Egypt and Global Warming

I guess it was inevitable that Joe Romm would find a way to link global warming to the popular uprising in Egypt. After taking heat from a few right wing blogs, Romm sketches out his equation:

The question is why specifically now have the Egyptians and Tunisians rioted after decades of anti-democratic rule?  Certainly one can ignore the experts and say that it is a complete coincidence that the rioting occurred as food prices hit record levels “” in spite of the fact that the last time there was this kind of rioting globally food prices were at record levels, which is precisely why experts were predicting that record hide food prices would lead to riots.  Now the question is, why are food prices are at record levels?  Again, reality pretty much speaks for itself here.  Extreme weather is a major contributing factor “” and our top climate scientists say global warming has contributed.

Let the record state that Egyptians have previously taken to the streets over food. For example, there were the “bread riots” in 1977, and in recent years the food riots in 2008 (which hit other parts of the world, as well). Was global warming involved in these instances, too?

Has it even occurred to Romm that Egypt, after smoldering for decades under a repressive regime, was primed to erupt? In The New Republic, one analyst recently wrote:

It takes some hubris to write about events unfolding as fast as the protests in Egypt, especially when it’s clear that nobody saw this coming.

Leaving aside that it takes some hubris to write a sentence like that, you also have to marvel at the hubris of someone who sees a global warming angle to the Egyptian revolt.

118 Responses to “Egypt and Global Warming”

  1. NewYorkJ says:

    It takes some hubris to state vehemently and emphatically that there is no global warming link whatsoever.

  2. Steve Reynolds says:

    I suppose 1/3 of the US corn crop going to make ethanol has no effect on food prices…

  3. I’m with New York here.
     
    The connection may not be worth mentioning during the heat of events on the ground, except perhaps on a publication that is focused on such questions. (Which Joe’s place is.)
     
    As for whether the connection is valid, well, yeah, that’s sort of bleedin’ obvious, innit?
     
    The other main factor is increasing demand for meat from the growing middle class; animal feed competes with human use by poor people. And as somebody is sure to point out, corn-based ethanol adds insult to injury. But unusually widespread crop failures also figure into grain prices. And climate obviously figures into that.
     
    Keith, are you suggesting that major climate change consequences have not yet started? What would it take to convince you otherwise?
     

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    Keith, are you suggesting that major climate change consequences whatever nostradamus warned about has not yet started? What would it take to convince you otherwise?

  5. Steve Reynolds says:

    “And climate obviously figures into that.”

    Is there any real evidence AGW is currently causing crop failures? The research I’ve seen predicts increased yield for CO2 and small temperature increases.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    @ 3

    “As for whether the connection is valid, well, yeah, that’s sort of bleedin’ obvious, innit?”

    Humor me. Obviously, I can’t see the Egyptian uprising/global warming connection as bleedin’ obviously as you do.

  7. Tom Fuller says:

    Gee, why didn’t they have a Tunisia-style revolution in 2008 when food shortages were worse? Maybe because they didn’t have the Tunisian example in front of them? Maybe because Mubarak wasn’t trying to sell his son as the best next leader? Nah–of course the thing that’s important to rich andintellectually lazy climate alarmists has to be the thing causing mostly illiterate people making two dollars a day or less to act this way. I think I saw some signs on CNN thanking Hansen for inspiring the latest version of the Jasmine Revolution… Hey, who needs El Baradei? Hansen for Pharaoh!

    Did the Bible blame Egyptian famines on global warming?

  8. As Joe suggests,
     
    climate change => crop failures => increasing food prices => unrest
     
    where “=>” can be read as “contributes substantially to”
     
    We can discuss any of the components.
     
    To my limited understanding, Egyptians have many legitimate and serious complaints, many of which are not about food insecurity. I certainly don’t want to be seen as claiming otherwise.
     
    But climate will be an increasing stress and is already a component of stress everywhere. Poorer populations suffer more and resentment against richer populations builds. This is why it is often claimed that “climate change is a national security issue”.
     
    I think Steve in #5 is at least asking a clear question. Keith, I’d like to know if that is the part of the chain of reasoning to which you are objecting.
     

  9. Keith Kloor says:

    Let’s stick to the topic discussed in the post–the Rommian logic that connects global warming and the riots in Egypt.

    It’s so patently ridiculous that even a long, tortured post in Grist can’t bring itself to go down this rabbit hole.

  10. Pascvaks says:

    Romm, et others like him around the globe, is a real “Pro from Dover”.  His mission in this phase of his life is to keep the natives restless.  It takes real imagination and skill to equate Mubarek with anything but Mubarek, but like I said Joe’s a Pro.  When you’re not trying to earn brownie points for the Great Beyond, there are no holds barred.

  11. Tom Fuller says:

    According to UNEP, this period of current global warming has not affected production of cereals. In 1975 per capita production of cereals worldwide was 320 Kg. By the time of the monster El Nino in 1998 it had risen to 375 Kg per person. And there were a few more capitas hanging around by then.

    Let’s have a chorus of Martin Mull singing the Boogey Man. Global warming is hiding in your closet and under your bed. So have a cereal-laden snack and sleep unsoundly, if you choose.

  12. anon says:

    It’s ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,’ except there’s just one degree, and Kevin Bacon is Hitler. Can I play? Let’s see. Mother Teresa had a mustache. Hitler had a mustache. Mother Teresa is Hitler!”

  13. Tom Fuller says:

    Perhaps global warming also caused the fall of the Berlin Wall? They had revolutions. The world was getting warmer. Maybe the revolutions in Georgia, the Ukraine, etc. as well. Maybe global warming got George Bush elected–or Obama–hey, it was warming when Reagan got elected, too…

  14. Keith Kloor says:

    Just for the record: the fundamental problem I have with Romm’s post is that it undermines legitimate debate about climate security issues.

  15. Tom Fuller says:

    Yeah, Keith, but that’s just because you can’t find that Martin Mull song on YouTube.

    It is precisely because the Big Boys with real guns and no roses are asking about the ramifications of climate change that statements by Romm and others here are actually dangerous. If Turkey decides to hoard water and Iraq gets nervous about it because of climate change, these fools could contribute to starting a war.

  16. Tom Fuller says:

    Global warming explained:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OL9VZDRuBc

  17. Pascvaks says:

    It is easy for those behind the flag bearer to forgive him if he stumbles or even falls for they are suffering along every step of the way that he is.  If he says or does something strange they do not think about it, they see him as committed and leading with vigor. 

    Now onlookers see something else indeed.  As they watch, they gradually form an opinion about the mental stability and physical state of the flag bearer.  If he stumbles too often, they wonder if he might be drunk (with drink OR power).

    Is Joe stumbling drunk?  Or is Joe only standing on a fallen somebody for a second and wagging the flag for the mob behind him?

  18. Tom Fuller says:

    My apologies. That should be ‘global warming hysteria explained.’

    The real thing is bad enough.

  19. Paul Kelly says:

    The alarmist obsession to blame all things on global warming – make that climate change – no make it climate disruption – is a real disservice to the climate concerned. The ease with which they go from weather is not climate to weather is climate and back again is fascinating. Contrary to their claims, we have not yet seen anomalous increases in tropical storms, drought, floods, tornadoes, heat waves or cold waves. Could more warming cause dangerous changes? Sure, but we’re not there yet.

