Wednesday, 7 June 2017

It's habitat, habitat, habitat, stupid

My apologies. I have been struggling with getting my partial recording from Guy McPherson's conversation with Gary Null uploaded all morning. All I could come up with is the following which captures MOST of the conversation.

I shall upload the entire conversation when it becomes available.

FEMA Contractor Predicts 'Social Unrest' Caused by 395% Food Price Spikes
A FEMA contract predicts “social unrest” caused by a global food crisis.

Nafeez Ahmed

27 June, 2016

The US national security industry is planning for the impact of an unprecedented global food crisis lasting as long as a decade, according to reports by a government contractor.

The studies published by CNA Corporation in December 2015, unreported until now, describe a detailed simulation of a protracted global food crisis from 2020 to 2030.

The simulation, titled 'Food Chain Reaction', was a desktop gaming exercise involving the participation of 65 officials from the US, Europe, Africa, India, Brazil, and key multilateral and intergovernmental institutions.

The scenario for the 'Food Chain Reaction' simulation was created by experts brought in from the State Department, the World Bank, and agribusiness giant Cargill, along with independent specialists. CNA Corp's Institute for Public Research, which ran the simulation, primarily provides scientific research services for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Held from November 9-10 in 2015, the "game" attempted to simulate a plausible global food crisis triggered by "food price and supply swings amidst burgeoning population growth, rapid urbanization, severe weather events, and social unrest."

By 2024, the scenario saw global food prices spike by as much as 395 percent due to prolonged crop failures in key food basket regions, driven largely by climate change, oil price spikes, and confused responses from the international community.

"Disruptions affected developed and developing countries alike, creating political and economic instability, and contributing to social unrest in certain areas," the project's technical report states.

The report notes that at the end of the simulation, the teams highlighted the important role of "extreme weather events" and "food insecurity" in exacerbating "instances of significant internal and external migration and social unrest." These, in turn, greatly "contribute to conflict."

National security

Although the scenario was not produced as a forecast, it was designed to provide a plausible framework to test the resilience of the national security system from the perspective of the US government, private industry, and civil society.

CNA Corporation is a government contractor established in 1942 to provide scientific research for the US Navy and Marine Corps. Its CEO, Dr. Katherine A. W. McGrady, is a scientific analyst to the US military's Chief of Naval Operations and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Four different organisations commissioned CNA Corp to conduct the exercise: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Center for American Progress, giant food corporation Cargill, which controls a quarter of US grain exports, and Mars Inc., the global sweet manufacturer.

One outcome was a panel hosted on Tuesday by the Center for American Progress on 'The National Security implications of Climate Change and Food Security', featuring Nancy Stetson, the US State Department's Special Representative for Global Food Security.

From crop failure to system failure

The game begins in 2020 with a reasonably healthy global economy and oil prices that have now rebounded to $75 a barrel. Food prices climb steadily due to "weather-related disruptions to agricultural production," affecting South and Southeast Asia, Australia, and North America. Global crop production falls 1 percent short of expectations leading to decreases in stock and further modest price increases.

Part of that optimistic scenario involves fortuitously massive Band Aid-style worldwide donations to the UN's World Food Programme

Things get really rough after 2023 due to serious droughts and heatwaves in China, India, Russia, and Ukraine, coinciding with oil prices that rapidly increase to above $100 a barrel.

By 2024, heat and drought hit the European Union, Russia, and Ukraine, while subsiding elsewhere, triggering a food price spike "reaching 395 percent of long-term averages," and a global economic slowdown.

By 2027, these conditions begin to calm only because an economic slump has diminished demand, while high prices stimulate food production. A respite from weather-related disruptions allows food stocks to be re-built, and prices then come down gradually.

The game closes with an optimistic scenario of food prices dropping from 395 to 141 percent of long-term averages and a recovering global economy.

Part of that optimistic scenario involves fortuitously massive Band Aid-style worldwide donations to the UN's World Food Programme, which thankfully "leave the world well prepared to handle the catastrophe in areas humanitarian groups can reach."

Stranger things have certainly happened. This is not, though, the kind of thing one expects a crack team of handpicked food crisis planners to be hinging their hopes on.

On the other hand, some simulations that have explored business-as-usual scenarios for a global food crisis—such as a complex model created by Anglia Ruskin University's Global Sustainability Institute with funding from the British Foreign Office—forecast that current trends could result in a wholesale collapse of industrial civilization.

The role of Cargill and Mars Inc. in sponsoring the exercise could explain why the project failed to address the deep-seated problems of the prevailing industrial food system. Let's just hope that CNA Corporation's main backer—the US government—doesn't simply wait for a climate-driven food crisis to kick in. That would leave FEMA little choice but to invoke draconian emergency measures to maintain national order amidst hunger and anger.

Here is Guy McPherson talking about the importance of human habitat a few weeks ago

Listen to "It's all about habitat" on Spreaker.

What if several of the world’s biggest food crops failed at the same time?

5 June, 2017

What if several of the world’s biggest food crops failed at the same time?
June 5, 2017 11.44am AEST

Less than one-quarter of Earth’s total cropland produces nearly three-quarters of the staple crops that feed the world’s population – especially corn, wheat and rice, the most important cereal crops. These areas are our planet’s major breadbaskets.

