Tag Archives: drought

graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard

“Whistling past the graveyard” is an old expression used to exemplify willful ignorance; more specifically, trying to remain cheerful in the presence of a known threat. It’s use here applies to those in denial about the risks of global warming and the concomitant changes in climate.

a natural whistler

a natural whistler

Denial ranges from simple willful ignorance up to and including malicious lying about both the current reality and future risks. The simplest denial is to not participate in society by not being informed about important issues which affect us all. Another level is those who try their best to find a justification for their denial. Websites abound for those folks. There are numerous sites designed to appear to be promoting free enterprise or unfettered capitalism but are actually front groups.

Those promoting active denial are essentially all guided by the fossil fuel industry. The Heartland Institute has created a school curriculum that employs numerous half truths to promote the notion that there is a real scientific controversy.

Frank Luntz has advised members of the Republican Party that denial should take the form of
pointing repeatedly to a lack of scientific certainty. In reality there is very little uncertainty and essentially no controversy. Denial ranges from sublime to the ridiculous, for example witness Senator Inhofe’s snowball show on the senate floor recently. He brought a snowball into the senate chamber to make that point that it was cold outside, hence global warming is a hoax.

The absolutely worst form of denial is that which comes through taxpayer funding. The Miami Herald recently reported that the Florida State “ DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports. This is according to “former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.”

Of course Governor Scott of Florida denies any such order. He was noncommittal when asked if the DEP plans for or even believes in global warming. He also refused to say whether he personally believes global warming is a problem.

In 2012, the Republican dominated legislature in North Carolina passed a law to the effect that state scientists could only use data from the year 1900 forward to project sea level rise and then only extrapolate out linearly. The scientists have been denied the use of the best data and computer modeling.

At the national level, the republican led House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to a Defense Department funding bill: None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order…

“Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored” Aldous Huxley

Global Warming and Agriculture

Global warming and agriculture

Combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon accumulated over millions and millions of years. The carbon is released in the form of Carbon Dioxide and is accumulating in the atmosphere. The current concentration is about 400 PPM, higher that hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. Recently the EPA has begun to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.

Generally plant life requires three things to grow; soil, water, and CO2. The need for CO2 for plant growth has led some to believe that more of it is a good thing. The problem is that more CO2 means more global warming. The environmental and agricultural damage done by global warming far outweigh any beneficial effects of elevated CO2.

Agriculture is an important component of our economy, more so in Arkansas than many other states. One in six jobs are directly related to agriculture. We are number 1 in rice production, number 2 in broilers (chicken), number 3 in catfish, number 4 in saw logs (timber) and on and on for many other agriculture products.

The first and most obvious risk to agriculture is rising temperature. Rising temperatures can stress both plants and animals resulting in lower productivity. With modern mechanized agriculture and huge economies of scale, profit margins are thin. Even small changes in productivity can mean big changes in income for farmers.

One of the major projections for global warming is a change in rainfall patterns across the continent, with mid continental regions becoming drier and the coastal regions wetter.

Even if net rainfall doesn’t change there are other negative consequences related to the availability of water for agriculture. How much it rains is important but soil moisture is the real factor. Warmer air means faster evaporation from the soil and less water available to plants.

drought

drought

Climate instability will also impact agriculture via changing rainfall patterns. How much rain falls is important but when it rains is also important. Rain outside the growing season has much less value than rain when it’s needed.

flooding

flooding

Intense storms during the growing season damage crops. Floods, high winds and hail storms all damage crops. Tornadoes damage crops. Droughts damage crops. Much of the crops lost would have been animal feed, so all of the above damage livestock, directly or indirectly. Cattle, Broiler houses, and farrowing barns will all be negatively impacted.

Imbalances in rainfall can be partly corrected by the use of ground water, but it is already stressed in the agriculturally important grand prairie. The Sparta aquifer which underlays much of the grand prairie has already been pumped down to a dangerous degree. For over 50 years the withdrawal has exceeded recharge rates. This makes water more expensive to pump, and also may allow lateral intrusion of saline waters, requiring expensive treatment to be useful.

Overly simplistic claims like extra CO2 is good, or warmer weather is good, are at the heart of much of the denial of the risk of global warming. We face a difficult future if we don’t act now to reduce risk. Solutions are known and available, we need to act.