  20. NewYorkJ says:

    climate change => crop failures => increasing food prices => unrest
     
    where “=>” can be read as “contributes substantially to”

    One could also put “increases in extreme weather (droughts, extreme precipitation)” after “climate change”.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/01/30/133331809/rising-food-prices-can-topple-governments-too

    I think the dog Ginger translates this to:

    “climate change…blah blah blah…unrest”

    as knee-jerk posts like #9 (Kloor) and #14 (Fuller) is an indication. 

  21. Tom Fuller says:

    Gee, the World Bank says that Egypt’s population has grown from 40 million in 1975 to 83 million in 2009. That couldn’t have anything to do with this, could it?

  22. Tom Fuller says:

    From the FAO: “Egypt’s total agricultural crop production has increased by more than 20 percent in the past decade. During the same period, the rate of population growth has increased at a slightly higher rate than the increase in crop production.”

  23. Tom Fuller says:

    New York J, perhaps our responses look knee jerk to you because your hysteria is so easy to refute that it doesn’t take very much time.

    At least we are fortunate enough to have the ‘knee’ in front of our appellation. Pity the same’s not true for all.

  24. NewYorkJ says:

    From the Military Advisory Board:

    Climate change acts as a threat multiplier

    for instability in some of the most volatile
    regions of the world.

     

     


    Projected climate change
    will seriously exacerbate already marginal living
    standards in many Asian, African, and Middle
    Eastern nations, causing widespread political
    instability and the likelihood of failed states.
    Unlike most conventional security threats
    that involve a single entity acting in specific ways
    and points in time, climate change has the
    potential to result in multiple chronic conditions,
    occurring globally within the same time frame.
    Economic and environmental conditions in
    already fragile areas will further erode as food
    production declines, diseases increase, clean
    water becomes increasingly scarce, and large
    populations move in search of resources.
    Weakened and failing governments, with an
    already thin margin for survival, foster the
    conditions for internal conflicts, extremism, and
    movement toward increased authoritarianism
    and radical ideologies.

    http://securityandclimate.cna.org/report/National%20Security%20and%20the%20Threat%20of%20Climate%20Change.pdf

  25. Tom Fuller says:

    Gee, New York J, what part of doubling population in 34 years outweighing significant increases in agricultural output is so difficult to understand?

    Even in a perfect climate–even in a controlled climate–Egypt would be responding to an autocratic (yeah, kinda like China…) regime due to less available food per mouth.

    Global warming sure didn’t make Egypt autocratic.

    Are you even aware that your argument has been pretty much refuted? Pasting in vague and irrelevant passages from elsewhere is not helping you.

  26. NewYorkJ says:

    Gee, New York J, what part of doubling population in 34 years outweighing significant increases in agricultural output is so difficult to understand?

    So their push to increase output to meet demand couldn’t keep up with rising population or the devastating effects of climate change.  And you think this helps your argument?  The Military Advisory Board put it well:
    Climate change acts as a threat multiplier

  27. Tom Fuller says:

    Gee, New York J, what devastating effects of climate change? If their agricultural output increased 20% in one decade, that would not hint at devastating climate change to me at all. It if anything would say that the climate has been benign. (Or B 52, if you like music.)

    Their farms produced more food. That is not a symptom of devastating climate change.

  28. Keith Kloor says:

    @21 & 25

    You’re invoking generalities. And I don’t disagree with the CNA excerpt you link to. I’m also willing to bet that not one environmental/energy security expert worth his/her salt would go so far as to invoke climate change as a significant or even minor factor in the current Egyptian revolt.

    (If any are reading this thread, by all means jump in.)

    Additionally, I’ve shown that I’m willing to have a serious discussion on these issues (see here and here, for example).

    My contention is that Romm’s cheap and easy linkage in his post today undermines an otherwise serious debate on the climate/security nexus.

  29. NewYorkJ says:

     
    Scientists found that over the last 25 years, the growth in yields has fallen by 10-20% in some locations, as night-time temperatures have risen.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10918591

    This doesn’t cover the drought and extreme precip. cause, which as NPR notes, is a contributor to the current food shortage.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/01/30/133331809/rising-food-prices-can-topple-governments-too

  30. NewYorkJ says:

    Keith (#29): You’re invoking generalities. And I don’t disagree with the CNA excerpt you link to.

    If you agree with the general link, then discounting a possibility of a specific link entirely (possibility of climate change being a contributing factor) is simply illogical.  I don’t have a problem with those rightfully saying there are multiple contributing factors to the unrest in Egypt and perhaps climate change is not the primary cause.  Those trying to claim it’s not a “legitimate debate” at all or making knee-jerk proclamations against the notion strike me as zealots.

  31. NewYorkJ says:

    Take this inane comment by Tom Fuller:

    “Perhaps global warming also caused the fall of the Berlin Wall?”

    which in no way is even a caricature of Romm’s position, which is a much more honest and accurate analysis than the knee-jerk droolers are responding with.

    “leading political experts say the Middle East rioting is driven in part by the dramatic rise in food prices, which the agricultural experts say is driven in large part by oil prices and the extreme weather we’ve seen in the last few months.”

    The WaPost covers this:

    “The state of emergency in Tunisia has economists worried that we may be seeing the beginnings of a second wave of global food riots”

    “The price of grains began to rise last fall after fires in Russia wiped out hundreds of thousands of acres of grains and heavy rain destroyed much of Canada’s wheat crop. The problems were followed by hot, dry weather in Argentina that devastated the soybean crop of the key exporter. This month, floods in Australia destroyed much of the country’s wheat crop.”

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/political-economy/2011/01/spike_in_global_food_prices_tr.html

    So Fuller creates a nonsequitur by mentioning population growth, which leads to increased demand, then pretends this contradicts any link to climate change.

  32. Keith Kloor says:

    @31

    You’re arguing semantics. Let me put it this way: in the list of factors that one might consider as contributing to the Egyptian protests, I assert that climate change would be negligible.

     

  33. Tom Fuller says:

    Gee, New York J, I’m fascinated to hear why you think that rice yields in South Asia fell by 10%-20% in some locations. However, I’m not sure what that has to do with Egypt, where agricultural output increased by 20%.

    Climate change is not needed to explain what happened in Egypt. Increasing population, an autocratic government that had just announced a succession plan that was unacceptable to the populace, and a recent example of successful revolution in Tunisia is a perfectly adequate explanation.

    I’m still curious as to how you think a 20% increase in agricultural yields is evidence of catastrophic climate change.

  34. Shub says:

    Tom,
    We dont find NewYok writing
     
    global warming—> increase in agricultural output by 20%—>unrest,
     
    do we?

  35. Tom Fuller says:

    What is so hard about saying, ‘Oops. Hadn’t considered that–may have to change my mind…’

  36. gofer says:

    NewYorkJ

    A footnote at the bottom of your bbc article link:

    Correction 12th August: this story has been amended to reflect the fact that it is the rate of growth in yields that has fallen, not the yields themselves.”

  37. Egypt has long been a net importer of food. Certainly its increase in population makes meeting demand more difficult.
     
    Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat. Therefore its own agricultural productivity is of marginal importance, as is the question as to whether that has been impacted by climate; the question is how world food prices have been affected.
     
    The question is whether global food prices have been affected by the widespread bizarre weather of 2010 (generally accepted) and whether those weather anomalies have been markedly affected by anthropogenic climate forcing (at the very least hotly debated).
     
