Whither global food shortage predictions?

By E. Calvin Beisner
Originally Published in the Washington Times

Less than two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which wants us to trust its prognostications about conditions a century from now enough to bet trillions on them, warned that global warming threatened global food supplies.

But last week The New Indian Express reported, “International food prices dipped by 19 percent in the last year, the fourth consecutive annual fall .”

Stop and think about that for a moment.

In 2014 the IPCC’s Working Group II warned that global warming threatened food supplies. Less than two years later, global news was of a glut of food supplies sufficient to suppress prices by a fifth.

And food prices have been falling for four years — two years before the panel’s warning.

Can the IPCC claim its warnings were about the distant future, so what has happened in the two years since is irrelevant?

No — not gauging from the reactions of numerous prominent climate professionals:
“The important nuance [in the 2014 warning],” reported CBS, “is how climate change is interacting and exacerbating problems people face today, says Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University climate scientist .”

“It’s not far-off in the future and it’s not exotic creatures — it’s us and now,” CBS quoted Penn State paleoclimatologist Michael Mann, primary author of the debunked “hockey stick” graph that purported to eliminate evidence of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age, commenting on the 2014 report.

The Guardian reported, “Climate change has already cut into the global food supply according to a report from the U.N.’s climate science panel.”

“It’s about people now,” said Virginia Burkett, the chief scientist for global change at the U.S. Geological Survey and one of the report’s authors. “It’s more relevant to the man on the street. It’s more relevant to communities because the impacts are directly affecting people — not just butterflies and sea ice.”

“The impacts are already evident in many places in the world. It is not something that is [only] going to happen in the future,” said David Lobell, a professor at Stanford University’s Center for Food Security and the Environment, who devised the models [behind the IPCC report].

“Almost everywhere you see the warming effects have a negative affect [sic] on wheat and there is a similar story for corn as well. These are not yet enormous effects but they show clearly that the trends are big enough to be important,” Mr. Lobell said.

Six months later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a synthesis report reiterating the same message. Justin Gillis (with whom I have a little personal experience) reported on it for The New York Times:

“The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger the global situation is becoming more acute . Failure to reduce [carbon-dioxide] emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages .

“The report contained the group’s most explicit warning yet about the food supply, saying that climate change had already become a small drag on overall global production, and could become a far larger one if emissions continued unchecked.

“Under the worst-case scenarios, factors like high food prices and intensified weather disasters would most likely leave poor people worse off. In fact, the report said, that has already happened to a degree.”

But Bloomberg reported on Jan. 10 that “Stockpiles of corn and soybeans in the U.S., the world’s largest grower, probably were the biggest ever on Dec. 1, and wheat inventories were the highest in five years .”

Well, maybe that’s just in the United States — an anomaly? No. American stockpile growth was driven partly by a strong dollar but also by “rising production by other suppliers.”

Instead of declining, as the IPCC’s reports led us to expect, world grain (which provides 65 percent of human caloric intake) production rose by 10 percent from the 2008-09 harvest year to the 2014-15 harvest year.

This is no big surprise to those who note that, contrary to the IPCC’s computer climate models’ predictions, satellite global temperature data (the most reliable we have) show no global warming for at least the 18 years and eight months — from May 1997 through December 2015.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop the war on fossil fuels, the developing world’s best source of the abundant, affordable, reliable energy essential to rising and staying out of poverty.

E. Calvin Beisner is founder and national spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

“Almost everywhere you see the warming effects have a negative affect [sic] on wheat and there is a similar story for corn as well. These are not yet enormous effects but they show clearly that the trends are big enough to be important,” Mr. Lobell said.

Six months later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a synthesis report reiterating the same message. Justin Gillis (with whom I have a little personal experience) reported on it for The New York Times:

“The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger the global situation is becoming more acute . Failure to reduce [carbon-dioxide] emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages .

“The report contained the group’s most explicit warning yet about the food supply, saying that climate change had already become a small drag on overall global production, and could become a far larger one if emissions continued unchecked.

“Under the worst-case scenarios, factors like high food prices and intensified weather disasters would most likely leave poor people worse off. In fact, the report said, that has already happened to a degree.”

But Bloomberg reported on Jan. 10 that “Stockpiles of corn and soybeans in the U.S., the world’s largest grower, probably were the biggest ever on Dec. 1, and wheat inventories were the highest in five years .”

Well, maybe that’s just in the United States — an anomaly? No. American stockpile growth was driven partly by a strong dollar but also by “rising production by other suppliers.”

Instead of declining, as the IPCC’s reports led us to expect, world grain (which provides 65 percent of human caloric intake) production rose by 10 percent from the 2008-09 harvest year to the 2014-15 harvest year.

This is no big surprise to those who note that, contrary to the IPCC’s computer climate models’ predictions, satellite global temperature data (the most reliable we have) show no global warming for at least the 18 years and eight months — from May 1997 through December 2015.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop the war on fossil fuels, the developing world’s best source of the abundant, affordable, reliable energy essential to rising and staying out of poverty.

E. Calvin Beisner is founder and national spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

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