Historically, when a crop failed in one of these breadbaskets, only nearby areas had to contend with shortages and rising prices. Now, however, major crops are traded on global markets, which means that production failures can have far-reaching impacts. Moreover, climate change is expected to generate heat waves and drought that could cause crop losses in most of the world’s breadbaskets. Indeed, failures could occur simultaneously in several of these key regions.

Top 10 grain-producing countries (5-year average, 2012/2013 – 2016/2017), based on 5-year USDA PS&D data. Brian Barker, University of Maryland, Author provided

Pardee Center postdoctoral scholar John Patrick Connors and I are using mathematical models to study the potential environmental and economic impacts of failures in multiple breadbaskets around the world. It is already clear from our preliminary work that this is a real, near-term threat.

The good news is that not all of these regions respond in the same way to shocks in other places in the world. Some could bring new land into production quickly, easing stresses caused by crop failures elsewhere. But in order to make global food systems more robust, we need to know more about the most damaging consequences of multiple breadbasket failures.

A vulnerable system

In the past several decades, many of the world’s major breadbaskets have experienced shocks – events that caused large, rapid drops in food production. For example, regional droughts and heat waves in the Ukraine and Russia in 2007 and then again in 2009 damaged wheat crops and caused global wheat prices to spike by substantial amounts in both years. In 2012 heat and drought in the United States slashed national corn, soybean and other crop yields by up to 27 percent. And yields of important food crops are low and stagnating in many countries due to factors including plant diseases, poor soil quality, poor management practices and damage from air pollution.

At the same time, many experts assert that world food production may have to double by 2050 to feed a growing population and satisfy rising demand for meat, poultry and dairy products in developing countries. Global agricultural production has risen over the past 50 years, largely fueled by improvements in plant breeding and more intensive use of inputs, such as mechanized equipment, fertilizers and pesticides. This trend has eased pressure to bring new land into production. But it has limits, especially in the developing world, where the need to produce more food has been a main driver of deforestation in recent decades

It is clear that rising demand, growing international trade in agricultural products, and the potential for weather-, climate- and soil-related shocks are making the world food production system less resilient. Global agricultural trade can mean that price spikes in one region, if they are severe enough, can be felt broadly in other regions. Minor shocks, on the other hand, could be lessened by trade and by using grain reserves.

There is increasing evidence that in very poor countries, food price increases and shortages can lead to civil unrest and worsen other social and political stresses. And more wealthy countries are not immune, given the concentration of world food production and the global nature of trade. For example, the Russian/Ukrainian heat wave referenced above led to spikes in food prices, not just in the price of wheat. However, more wealthy countries also typically have more ability to buffer price shocks by either using grain reserves or increasing trade.

Modeling potential shocks

How can we understand this risk and its potential consequences for both rich and poor nations? Programs already exist to provide early warning of potential famines in the world’s poorest countries, many of which already depend heavily on food aid. There also are programs in wealthier nations that monitor food prices and provide early warnings of price spikes.
But these programs focus mainly on regional risks, and often are not located in major food production areas. Very little work has been done to analyze risks of simultaneous shocks in several of the world’s breadbaskets.
We want to understand the impacts that shock events could have if they occur in the real world so that we can identify possible contingency plans for the largest-impact events. In order to do that, we have used an integrated assessment model, the Global Change Assessment Model, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and is freely available to users around the world. Integrated assessment models have been designed specifically to simulate the interactions among Earth’s energy, economic and land use systems.
We have developed scenarios in which small shocks (10 percent crop loss) and large shocks (50 percent crop loss), averaged over five years, are applied to corn, wheat or rice in their major production regions, and then to all the combinations of one, two or all three crops in one, two or the top three production regions.
"Flooding in October 2009 caused heavy damage to rice farms in Indonesia. NR-PH001 World Bank/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

Unsurprisingly, our results to date suggest that large shocks have larger effects than smaller shocks, as measured in subsequent changes in land use, the total amount of land dedicated to agriculture and food prices. But more interestingly, not all breadbasket regions respond to shocks in the same way.
Some of these areas are quite unresponsive to shocks occurring elsewhere in the world. For example, the total amount of land in agricultural production in South Asia changes relatively little due to shocks elsewhere in the world, largely because most of the arable land is already in use.
But other regions are extremely responsive. Notably, Brazil has the ability to bring a lot of new land into production if large shocks occur elsewhere, because it still has a significant amount of potentially arable land that is not currently being farmed. However, this land currently is mostly forest, so clearing it for agriculture would add significantly to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and thus to global climate change.

Mapping risks

The Pardee Center has published a research agenda that discusses what we still need to know about these risks. Key questions include understanding the full distribution of risks, whether increased international trade can ameliorate risk and where the most responsive and the most sensitive regions are.
Ultimately, understanding and preparing for multiple breadbasket failures will require input from climate scientists, agronomists, ecologists, remote sensing experts, economists, political scientists and decision-makers. Mounting such an effort will be challenging, but the costs of failing to do it could be devastating

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