    Are food prices a serious constraint on Egypt? Yes, certainly. If the government has had to stretch to cover bread subsidies, it has had fewer resources for other things.
     
    And this rather detailed analysis includes:  “Egypt imports 40% of its food, and 60% of its wheat. The problem this year is that world wheat production is down (at least in part due to weather problems in Russia)”
     
    While it’s problematic to associate individual events to anthropogenic forcing, the Russian event was associated with a persistent jet stream pattern that has no clear precedent; the July Moscow temperature was so anomalous that it is fair to suggest not only that it has no historical precedent, but that it’s conceivable that one would likely have to go back beyond the Holocene (a couple of million years) to find the like. (We haven’t had 100,000 years of interglacials in the Holocene.)
     
    I would claim that any food-stressed society in 2011 is already coping with consequences of climate change that show up in the slightly but measurably reduced production of grain in 2010. I find it peculiar that this meets with such resistance that the very idea is subject to mockery. This is not a game. Climate disruption seems to be happening already
     
    You can argue the contrary if you like but it’s certainly arguable just on the basis of the Russian event alone.  It’s one thing to disagree with the claim. Fine, let’s discuss it. It’s another to try to shove it outside the window of acceptable discourse. That strikes me as bizarre. It flirts with denial in the psychological sense at least.
     

  38. anon says:

    What does “cause” mean?
     
    All else being equal, and even with no food shortages in egypt, and no global warming, does anyone think this revolution would not have happened?
     
    Is this a global warming revolution, a wikileaks/tunisia revolution, a dictator at the end of his lifespan revolution, a people power revolution, a moore’s law revolution, an internet age equality revolution, …
     
    Come on, who here really actually certainly thinks that if there was no global warming, this revolution would not be taking place?
     
    There’s a certain element of privilege, blinders, ethnocentrism, and even a whiff of racism to suggest the bloody wogs would not be in revolt after 30 years of a dictatorship were it not for global warming.

  39. This is an amazing conversation, because it is so representative of the broader climate change positions held by these individuals. NYJ, and Tobis argue exactly as I’d have expected, and Tom Fuller and Mr Niggurath exactly as I’d have anticipated too, based on the positions they usually take based on the evidence that is available.
     
    This discussion about the causes and non-causes of the unrest in Egypt seems to be a perfect microcosm of the climate debate, not with the specific detail but with the use and interpretation of available data.
     
    The only deviant here seems to be Keith. Why aren’t you, otherwise, a sceptic?

  40. NewYorkJ says:

    gofer,

    That’s exactly what the article says. 

    Scientists found that over the last 25 years, the growth in yields has fallen by 10-20% in some locations, as night-time temperatures have risen.

    which indicates that yields would have been higher without the observed global warming.  This also exposes Tom Fuller’s nonsequitur.  Showing that crop production has increased in an area as evidence that climate change has not effected it is as silly as saying global warming isn’t harmful because human population has increased.

  41. Tom Fuller says:

    Simon, I am sorry to be so predictable. However, I’m more concerned with being correct. And I think I am in this case.

    Tobis, your characterization of weather as ‘bizarre’ and that this has been ‘widely accepted’ does not accord with what I have read. Droughts and floods are not new and last year’s versions were not exceptional, as near as I can tell. The fact that some of them occurred in somewhat different places than usual is not in itself unusual.

    Amazing how much this discussion resembles the attempt to pin the catastrophic warming tail on the Pakistan floods. Now, as then, the answer is not enough development to attend to the needs of a quickly growing population. To drag in global warming as a putative cause is just political desperation.

    It wasn’t that long ago that we progressive liberals bragged about reality being on our side. Why screw that up for temporary and mistaken bragging rights? It’s pathetic.

  42. Tom Fuller says:

    New York J, this flailing is bizarre even by your woeful standards. If agricultural yields go up, how can this be taken as evidence of catastrophic global warming in action? On Earth, I mean…

  43. gofer says:

    “Egypt started subsidizing staples like bread, sugar and tea around World War II, and has done so ever since. When it tried to stop subsidizing bread in 1977 there were riots. Egyptians are generally not known as explosive people, but tell them you are raising the price of bread “” of life “” and beware.
    So the bread subsidy continues, costing Cairo about $2.74 billion a year. Over all, the government spends more on subsidies, including gasoline, than it spends on health and education. But it is not just the cost of the subsidy that plagues the government. The subsidy also fuels the kind of rampant corruption that undermines faith in government, discourages investment and reinforces the country’s every-man-for-himself ethos.”  NYTimes 11/30/2009

  44. NewYorkJ says:

    Fuller: Tobis, your characterization of weather as “˜bizarre’ and that this has been “˜widely accepted’ does not accord with what I have read. Droughts and floods are not new and last year’s versions were not exceptional, as near as I can tell.

    Back to reality…

    Alexander et al. 2009

    Australia shows a shift towards warming of temperature extremes, particularly a significant increase in the number of warm nights and heat waves with much longer dry spells interspersed with periods of increased extreme precipitation, irrespective of the scenario used.

    See the graph of observations from Alexander 2006:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Record-snowfall-disproves-global-warming.htm

    Groisman et al. 2005:

    It was found that both the empirical evidence from the period of instrumental observations and model projections of a greenhouse-enriched atmosphere indicate an increasing probability of intense precipitation events for many extratropical regions including the United States.

    Extreme precipitation events from the U.S. Climate Extremes index: 
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/cei/graph.php?period=01-12&indicator=4

    Pretending the evidence doesn’t exist is political desperation.

  45. NewYorkJ says:

    New York J, this flailing is bizarre even by your woeful standards. If agricultural yields go up, how can this be taken as evidence of catastrophic global warming in action? On Earth, I mean”¦

    Note that you’re slinking away from your first argument, which was that climate change was not adversely affecting crop production.

    Now substitute “if agriculture yields go up” with “If world population goes up…” which is your argument taken to its silly logical extension.

  46. Tom Fuller says:

    New York J, I never once said that climate change was not adversely affecting crop production. It’s right there above you. I’m saying and have said consistently that increasing agricultural yields are not evidence of catastrophic climate change.

    As for taking arguments to their silly logical extension, I’ll let other readers judge…

  47. The abstract of the paper in question supports NYJ’s interpretation:
     
    Welch et al, PNAS Aug 17 2010, “Rice yields in tropical/subtropical Asia exhibit large but opposing sensitivities to minimum and maximum temperatures”:
     
    “Higher minimum temperature reduced yield, whereas higher
    maximum temperature raised it; radiation impact varied by growth
    phase. Combined, these effects imply that yield at most sites would
    have grown more rapidly during the high-yielding season but less
    rapidly during the low-yielding season if observed temperature
    and radiation trends at the end of the 20th century had not
    occurred, with temperature trends being more influential. Looking
    ahead, they imply a net negative impact on yield from moderate
    warming in coming decades. Beyond that, the impact would likely
    become more negative, because prior research indicates that the
    impact of maximum temperature becomes negative at higher
    levels.”
     
    Of course, this is all small beer compared with severe disruptive events like those associated with the anomalous summer 2010 jet stream. This all is associated with the idea that the main effect of anthropogenic climate change is gradual global warming. There have always been reasons to suspect that this amounts barking up the wrong tree. Recent increases in anomalous severe events, some with enormous geographical extent, reinforce this suspicion.
     
    So while NYJ is strictly correct in his interpretation of the paper, I don’t think the result is one that is immediately important.
     

