned after 16 years from the volunteer Board of Directors of the largest homeless shelter in North America. We sleep up to 1300 souls per night, and serve about 1.5 million free meals per year.

The big food stores send us their stale-dated food via the Food Bank, and we serve it through our team of volunteers and a very few professional kitchen staff, who provide direction and ensure food safety.

It works, and helps to cut down on food cost and waste..

December 10, 2017 6:30 am

If you extend or project the rate of change of the world population increase using the current rate of change as it has been recorded so far; it seems that the population will flat line this century at around 10 billion. The number may be even smaller and sooner than projected here. Currently population rate of increase is declining at about .02% per year; and absolute world population may go negative by 2075.

Perhaps our water, crops and natural resources are not in jeopardy after all.

Reply to  Dipchip
December 10, 2017 2:09 pm

I’ve followed this subject for over a decade. The “experts” are all over-estimated global population growth. We are much closer to “peak” population than they predict. We’re within 2-3 decades of max population (probably 9.5 billion). But, after the peak, if trends continue, the fall in population will be dramatic.

December 10, 2017 7:45 am

One thing I have managed to learn in my rather longish life is, if you are worrying about something that has not yet happened, you are worried about the wrong thing. While on a trip in my early twenties, I began hearing an ominous clunking from the rear of my Plymouth Valiant. I had no idea what it was. I spent the next half-hour or so listening to it. Was it getting worse? Louder? More frequent? Then I found myself coasting to a stop. I was out of gas. The noise was from a failing rear-differential, which lasted long enough to get home and take to a shop.

There are many possible armageddon-type events that if any one came true, would preclude others from having any consequences. Worrying about any specific one is futile.

I doubt if anyone could give comparative odds on which of these is more likely to happen: nuclear war; asteroid/comet impact; drug-resistant deadly viral epidemic; colder climate; mega-volcano; Carrington event; anomalous solar change; famine/overpopulation; exhaustion of fossil fuels; accidental (e.g., ‘we thought dumping tons of xyz into the oceans would improve the climate’). Those are just the ones that immediately came to mind. There are many other, less likely?, events that could cause extinction or near extinction, like an invasion by LGM, or an ‘expiration’ date on some critical natural constant holding the universe together.

I have looked at the results of this year’s crops and the forecasts for next year. They are more than sufficient for the human population. Next year, look at the numbers again. Until you see an indication of an insufficiency, worry about something else. Or better yet, enjoy what you have today.

Reply to  Jtom
December 10, 2017 8:00 am

“One thing I have managed to learn in my rather longish life is, if you are worrying about something that has not yet happened, you are worried about the wrong thing.”

I don’t care for that. You should always be looking ahead to what’s likely or inevitable, and planning accordingly. Waiting until something bad happens is too late. For example, I’ve been planning 20 years for a retirement that’s another 20 years away, because I already know I’ll have a finite amount of money.

That said, it’s also useful to sort through the predictions that are believable, and sort out the ones that are clearly horse crap (such as climate alarmism).

Reply to  renbutler
December 10, 2017 8:49 pm

Mankind will inevitably end. Which scenario are you worrying about and planning for?

I had a friend who worried about his retirement, too. He never married, never took a vacation, he never even bought a car. In the summer, he would stay late at the office and fix his dinner in the breakroom to avoid turning on the AC at home. He saved a great deal of his salary (which was very good). He died of cancer at age 35. True story.

I saved money, too, though not obsessively, and, importantly, not specifically for retirement. I never pretended to know what the money would be used for (some money is in ‘retirement accounts’ because of tax benefits). I never worried about any future event. I’m all for keeping a supply of food on hand, too, but don’t see any scenario that would leave my area suffering a food shortage. Being generically prepared for unexpected events is fine.

Do you have your retirement money in a locked-down account that can only be used for retirement? If so, I would say you are very foolish. You do not know what you will need tomorrow. If you worry about a specific event in the future, you are most likely worried about the wrong thing.