  48. Tom Fuller says:

    What do rice yields in several selected locales in South Asia have to do with increased agricultural production in Egypt?

    Other than a hand-waving exercise meant to distract readers, that is.

    Tobis or New York J, how do increasing agricultural yields in Egypt signal catastrophic climate change?

  49. Tom, it’s not so much that you’re predictable. It is that the scenario of torturing data in order to extract a desired signal for political impetus for an unrelated agenda is predictable. Your reaction is more like inevitable, given the predictability of others’ proaction.

  50. NewYorkJ says:

    Fuller #48: New York J, I never once said that climate change was not adversely affecting crop production.

    Fuller #11: According to UNEP, this period of current global warming has not affected production of cereals.

    Fuller #34: If their agricultural output increased 20% in one decade, that would not hint at devastating climate change to me at all. It if anything would say that the climate has been benign.
    Incidentally, here’s a UNEP report on cereal productivity in Africa.

    “Climate change is already affecting the region. Reduced rainfall across the Sahel, an increase in the incidence of drought and greater volatility are among the current symptoms.”

    http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/cereal-productivity-in-sub-saharan-africa-under-a-projected-intergovernamental-panel-on-climate-chan

    This doesn’t seem to cover the impact of losses extreme precipitation events.

    At any rate, Fuller makes things up as he goes along, then pretends he never said it, and as usual, doesn’t cite sources, believing that everyone should just take his word for it.

  51. Tom Fuller says:

    New York J, I forgot that I wrote that. Thanks for the reminder. However, the point is valid. You are blaming increased agricultural productivity on global warming. I consider that absurd.

    UNEP did report an increase of cereal production during the current period of global warming. How is that evidence of catastrophic climate change?

    If increased agricultural output is desirable, then I would submit that the climate has been benign.

    You are going to great lengths to avoid answering my question. I’ll put it to you again:

    New York J: How are increased agricultural yields in Egypt evidence of catastrophic climate change?

  52. gofer says:

    Why does anyone point to droughts in Africa as something unusual?

    The continent has a long history of rainfall fluctuations of varying lengths and intensities. The worst droughts were those of the 1910s, which affected east and west Africa alike. They were generally followed by increasing rainfall amounts, but negative trends where observed again from 1950 onwards culminating, in West Africa, in 1984.

  53. Tom C says:

    Let us not forget that Romm blamed the bridge collapse in Minneapolis on global warming.  This despite being shown data that Minneapolis temperature data shows no warming trend over the last century.  This despite the fact that cold, not warm, temperatures would tend to weaken steel 

  54. Tom Fuller says:

    Umm, New York J? Tobis?
     
    Bueller?

  55. Tom Fuller says:

    Oh, and New York J–I didn’t reply to your complaint about sourcing. I believe I identified the sources of my information–the World Bank and the FAO.
     
    I don’t really care if you believe me or not, but I had thought that if seven-year-olds know how to drop a block of text into Google to find the source that it would not be beyond you…

  56. Keith Kloor says:

    FYI: my blog site was down for an hour or so. Seems to be fixed now.

    Interestingly, I see that The Oil Drum is also trying to wangle a peak energy angle out of the Egyptian protests.

     

  57. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Revkin, Greengamma.com, MarcyMurninghan, Mireille Derrien, murnpost and others. murnpost said: RT @Revkin: #Egypt turmoil – What's climate got to do with it? http://j.mp/EgypCO2 (Kloor on Romm) #agw #csr #climate #sustainability […]

  58. PDA says:

    Tom, pretty much every time I’ve “drop[ped] a block of text into Google,” I’ve found out that your sources are random blogs with a partisan bent, so maybe a bit less arch dismissiveness is in order.
     
    If you find it offensive that people accuse you of pulling information out of your nether regions, a direct hyperlink is an effective way to resolve any doubt. Cranking your dudgeon dial up to eleven does nothing but prolong the ping-pong match, but I suspect you know that already.

  59. Roddy Campbell says:

    It is difficult to disentangle the huge increase in global agricultural production over the post-war warming period into its components of temperature, climate, technology, capitalism, know-how, end of communism, changes in political regimes, wars and so on.
     
    To examine the counterfactual in each case is nigh impossible.
     
    But it’s pretty safe to say, imho, that changes in global average temperatures and weather patterns attributable to changes in climate that are attributable to man, the whole AGW caboodle, would be a very low order effect?  And I see no prima facie reason why the effect would necessarily be negative rather than positive.
     
    Note – I’m a (part-time) farmer who has lived thru multiplication of wheat yields since I was a boy, know-how and technology changes dwarf anything else where I am.  And warmth helps, fwiw.
     
    So I’m on Keith’s side – it’s just silly.

  60. Menth says:

    In an article by sociologist Frank Furedi he wrote:

    “Throughout history people have sought to blame unusual climatic conditions on demonic forces. The association of witchcraft with weather-making accomplished one thing in particular: it mobilised people’s fears against the evil forces of heretics and non-believers. Scaremongering about witchcraft promoted the idea that its demonic powers could literally dominate nature. Father Friedrich Spee, a Jesuit critic of witch-hunting, noted sarcastically that “˜God and nature no longer do anything; witches, everything’.”

    So to paraphrase Father Spee: “Politics, Nature, History, Economics no longer do anything; climate change, everything”

  61. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Michael Tobis: ‘While it’s problematic to associate individual events to anthropogenic forcing, the Russian event was associated with a persistent jet stream pattern that has no clear precedent; the July Moscow temperature was so anomalous [link to a Climate Central post] that it is fair to suggest not only that it has no historical precedent, but that it’s conceivable that one would likely have to go back beyond the Holocene (a couple of million years) to find the like. (We haven’t had 100,000 years of interglacials in the Holocene.)’

    It is not fair to suggest that. From the linked source at Climate Central:

    ‘Note that we are not saying this was a one in a 100,000 year event. For that kind of claim we would have to perform an analysis specifically focused on extreme events, while here we are only characterizing the normal behavior of the distribution.’

    Tamino performed that analysis and reckoned the July 2010 Moscow temperature was a 1-in-260-year event – remarkable but unlikely to be unprecedented in millions of years.

    And was this event caused by anthropogenic forcings? The NOAA says not. Its draft report on the heatwave (Sept 2010) says that, while the blocking high was the most extreme since 1900, ‘The indications are that [it was] intrinsic to the natural variability of summer climate in this region.’ The heatwave was, it says, ‘principally related to a natural extreme event’.

    Michael Tobis: ‘This is not a game. Climate disruption seems to be happening already. You can argue the contrary if you like but it’s certainly arguable just on the basis of the Russian event alone.’

    Your Russian argument summarised: Although it’s wrong to attribute individual weather events to AGW, last summer’s blocking pattern and the resulting heatwave were so extreme that mankind must have been to blame and because mankind must have been to blame it’s OK to be wrong and say that mankind was to blame.
    Outside the window of acceptable discourse?

  62. Tom Fuller claims “However, I’m not sure what that has to do with Egypt, where agricultural output increased by 20%.” He provides no evidence for the factual claim, but I have no evidence against it. Yet he insists I address his question “how do increasing agricultural yields in Egypt signal catastrophic climate change?”. Stipulating for the purposes of the exercise that the yields are continuing to increase (despite the flow of the Nile being essentially entirely spoken for as I understand it), not at all. But it is not relevant to the case that I am making nor the case that Joe made.
     
    My assertion is that Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, and that an enormous impoverished slice of the population lives mostly on this wheat, which is subsidized. Food prices having risen sharply, this puts stress both on the individuals and on the system.  Those points are not sensibly disputable.
     
    So the question of whether this is linked to climate change comes down to whether the widespread crop failures of 2010, and particularly the problems in Russia, a major wheat exporter whose short growing season was spectacularly disrupted by a very strange persistent weather pattern, are climate change related.
     
    Roddy Campbell’s talk of “warmth” in #61 seems to echo much of the incredulity here. I trace this back to the idea that “global warming” is the problem, as opposed to the most predictable symptom of the problem.
     
    Weather is fluids adjusting to small gradients in temperature (and, in the ocean, salinity). It is in the nature of fluid flows that they are easy to change. Small shifts in the way the atmosphere behaves as a fluid dynamical system amount to very large weather changes on the ground. What’s more, there is no guarantee that the changes will be continuous or in a consistent direction. The only thing that is reasonably certain is that they will get bigger and bigger as time goes on, until we get a grip on our climate-disrupting behaviors and then for a couple of decades at least thereafter.
     
    And this is where the information deficit part comes in. If Keith doesn’t understand it, the rest of the press surely doesn’t understand it. And if they don’t get it,  how is the rest of the world to understand?
     

  63. anon says:

    I have no idea what this post is about. I tried. I failed.
     
    Michael Tobis, NewYorkJ, may I ask each of you to write down a Pareto ordered list of the causes of the Egyptian revolution?
    Can you rank these factors in order of importance in causing the revolution?
    Global climate change?
    Moore’s law (media, internet, youtube, facebook, tweets)
    Better education?
    Boeing and Airbus and Apple and Microsoft?
    Unemployment?
    Government policies (repression, stagnation, corruption, favoritism)
    Can you please order these for me, and explain your ordering, so I can better understand what seems to be the claim of your arguments, which is that global climate change has caused this revolution.
     
    And if you would perform a sensitivity analysis, which of these factors were necessary and sufficient, compared to which of these factors were necessary but not sufficient, compared to which were contributing but not by themselves necessary or sufficient. I think that would help enlighten me as well.

  64. jorge c. says:

    I recommend you Brian Fagan’s book Floods, Famines and Emperos. El Niño and the fate of Civilizations. Great book, where it is explained a lot of things. We have an El Niño last year, and now (i think) a La Niña, and so the floods in Australia, Brasil and Pakistan.
    I have read that Gavin Schmidt said that the Russian’s heat wave was not a Global Warming phenomenon.

  65. Tom Fuller says:

    These hysterical arguments will cost lives and leave millions stranded in poverty.

    Egypt is importing wheat because its population doubled in 30 years. Their farms are producing more than at any time in history.

    Tobis admits he is wrong on the central question–do agricultural yields in Egypt provide an indication of catastrophic climate change? As yields are improving, it is clear they do not.

    What is behind the comments of Tobis and New York J is a casual callousness to the fate of people who have to suffer due to the reallocation of resources to address Tobis’ hysteria and New York J’s ignorance, rather than the real world needs of those in the developing world.

  66. harrywr2 says:

    Considering Stephen Hadley and Condoleeza Rice where warning Mubarak to institute political reforms as far back as 2004 the idea that the situation in Egypt was ‘unforeseen’ is just plain nonsense.
    Bush Jr abandoned the Carter Doctrine of Middle East stability at any price.
    The exact timing was unforeseen and what would be the ‘trigger’ event was unforeseen.
    So if Joe Romm wants to ‘blame’ somebody for the fact that the Egyptian people are demanding an accountable government he should blame Bush Jr.
     
     
     
     

  67. Steve Mennie says:

    @harrywr2
    After reading the actual post at Joe Romm’s I didn’t see any indication that Romm was ‘blaming’ AGW for the Egyptian uprising..he merely stated that AGW will be provoking more of the kind of severe weather events that have lead to food shortages and spikes in commodity prices and that this is an indication of the seriousness of global climate change and that we need to wake up and realize this.
     
    Apparently others feel the same…
     
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/02/01-1

  68. PDA says:

    I dropped a block of text into Google and came up with this link, which says agricultural yield measured in kilograms per hectare has increased 76% since 1981. So like MT I say we stipulate Tom’s point, and like Keith i wonder if there’s any hope of debating the topic at hand: multiple reports that the “Egyptian and Tunisian riots were driven in part by the spike in global food prices.” (emphasis mine)
     
    Is it the “in part” that is the point of contention? Or is it the connection to climate change; as NYJ intimated, is the argument that climate change played any role just inconceivable?

  69. I don’t admit I was wrong on the “central question”. Certainly population increase in Egypt (and increased prosperity elsewhere, especially in China) figure into this. I am not “wrong” on this as I never disputed it; indeed I asserted it from the beginning.
     
    I have a different idea of what the central question of this thread is.
     
    Nobody so far is claiming that the situation is primarily caused by climate change; only that it is exacerbated by it and possibly triggered by it. It is clear that the widespread weather related global crop failures of 2010 are  relevant. So the only open question is whether those failures are related to climate change. Romm takes a position on this. Rather than addressing it, he is mocked and vilified, and when I rise to his defense on this matter, I am also characterized as unreasonable.
     
    The visceral nature of the reaction alone makes me suspicious of it. Nobody in opposition is addressing the content at all. (Mr. Fuller shows up eagerly with a whole basket of lovely red herrings, as he often does, and demands that I examine them. OK, wow. Red!)
     
    My belief is that this sort of thing is what we can expect for some time; an increasing level of resource stress popping up, often, surprisingly far from the location of the climate-related damage. Nobody thought Egypt’s number was up next, but here it is.
     
    People will continue to blame politicians, but so far they don’t let the politicians solve the underlying problems.
     
    Relevant article on food as a primary component of Egypt crisis, and sources of food stress. (Notice among them the bit about incompetent grain storage by the Egyptian authorities, not that it supports me or Joe, but because it is interesting and relevant.)
     

  70. Tom Fuller says:

    Yes, when discussing reasons for a revolution, dictatorship, poverty, doubling of population and twin revolution occurring next door are obviously red herrings and should be resolutely ignored so that we can concentrate on the real problem–an 0.8 degree C rise in global mean temperature over the past century. Right.

    Let ’em eat cake.

  71. PDA says:

    Tom if you can offer any evidence that Romm or anyone in this thread asserted that climate change is “the real problem” that led to the unrest in Egypt then you’d have a debate. Otherwise, you’re just strawmanning. Again.

  72. Vinny, certainly that question is within the range of discourse. As I said, that is the open question; whether crop failures had anything to do with problems in Egypt reaching crisis proportions seems generally accepted as true.
     
    Tamino’s argument on the question did not convince me; there were clearly two regimes in the data and 2010 was clearly not in either of them. He relies too much on statistics and not enough on physics. As for Hoerling’s ideas, (not a NOAA position paper) I think you have to look in more detail at the dynamics of the individual blocks. My understanding is that the precedents are not close.
     
    But yes, it’s certainly debatable. I’m not the one telling people to shut up, or criticizing their ethics for even raising a question. If you read what I wrote, you’ll see that I asked whether there was any other part of the logical chain besides the connection between climate change and crop failures that anyone disputed. Apparently, the other point of dispute is whether the question is merely contemptible or beneath contempt…
     
    So, the really interesting meta-question is raised: why the tabu?
     