We do not have a food shortage. There is no expectation of a food shortage after next year’s crops. The population growth rate, at the moment, is not exceeding increases in food production. Until something changes, there is no need for action. Food shortages created by population growth would be gradual, allowing for corrective action. Everyone will know of the problem because the price of food will start rising. This would result in more land being cultivated (if capitalism is still legal), buying Man more time, and we can worry about reducing population growth. That worry would not be at the top of my ‘worry list’ even if I had one.

December 10, 2017 8:34 am

I get so tired of hearing Malthusians predict doom based on extrapolations using last year’s technology.

Vertical farming powered by cheap molten salt nuclear power will provide as much grain, fruit, vegetables as humans will need for any size population ever. This is not even far in the future, it’s becoming reality now.

Vat meat is probably still a few generations away from being better than free range, but it will get there. And when it does it will be cheaper and scalable.

December 10, 2017 8:47 am

Another malthusian rant, i wonder why it appears on WUWT.
Food is just a commodity, and most nation in the world cannot feed themselves. So what?
Actually nations do not feed themself, people do, and by this metric >97% of western people depend on others for growing their food. Without any trouble.

BTW, do you have any idea of the world food reserve? Last time I checked, it was about a month. If some global disaster stopped food production, some humans would starving on day one, most of them would start in a month, and only a few lucky (and skillful enough to fend off raiders) wouldn’t worry that much.
Nations usually have strategic reserves of oil, I don’t know any of them having strategic reserves of food.

Reply to  paqyfelyc
December 10, 2017 11:41 am

If we drop a couple of degrees in temperature as Archibald believes we will, we will have to move a lot of food around to keep people fed. This will put the squeeze on nations not on good terms with nations that can supply it. Those rogue nations will cause trouble unless they mend their fences.

Reply to  pochas94
December 10, 2017 12:30 pm

yes. That is right. The last I had read was about the fall of Rome because of climate cooling.

Reply to  paqyfelyc
December 10, 2017 12:24 pm

Yeah. You are right. Watch this video,

Gary Pearse
December 10, 2017 9:18 am

David, you are good at the stuff you know. But this is something else, no different than the starvation and drastic depopulation we were supposed to have before 2000. Population has already slowed and we are 80% of peak population right now. Malthusians use the same type of linear bean counting that you have and it not only doesn’t treat human ingenuity enough as a factor but it extrapolates gross population growth on forever – unless it bumps into the disaster this naive type of thinking always foresees. Take a look at your graphs and chop off the last 20 years and you will have an even scarier “future”.

At least Malthus and the Club of Rome didn’t have the data that you have, making your analysis much inferior to theirs. Your climate stuff recognizes the folly of bean counting trends but your foray into demographics and “sustainability” is just as bad. We have a magnificent greening of the planet underway. The chances of a Garden of Eden earth with a stable more prosperous population by the middle to latter part of this century is much more likely than the Armageddon proposed by CO2 worriers. The Sahel (and into the Sahara), Outback, and US southwest will be cropping grains. I wish I could bet, but I wouldn’t be here to collect, having already lived through 7 decades and sampled two more (I aint giving up though, still working with projects in Canada, DR Congo and soon to be South America (won’t identify the country just yet). I’ve also been collecting snippets for a book basically saying stop being afraid!

December 10, 2017 11:30 am

Whats Up With That seems to be getting too friendly with the human haters of the world that led to the current crop of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.
Lovely arguments… The price of crops is at an all time low due to over production. Followed later by… No further gains in yield have happened since 2000. Well, think about that for a moment. Why would you spend massive amounts of money increasing yields when prices are at historical lows and return on investment would likely be negative? You would not.

December 10, 2017 1:20 pm

Excellent article, with nice graphs. I expect that the validity of the data presented will be scrutinized by the more academically gifted readers and flagged if not up to snuff. I’ll restrict my critique to the disputed/unproven/dubious (and irrelevant) assertion that Iran has launched missile attacks against Saudi Arabia. Happily, it didn’t keep me from reading the rest of this gripping forecast.

I would only add that this forecast is actually quite optimistic if we consider the possible/likely disruption of food distribution mechanisms either as a consequence of natural catastrophes, or through the social unrest caused by increasing food shortages locally. To keep this growing world population alive, we need not only the food to feed it, but also the transport infrastructure to move it from producer to consumer.

December 10, 2017 1:34 pm

Hope David Archibald forgot a big /sarc to conclude all that Malthusian drivel.
Otherwise, his credibility would be down the toilet.

December 10, 2017 2:01 pm

This is a good article. But, there I do have some disagreements concerning global population trends. Almost the entire developed world has either flat population growth, or is losing population. In the US, for instance, the indigenous population (non-immigrant) barely continues to grow. But, it is rapidly aging. Ditto for Canada. Mexico’s population growth is steadily decelerating, as its Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has fallen from 6.0 in 1970 to 2.35 in 2015. Mexico, if trends continue, will see its TFR fall below replacement levels (2.1 live births per female) in the next few years. This trend is the same in Central and most of South America. Brazil now has TFRs at or below replacement levels.

We all know about Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, Greece, Russia, and Korea. They are all losing population. Add the rest of Europe to that club. In North Africa, almost every nation has seen its TFR plunge from highs in the late 60s or early 70s (6.0 to 6.5 to 2.3 or lower). Iran has a disastrous fertility rate, as does much of Turkey. Only Iraq and Yemen enjoy fertility rates above replacement levels. Both Yemen and Afghanistan have very high TFRs (greater than 3.0), but their mortality rates are high, which keep their populations eternally young.

The same can be said for most of Africa. Most nations have high TFRs, but wars and AIDS keep their populations young (Median Age 17-23).

What David Archibald doesn’t mention is demographic momentum. Once a society has conquered infant mortality, and enjoys high TFRs at least initially, the momentum of its population growth is felt for 2-3 generations. However, the reverse is true. Once a nation falls significantly below replacement population levels, and maintains that negative trend, it takes much longer to recover.

In the US our population continues to grow due to immigration and longer life spans. However, the real metric to look at is our median age. In 1972, our median age was 26. That is, half the population was younger than 26. Today, our median age is over 37. However, using Germany as a model, it will begin to tick upward with more momentum, as there will be fewer and fewer young people entering the population. In 2000, the median age in Germany was 41. Today it is 50.

Reply to  JP
December 10, 2017 2:02 pm

The global population will peak between 2040 and 2050 , before it begins to fall.

Roland Hirsch
Reply to  JP
December 10, 2017 3:36 pm

Agreed. Plus, it will be aging long before that. China will reach the cliff by 2030; right now the 14 to 19 year old population is about 70 million, while the 24 to 29 year old population is 120 million. A dozen years from now the demand for housing, autos, computers, and other items will be about 60% of what it is today. And demand for food will go down as the largest generation moves into the 60s and eats less while the ones who eat the most (~15 to 30 year old) are a far smaller generation.

December 10, 2017 2:37 pm

Large scale shipping should have gone nuclear long ago, same for electricity production. That shipping guy is a fantasist with a thing for Clipper ships.
Let’s see: you need 4 times the tonnage as sailboats are about one quarter the speed – extra resources to build them. The masts and sails will be awesome – remind me again how you make carbon fiber and epoxy resin and plastic including more kevlar and carbon for the sails and how long do they last? What are you going to power the electronics and crew quarters with? You might need more crew as well.
With all that what do you think shipping costs will be? Don’t invest in any shipping business that guy works for.
Twice the number of lightning strikes over shipping lanes – wow! I can think of other things to get concerned about. Yes, we have an impact. So did blue green algae.
War never seems to have had much effect on population, it bounces back. Natural disasters OTOH do (Black Death, volcanic eruptions changing climate for some years, asteroid/comet strikes the same.) and the best defence is having the highest tech you can.
My little scenario is we get a couple of years warning of a large asteroid strike and need fast large spaceships to prevent serious disruption maybe even extinction of life on this planet. So we get to build ground launched Orion. I can hear the Greenies howling already.