  73. Tom Fuller says:

     Nobody is telling you to shut up, Tobis–and note that nobody is deleting your comments, despite their odious nature. Criticism of your ethics follows directly from what you actually say. There is no taboo against asking the question.I seem to recall hearing people mention that one should listen to the answer…

    Crop failure? We have seen crop diversion, certainly. In Russia and other places, a decision to increase storage and not to export. In Brazil and the U.S. a decision to put food into fuel tanks.

    What you (for the second time) incorrectly assert as general agreement is anything but.

    Localized crop failures are as old as agriculture. They are referred to (pardon the technical term) as ‘bad years.’ There is even the tradition of seven fat years followed by seven lean.

    You blithely write about the current era of global warming as having started in 1975. Have you looked at food production since that date?

  74. Steve Mennie says:

    @74 Tom..
     
    “Odious nature”…c’mon Tom

  75. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael (70):

    I’m not mocking you–I’m just not taking your argument seriously. It’s lacking in perspective, which is the point of my follow up post that looks at the common denominators in Egypt’s and Tunisia’s respective uprisings.

     

     

  76. Tom Fuller says:

    Steve Mennie, Tobis’ language is inoffensive. The thinking behind it is not. The idea that global warming should be considered ahead of human rights and democracy is, to me, odious. Tobis clearly doesn’t care about decades of grinding power under despotic leadership. What happens in Egypt is only of interest to him if he can link it to climate change.

    He can’t, so he’s dancing around the facts.

  77. PDA says:

    Keith, what part of “To my limited understanding, Egyptians have many legitimate and serious complaints, many of which are not about food insecurity. I certainly don’t want to be seen as claiming otherwise.” indicates a lack of perspective?
     
    Romm’s blog is a blog about climate. This blog is a blog about climate (or, at least, a blog about blogs about climate). I don’t understand why it’s seen as objectionable that bloggers and commenters on climate-focused blogs are looking at the climate angle.

  78. “I don’t understand why it’s seen as objectionable that bloggers and commenters on climate-focused blogs are looking at the climate angle.”
    Because there isn’t one. Or if there is, there has been nothing offered to substantiate it.
     
    The strongest argument in support that I’ve seen so far – and it really is the strongest, dismally worthless though it is – is that CAGW is happening, riots are happening, therefore they *must be* related.
     
    Woot! Check out the “science jugs” on that, lads! Woot! Woot!

  79. Keith Kloor says:

    Tom, I would prefer you leave any such characterizations out of the dialogue, even if you construe the meaning of someone’s post as “odious.” It just makes the debate more personal.

    Also, this is an unfair and cheap shot. “Tobis clearly doesn’t care about decades of grinding power under despotic leadership. What happens in Egypt is only of interest to him if he can link it to climate change.”

    You have no way of knowing that and I, furthermore, don’t believe it. But more importantly, you must steer clear of motive speculating and impugning.

     

     

  80. Thanks PDA.
     
    In fact, I can indeed demonstrate that “What happens in Egypt is only of interest to him if he can link it to climate change.” is false. My interests are not as narrow as alleged.
     
    The whole thing is another example of really poor reading skills. I don’t expect better of some people, but Keith, you can do better. Nobody is saying this is primarily a climate change story; there is just the suggestion that climate change has a role in it. So far the behavior of the populace and the army have been for the most part exemplary and there is even a possibility of a good outcome. But the underlying problems remain, and climate change, energy, and limits to global growth all play a part in them.
     
    I see this weird conversation all as representing a tremendous aversion to admitting that climate change is already consequential. That’s a debate we should be having.
     

  81. Keith Kloor says:

    “I see this weird conversation all as representing a tremendous aversion to admitting that climate change is already consequential. That’s a debate we should be having.”

    Well, that’s because you’re talking about something unrelated to my post and you want to have a discussion on generalities. If you believe that’s the debate that we should be having–that “climate change is already consequential”–by all means, feel free to write a post on that at your site.

    But this particular post here is about an attempt to make a specious global warming link to the Egyptian uprising. Pardon me for keeping it specific to that. People sympathetic to your line of reasoning make this weird counterargument: why shouldn’t we talk about it if it is?

    Well, I’m all ears!! I’m waiting for someone to make a plausible case for global warming to be a non-negligible factor in Egypt’s revolt. If it’s middling and not discernible, why bother, right? But if it deserves equal standing or even close to equal consideration as the other factors I discussed in my follow-up post, then please, make your case. Otherwise, you’re just waving your hands around.

  82. grypo says:

    “That’s a debate we should be having.”
     
    As we saw in the situation with Trenberth, a character assassination ensued from “skeptics” when he connected recent events with climate change.
     
    The dismissive attitude toward Micheal Tobis (besides Fuller’s usual faux anger) and Joe Romm is just a less extreme example.  Instead of arguing with what it said, as uncomfortable it might be, it is much easier to argue really scary big strawmen.

  83. Tom Fuller says:

    Thanks for the constructive and corrective criticism, Keith. I will try very hard not to reoffend.

    We have seen a number of attempts to link events to climate change. Most of them were done hastily and without adequate consideration. Most of them had to be walked back after the fact.

    This is another example.

  84. PDA says:

    I’m waiting for someone to make a plausible case for global warming to be a non-negligible factor in Egypt’s revolt.
     
    Keith, others (apparently not you) are looking at the original source article and arguing that you have misinterpreted it, either intentionally or no. The report that “leading political experts say the Middle East rioting is driven in part by the dramatic rise in food prices, which the agricultural experts say is driven in large part by oil prices and the extreme weather we’ve seen in the last few months” seems uncontroversial.
     
    You read that (or didn’t), and leapt to the conclusion that has it not “even occurred to Romm that Egypt, after smoldering for decades under a repressive regime, was primed to erupt.”  Nobody’s arguing that the position you falsely attribute to Romm and MT is correct. They’re arguing that it’s a straw man, and a fairly threadbare one at that.
     
    Hope this helps.

  85. Tom Fuller says:

    Raising the government-controlled prices on food for the poor in Egypt was a political decision that had more to do with Egyptian financing than either native agriculture or food availability. Part of the unwritten social contract (poor as it was) in Egypt was that the government could continue if the poor could have cheap bread.

    The straw man is the argument that global warming has affected agriculture. There is no evidence for that at all. Not on a global or local basis over the period since 1975.

    If global warming is affecting agriculture, why are we growing more food? (Obviously, technology and science have played a part, because the amount of land going under the plow hasn’t changed.)

    But if global warming is having a negative effect on agriculture, where is the evidence?

  86. BobN says:

    Interesting thread.  First, I do not find it surprising at all that Romm makes a link between AGW and the situation in Egypt.  That is his modus operandi, attempt to link current catastrophes to climate change, whether there is any discernible link or not.

    To somewhat defend MT, I will first grant that it is indeed probable that this last year’s extreme weather events affected food prices globally.  And indeed, it is possible, though purely speculative at this point, that higher food prices contributed (in some small way) to the unrest in Egypt.  Given all the other factors involved, as outlined by Keith, Fuller, and others, however, it seems that the increase in food costs probably only had a very minor contribution, if any.

    Further, I will grant MT that the number and magnitude of apparently extreme weather events within the last year does allow one to at least ask the question of whether such weather events are indicative of climate change (from any cause).  However, I do think it is very premature to make any type of conclusion that said weather events are linked to anthropogenic climate change/disruption/global warming.  Since extreme events are fairly rare, we simply do not have a sufficient dataset to make such an attribution and will not for some time. (RP, Jr. did a good post on this a week or two ago).