December 10, 2017 3:35 pm

From the head post:

“The Limits To Growth isn’t discredited, just a couple of generations too early. ”

Funny … that’s just how Paul Ehrlich has excused all of his failed doomsday predictions. And now we have David Archibald, another neo-malthusian, making the same claim. Yes, they wail, things are fine now, but just you wait! Population growth will outstrip food production and human ingenuity and we’re all DOOMED, DOOMED I tell you …

David, here’s an interesting fact for you. There is enough unused rainfed cropland in Sudan alone to feed all of Africa. All of it. Sitting idle. See the GAEZ for confirmation.

Here’s another interesting fact. Since about 1995, when it peaked at about 190 g/person/day, per capita world wheat consumption has actually dropped. You can only eat so much pasta …

This points out the usual Malthusian fallacy so well put forward by Mr. Archibald, which is that we can simply extend a trend line into the future. If you extend the trend line for per capita wheat consumption of a poor country, it’s easy to see looming catastrophe … but that hasn’t happened. The consumption has not continued to increase. Once a country is wealthy enough to eat on the order of 150 g/day/capita, the growth in wheat consumption stops. That data is available here from the FAO.

In short, I fear that this is just another failed attempt to re-run Mr. Malthus. Malthus claimed that it was mathematically demonstrable that humans would starve. He based this on the claim that while population increases geometrically, food supply only increases linearly … nice try. Paul Ehrlich trod the same path, repeatedly pronouncing that food riots were just around the corner … nice try. Now it’s David Archibald stepping up to the plate to repeat the tired platitudes …

… nice try …


Tom Halla
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2017 3:46 pm

I agree. Robert Heinlein, in an article, “Where to”, written in the late 1940’s, cautioned against taking a tangent off the current curve. If there was a cycle in the past, or a asymptotic curve, presume that will occur in the future.
That sort of misuse of growth rates ignores history, but makes for good scary scenarios.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2017 4:39 pm

One of the reasons I write articles is to get lefties to froth at the mouth. Another is to get feedback from the wide world to make my own stuff better. So I went to GAEZ site. It says 75% of the soils of the Sudan is arenosols. Arenosols are “sandy-textured soils that lack any significant soil profile development. They exhibit only a partially formed surface horizon (uppermost layer) that is low in humus, and they are bereft of subsurface clay accumulation.” That doesn’t sound promising. Next thing is to look at the rainfall map. Only a small part of the Sudan gets more than 20 inches/year. And that bit is hard up against the border with South Sudan where all the fighting is. The chance of the Sudan feeding anybody is negligible. At the moment they produce about 0.5 mtpa and import 2.6 mpta of wheat, up from 0.2 million tonnes in 1992. It seems the Sudan is still testing its upper limit of wheat consumption – it is still only 80 kg/capita per annum. But they don’t want to, or can’t, grow it in the country. Population growth is 3.1% per annum so doubling time is 23.2 years. So in 2040, unless there is a big change in Sudanese culture or something, there will be another 40 million Sudanese requiring at least 15 million tonnes/year of imported grain. Willis, you are a discredited element when it comes to population and food security issues.

Reply to  archibaldperth
December 10, 2017 6:13 pm

You know, I was going to go to the GAEZ website and show you the exact data that you are dancing around … until I got to your last sentence. Turning a scientific attack into a personal attack of that type is the action of a man devoid of honor.

Pass … It’s in the GAEZ data, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a clue from their report:

Potential for expansion of cultivated land
Despite the fact that currently reported cultivated land in official statistics is likely to
underestimate actual use by some 10% to 20% in several developing countries, the
results indicate that there is still a significant potential for
expansion of cultivated land in Africa and South and Central
America (see Figure 6a). More than 70% of additional
cultivable (very suitable, suitable, and moderately suitable)
land is located in these two regions, and about half of this
land is concentrated in just seven countries—Angola,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Argentina, Bolivia,
Brazil, and Colombia.


Reply to  archibaldperth
December 11, 2017 2:02 am

You make a global prediction and defend it by pointing to one area that is a known basket case.
And when it is pointed out that your prediction is a repeat of the Malthus delusion you just ignore the requests to clarify your prediction.
That does not seem very effective.

Reply to  archibaldperth
December 11, 2017 2:22 am

Well, I guess David Archibald isn’t going to go and examine the GAEZ data, it might not fit his preconceptions, so here are the figures for Sudan. I’d said the unused cultivable land in the Sudan was enough to feed all of Africa.

GAEZ divides the agro-ecological zones by their suitability for rainfed agriculture into very suitable, suitable, marginally suitable, and minimally suitable. And yes, David, they DO take soil type and quality into account … along with rainfall patterns, ground slope, and other relevant factors.

For Sudan, the values for unutilized areas of the four types suitable for farmland are:

Potential rainfed area: 89,285,000 hectares
Potential rainfed area currently forested: 367,000 hectares
Potential irrigated area: 92,758,000 hectares
Potential irrigated area currently forested: 710,000 hectares
Total Potential Cropland in Sudan: 182,777,000 hectares
Total Potential Cropland in Sudan excluding forested: 181,700,000 hectares

By contrast, there are about 198,000,000 hectares currently under cultivation in all of Africa … using ancient, inefficient farming and crop storage techniques that leave their fields producing only a fraction of what is possible.

Not only that, but there are a total of 592,000,000 hectares of unused cropland in Africa, about three times the amount of cropland being used. See Table 34 linked below for details.

The answer is yes, David, there IS enough unused cropland that is suitable for agriculture in the Sudan to feed all of Africa. In addition, there is enough unused cropland in Africa for it to be the breadbasket for much of the world … if it wasn’t riddled by corruption, beset by tribalism, plagued by war, mired in lack of education, and rent by divisions. Those are the problems, not the availability of land for farming.

So you can take your accusation that I am “a discredited element when it comes to population and food security issues” and gently place it where the solar constant is zero W/m2 … the data comes from IIASA and FAO whether I’m the janitor or the chief statistician, and the data speaks for itself.

GAEZ data is here, data tables are here, see Table 34 for data by region.


Roland Hirsch
December 10, 2017 3:52 pm

I support Willis’ comment. Africa’s population is roughly one quarter that of China + India + U.S.A. + Western Europe. But its land area equals that of all four combined. And while there is the Sahara desert and some other arid places in the south, China has a large desert area, as does the U.S., and even parts of Europe (Spain, southern Italy, …).

A good article is “The Return of Nature”, by Jesse H. Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University. See: The author explains how annual yields of key crops have risen in the U.S., while the amount of land used has decreased, thanks to many improvements in all aspects of farming. And the amount of land returned to nature (i.e., no longer farmed, but returned to natural forests) is in the 100s of millions of acres. The whole article is worth reading. Ausubel’s home page is :

December 11, 2017 2:01 am

Great post! I have also had an episode exploring an “EROI” energy return on investment for food and agricultural systems, lots of graphs and Sankey diagrams here:

December 11, 2017 2:21 am

It is too bad that articles like this are never required to explain why the many similar failed predictions if the oast are somehow different than the one promoted in the new article.

December 11, 2017 3:16 am

It seems to me quite selfish to reduce the number of living persons according to a certain philosophy. Even poor people may experience and enjoy life.

Amartya Sen got the Nobel Price because he found out that there is no hunger in real democracies. As long as people are allowed to move freely and to care for themselves, they will survive.

December 11, 2017 11:24 am

“The world’s population growth will at some stage hit a resource constraint with dire consequences. ”

That is a statement of faith, not fact.

December 11, 2017 12:54 pm

I find it funny that those who make dire predictions that never come true gain traction while those who make reasonable predictions that do come true are ignored.

Julian Simon destroyed the population bomb myth back in the early 80s yet people still listen to Ehrlich and his minions for some reason. Likely because ‘On my gawd, we have to SAVE THE WORLD!’ is more emotionally satisfying than ‘Eh, things will be fine, don’t worry about it’.