    So, I am going to have to agree with Keith that Romm has overstepped in making a connection between AGW and the uprising in Egypt. 

  87. PDA says:

    The straw man is the argument that global warming has affected agriculture.
     
    That’s funny, because that was my point exactly. You keep using this term “straw man.” I do not think it means what you think it means.
    Steve Mennie Says:
    February 1st, 2011 at 12:44 pm
    he merely stated that AGW will be provoking more of the kind of severe weather events that have lead to food shortages and spikes in commodity prices and that this is an indication of the seriousness of global climate change and that we need to wake up and realize this.
    Michael Tobis Says:
    February 1st, 2011 at 11:09 am
    My belief is that this sort of thing is what we can expect for some time; an increasing level of resource stress popping up, often, surprisingly far from the location of the climate-related damage. Nobody thought Egypt’s number was up next, but here it is.

  88. BobN says:

    PDA – The question at hand is not whether climate change will affect agricultural production in the future, but whether it has affected agricultural production. I’ll add that should read “has negatively affected” agriculture, IMO.  As Tom points out, agricultural yields have improved markedly over the last 3 decades of warming.  Undoubtedly, much, if not all, of this improvement is related to improvements in agricultural practices.  However, because yields have increased it is not possible to argue, at this point in time, that climate change has adversely affected agriculture.  

    Did the last year’s extreme weather events affect agricultural production in some key areas and thus affect food prices – the answer seems to be yes, but it is not yet possible to positively ascribe those weather events to anthropogenic climate change.

    Will anthropogenic climate change affect agriculture in the future?  My answer is probably both positively and negatively and the impacts will both 1) depend on the magnitude of warming and 2) vary greatly by region.

  89. Keith Kloor says:

    PDA (85)

    Which source article would that be that makes a case for climate change-related/rising food prices as precipitating event for Egyptian revolt?

    I looked at all of Romm’s cites (the ones that didn’t link back to his posts) and it looks like all of them either make the general case (unrelated to Egypt) or a case for Tunisia.

    As I pointed out, even the reliable Grist couldn’t bring itself to make the connection.

    Bottom line and call it whatever you want: Romm conflates arguments for Tunisia with arguments for Egypt.

  90. PDA says:

    Keith, I am talking about the source article for this post: Romm’s article, which I quoted. Again, the assertion that he “makes a case for climate change-related/rising food prices as precipitating event for Egyptian revolt” (emphasis mine) is your creation: I don’t see “precipitating” or any synonym for that word in the post. I do see “driven in part,” “contributing to,” etc., throughout the article referring Tunisia as well as Egypt (and Jordan as well).

  91. PDA says:

    why even have an “underline” button if it does nothing?

  92. Tom Fuller says:

    What should be underlined is the inappropriateness of hijacking a real world issue solely for falsely associating it with climate change.

    There is no historical association between current warming and agricultural production.

    Falsely claimng there is and that it contributed to rioting in Egypt is just hijacking the thread of world discourse on the subject, when the focus should be on the poverty, need for development and legitimate aspirations of the Egyptians.

    It is no different than ascribing the rioting there to a severe shortage of left-handed redheads.

  93. Keith Kloor says:

    @91

    Now you want to play semantics? I don’t even know why I’m bothering, at this point.

    In my post, I wrote that it takes hubris for someone to see a “global warming angle to the Egyptian revolt.” That he makes such a mishmash, conflated case for this is even worse.

    Now over at Michael’s thread, I see he writes (my emphasis):

    “So, Joe Romm wrote a piece suggesting that climate change may have been a precipitating event of the crises in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.”

    You might want to take issue with him over this.

    But you’d be playing semantic games with him, too.

  94. PDA says:

    semantic sɪˈmæntɪk adj. of or relating to meaning or the study of meaning
     
    I disagree with you about the meaning of Romm’s post, and explained, I think reasonably clearly over a few separate posts, what I thought the meaning was. The fact that you didn’t engage on the specifics makes it pretty clear who is playing “semantic games.” I’m increasingly convinced that you simply lose your ability to parse English sentences whenever you see a Joe Romm byline.
     
    precipitating prɪˈsɪpɪteɪt adj bringing on suddenly or abruptly
     
    i disagree with you and MT on the appropriateness of the word in this context, though “a precipitating” (in the sense of one cause among several) is marginally more accurate. I am actually capable of disagreeing with you and MT at the same time, though. Some people are double-jointed; this is my gift, I guess.

  95. Keith Kloor says:

    Actually, PDA, you have contortionist gifts, as well.

    And I’m increasingly convinced that engaging as much as I do in these threads is a waste of time. As anyone who’s been following recent threads from the past week, the same experience ensues regardless of which sacred cow on the climate spectrum I dare to question. Amazing.

  96. Tom Fuller says:

    PDA, would you be so kind as to talk us through where there are studies that show impacts of global warming on agriculture since 1975? Everything that I have seen has been oriented towards projected impacts. Given that agricultural outputs have risen consistently, I would really like to see papers arguing the contrary.

    I assume that regions that have historically been subject to drought would be carefully examined, and the periodicity and frequency of such.

    I think all of us participating in this thread understand that global warming will be expressed regionally and we expect whatever impacts may ensue to be confined to a series of regions (which may change over time). I don’t believe anybody is sitting back smugly and thinking that since global totals are increasing, global warming is non-existent.

    But everything I have read suggests strongly that problems with main cereal availability is down to three types of diversion:

    1. Diversion into storage due to fears of global shortages
    2. Diversion into biofuels
    3. Diversion into feeds for animal consumption to satisfy increasing demand for meat

    It has been my operating assumption that these three are fully explanatory of the situation.

    I would welcome information showing that my assumption is over-facile.

  97. PDA says:

    Thanks for your cogent and detailed response. I, too, enjoy these pithy exchanges of ideas.

  98. Tom Fuller says:

    I was actually going to name my blog Pith and Vinegar at one point. But I had the wrong helmet for it.

  99. Menth says:

    @96 “And I’m increasingly convinced that engaging as much as I do in these threads is a waste of time. As anyone who’s been following recent threads from the past week, the same experience ensues regardless of which sacred cow on the climate spectrum I dare to question. Amazing.”
    Don’t be discouraged.
    You have one of the better blogs because people from a wider spectrum of belief congregate here. I hope it never turns into a moderated echo-chamber where people strain their necks from the frequent nodding in agreement. Borrrrring. I come here to see competing points of view not to reinforce my own pre-conceived beliefs.

  100. Keith Kloor says:

    @100

    Well, I’m glad to hear this, and thanks, but please don’t misunderstand. The last thing I want is exactly what you dread.

    And I should keep in mind that there are way, way more lurkers than commenters (as is the case with all blogs). In fact, tomorrow I’m going to put up a post related to my traffic stats (using google analytics), since I thought it would be interesting to folks to get a sense of the audience size and other demographics.

  101. I for one am trying to be constructive here. Let’s stop sniping and hairsplitting.
     
    I am not claiming that there is a simple, smooth relationship between CO2 and crop disruption. Quite the contrary, I think it will be episodic and/or abrupt. We certainly have been having an episode of widespread weirdness globally since at least last summer. Many odd things have happened on a large scale recently, two of them this very day (the huge blizzard in America and the massive tropical storm in Australia); many of them seem related to very large climatological changes in the Arctic.
     
    The question of attribution to climate change is a fraught one. But it’s certainly plausible.
     
    But there is no doubt that these events contributed directly to a large spike in food commodity prices leading to food shortages in poor countries. The main contributors were drought in Australia, heat/drought/smoke in Russia, and drought in Argentina, three of the main exporters.
     
    As far as I know there is no doubt that hunger is explicitly an issue for the protestors.
     
     

  102. Andy says:

    Wow, I have to say it took some effort to get to the end of this comment thread.  Let me add my 2 cents in.
     
    First of all, determining causality is rarely clear-cut and there is always the tendency to fill the cup of causality with the wine of our own beliefs, predilections and biases.  Additionally, while we can rarely determine causes for these events with a high degree of precision, we can make reasonable general conclusions.
     
    In this case an obvious question to ask is:  In the absence of climate change, would this revolution have occurred?  I tend to think it likely would have simply because the proximate causes of demographics,  Egyptian state policy, US policy, the nature of the Egyptian regime, communication technology, regional history, etc. are much bigger and more clearly related to the actual event.  That doesn’t mean that climate change is irrelevant, but I think it is crowded out by other factors to such an extent that it becomes a minor factor.
     
    To look at it another way, suppose two weeks ago you wanted to prevent this kind of popular revolution from occurring in Egypt.  Where on a prioritized list of revolution-proofing changes would climate change be?  Given all of Egypt’s problems, probably pretty low on the list.
     
    There is also the distinction between core causes (like demographics, governance, economic policy) and catalysts (like a food shortage or a revolution next door).  A strong state with good governance that has it’s act together won’t be thrown into revolution by a catalytic event.
     
    So the best that can be said, IMO, is that climate change might be one influence to one of several catalytic factors that instigated this crisis.

  103. Steve Mennie says:

    @Andy..
     
    And that is my reading of Romm’s post..climate change was posited as one influence that could be seen as a contributory factor..why all the sputtering on KK’s part?
     
    Interesting take on things here..
     
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_food_bomb_20110131/

  104. Joe picks it up again, I think compellingly.
     
    For me the most compelling point was the corroborating language by Jeff Masters. Jeff Masters is, I think, the undisputed leading writer on day-to-day meteorology, at least in English, and has been running wunderground (first at U Michigan if memory serves, and then as a dot com) since the internet was young, before any of us had seen a dot-com.
     
    I have absolutely nothing on him as an operational meteorologist, but I read his writing often and consider him authoritative in that field. Here is what he said at Romm’s:
     
    “In my thirty years as a meteorologist, I’ve never seen global weather patterns as strange as those we had in 2010. The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. Natural variability probably did play a significant role in the wild weather of 2010, and 2011 will likely not be nearly as extreme. However, I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame. We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events”“many of them extremely destructive”“to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.”
     
     
    OK, maybe, coming from me or Joe or Bill McKibben or Sen/VP/PE Gore, you might perhaps suspect worthless honking from someone with an agenda; who can tell one way or the other? But coming from a genuine recognized authority on weather, that is something else.
     
    Please read it twice, all.
     
    Many thanks, also, Keith, for the space to vent and the taking me half-seriously. I’m genuinely sorry my gang is being so hard on you. But at least this time they have a little bit of a point.
     
    I don’t always like what Joe says or how he says it, but this time he has a real and important point. I think it’s important to understand that very smart, very serious people are thinking this way about the climate system in 2010 and the consequences in 2011; that it’s well past the point of being hubris.
     

  105. Tom C says:

    OK, MT, if you are going to attribute every disaster, including bridge collapses and popular uprisings, to a fraction of a degree rise in temperature over a century, then I get to correlate all the disasters of past centuries, including the black plague and every huge famine, on the fraction of a degree lower temperatures that prevailed at the time.  It’s clearly the case that many worse things happened when the temperature was lower.

    I am not being flippant.  My reasoning here is just as valid as yours, which is to say that it is not valid at all.

  106. No. The climate was very stable for 8000 years (by Holocene standards, i.e., the last 2 million years, extraordinarily so), and now it isn’t.  So the cases aren’t remotely comparable.
     
    It’s not about temperature, it’s about readjustment to new conditions. The conditions were so stable that people thought they were permanent, and even in that very stable condition, normal, local climate changes still caused considerable woes.
     
    The stability is gone. Human forcing is already larger than the forcing that times the glacial cycle. In watts, not in furrowed brows or angst-ridden essays, watts. This is not guesswork or fancy, or even prediction anymore. This is actually occurring.
     

  107. Andy says:

    Steve (#104)
     
    Well, it’s a question of degree.  My reading of Romm is that he’s trying to have it both ways – On one hand he says we can’t ignore the big factors, but on the other he draws a clear line from climate change to food disruption to this crisis.  I don’t think it’s nearly that clear nor that linear.

  108. Roddy Campbell says:

    Andy #103 has it, more elegantly restating my earlier comment.
    The causal link between higher global food prices and Egyptian revolt is a toughie, but let’s say there is some linkage, we’ve seen over the centuries that food prices are a factor in social unrest, so perhaps a catalyst.
    The link between higher prices and climate is tougher again, the link between climate and man even tougher.  Population growth, demographics, political changes, technology, random crop booms and busts ….. it reminds me most of the AGW causes more malaria argument, when the effect is so low order as to be not only not discernible but also irrelevant compared to man’s direct effect on malaria.
    Ditto crop yields globally.

  109. Tom Fuller says:

    I can understand some concern about differing climates for farming and livestock but stability is over-rated as far as the human condition is concerned. Variety keeps us alert and responsive–which is why we vacation in climates that differ from our homes about 10 times more than climate change is predicted to be. Which is why we do the same when we retire. I was born in Denver, lived in New York, Chicago, California, Italy and England. Different climates are actually okay for normal humans. We adap
    On the other hand, it’s nice to see meteorologists welcomed back into polite society after so many years of ridicule and loathing. I wonder what loyalty oath Masters had to sign.

  110. Neven says:

    I’ve also lived in many places and I have noticed supermarkets everywhere are always full. Of course we can adapt. No problem.

  111. Steve M and MT have the argument.  The one angle not mentioned is that these Tunisian/Egyptian “riots” are actually a good thing, so it’s a potential positive effect of AGW.  I wouldn’t care to use that as an argument to do little or nothing about the climate problem, though.

  112. kdk33 says:

    “there is always the tendency to fill the cup of causality with the wine of our own beliefs”   –   Sweet

    A posteriori attribution claims are just silly:  Something bads gonna happen. Wait. Wait… Wait…….  There, see, I told you so.

    From the ridiculous to the sublime.

  113. kdk33 says:

    BTW, having been forced to travel this fine week: if it gets any warmer, I’m gonna build an igloo.

  114. Kate says:

    Dunno know about Keith but here’s what I need: one example of an experiment or observation that would rule out internal climate cycles as the cause of the warming in the thermometer record. Just one.

  115. Ron Broberg says:

    Before you can rule them out, you have to define them. What exactly are “<em>internal climate cycles</em>”? This definition has to be translatable into statistical test. Without that definition, this is just “climate babble.”

  116. Slashar says:

    Has anyone looked at the idea of Obama and the Feds quantitative easing has created the rising food pricing and not the rising temperatures ?????

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