Population growth, increasing wealth join climate change as threat to food supplies

Fri, 2008-03-07 10:48Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

Population growth, increasing wealth join climate change as threat to food supplies

Rampant population growth and rising wealth in developing countries are driving up demand for food, a UK official says, while global warming also imperils food stores through decreased rainfall and crop failures.

The agriculture industry is going to have to double food production, but with less water than today. Another big threat to food supplies is biofuel production.

Food security and rising food prices are an “elephant in the room” that politicians must face up to quickly, said Professor John Beddington, UK's new chief scientific adviser.

In his first major speech as chief scientist, Beddington said the rush to grow biofuels was compounding the problem, and cutting down rainforest to produce biofuel crops was “profoundly stupid.”

Beddington, who took over the post from Sir David King nine weeks ago, was professor of applied population biology at Imperial College London. He is an expert on the sustainable use of renewable resources.

He told a conference in Westminster: “It is very hard to imagine how we can see a world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous increase in the demand for food which is quite properly going to happen as we alleviate poverty.”

Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said at the conference that the world's population was expected to grow from 6.2bn today to 9.5bn in less than 50 years' time. “How are we going to feed everybody?”

Beddington said “it is clear that science and research to increase the efficiency of agricultural production per unit of land is critical.”

Sadly, nobody said anything about birth control.

Previous Comments

Benn’s figure for today’s population (6.2 billion) is about 10% lower than most estimates. Perhaps a transcription error by the Guardian? In any case, nice to see someone even mention population figures. Happens too rarely.

Under another article here there is a post from George Reisman equating environmentalists to Nazis and enemies of humankind, bent on eliminating our species to save the planet. All you have to do is say “over-population” and they come flying out of the woodwork! Some of us are frequently under attack by one of our resident trolls for being “hypocrites”, because we have children.

AGW is one outcome of many that have arisen from the fact that humans have been a wildly successful species. Solutions will be found not just in controlling GHG emissions, but also in finding methods for sustainable habitation of this planet in a much broader sense. The possibility that we might actually have to cooperate on a global scale scares the bejeezuz out of some folks.

fyi, here’s a link to a population counter: http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop

Fern Mackenzie

Fern, I can’t speak for Mr. Reisman but can I say enviromentalists hardly do themselves any favours with their extreme views and twisted physcology. here’s some greeny quotes;

David Suzuki has called for “political leaders to be thrown in jail for ignoring the science behind climate change.” Didn’t mean it literally says scientist’s spokesperson!

Biologist David Graber (U.S. National Park Service): “They [natural things] have intrinsic value, more value - to me - than another human body, or a billion of them. Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. Somewhere along the line - about a billion years ago - we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

Philosophy Professor Paul Taylor, City University of New York in Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics: “Given the total, absolute, and final disappearance of Homo Sapiens, not only would the Earth’s community of life continue to exist, but in all probability, its well-being would be enhanced. Our presence, in short, is not needed. And if we were to take the standpoint of that Life Community and give voice to its true interests, the ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty “Good riddance!”

Dave Forman, Founder of Earth First!: “Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.”

Earth First! Journal editor John Daily: “Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.”

An equally extreme case is Peter Singer, a ‘bioethicist’ at Princeton University. He maintains that the suffering of a crippled ant deserves equal consideration to that of a crippled human child. If we could only save one, he says, we should decide by the flip a coin or else we would be “speciests”.

If you are going to quote people give an exact citation.

‘Liar’ VJ

when anyone apposes man-made GW

Further increasing the efficiency of agricultural production per unit of land? Have we learned nothing from the past? Increased efficiency over the long haul? Now that might be a good goal. But I think we’ve learned the soils cannot sustain modern man’s idea of efficient agriculture. Ultimately we will have to come to terms with the fact that our population has overshot a sustainable level.

Dave Gardner
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity www.growthbusters.com

Dave Gardner, you’ve clearly got no historical intelligence or knowledge in mans agriculture or science. If history teaches us anything about man it’s that he is industrious, inventive and highly intelligent. There is little negative in mans increasing productivity and food production, just a whole lot of good news with the occasional failure.

Take a look at oranges, wheat, corn, apples, pears, olives, wine production figures from 1950 onwards, even as far back as the agricultural revolution to see mans ability to increase productivity and ability to harness plants. The figures rise year on year with the occasional blip due to drought or heavy rain or occassional disease.

There are simply massive areas of land still to be utilised for food production in Europe, America and especially in the under-developed world.

Your thought process is utterly negative, false and quite frankly stupidly ignorant.

JohnnyB you are an offensive, ignorant twit.

Does ‘VJ’ stand for Vacuous Jerk? You need to fill your head with some scientific facts VJ because you ain’t got a clue what you’re talking about!


Ever consider raising hemp for food? It’s one of the more nutritious foods on the planet. It’ll grow worldwide.

Great stuff.
From what I’ve read it’s not just a good food supply, but it also has many other uses…paper, cloth, plastic just to name 3.
The trouble with hemp (at least in the USA) is the tiny amount of THC it contains.
Mention the word hemp and the American DEA instantly get their knickers in a knot!

07/01/07 6,602,274,812
08/01/07 6,608,818,475
09/01/07 6,615,362,139
10/01/07 6,621,694,717
11/01/07 6,628,238,381
12/01/07 6,634,570,959
01/01/08 6,641,114,623
02/01/08 6,647,658,287
03/01/08 6,653,779,780
04/01/08 6,660,323,443
05/01/08 6,666,656,022
06/01/08 6,673,199,685
07/01/08 6,679,532,264 http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html

How is it Europe was producing food mountains only 10yrs ago? Europe is so efficient at food production they invented ‘set-aside’ to rotate land (leaving 25% of the land to grow to scrub) to take it out of production. How is it America today is estimated to produce 30% more food than its population can consume? A world population growth from 6.2 to over 9 Billion (50%) is easily achieveable by countries with modern farming and some surpluses from other countries. This is a fear without foundation and absolute tosh!

JohnnyB, I believe the world produces surplus food now, while many people still starve because the food is not made available to them. However, the main problem with global warming is that it will make the climate unstable and extreme weather events more likely to happen, which will cause crop failures. This year Canadian farmers are benefitting from higher wheat prices because there have been crop failures in other parts of the world. That’s fine for now, but as the prairies grow drier, we could have crop failures like we had in the 1930s, every year for a decade or more.

When the climate changes, our lives change.

VJ, you really need to get your global weather facts straight. Warmer weather leads to wetter weather (greater evaporation and precipitaion) not a dryer Earth. Even the IPCC now admit that. In fact its the only extreme weather scare story they have left because it is colder weather that leads to extreme weather (more hurricanes, cyclones, higher winds) not warmer weather.

Secondly warmer weather (and higher CO2 levels) leads to greater plant growth and longer growing seasons which creates bigger food chains for all living animals, including man. Again it is global cooling that is to be feared and leads to species extinction, not global warming (more humans die due to colder weather too).

You’re right ‘when the climate changes our lives change’. Only we (and all plants and animals) grow better in warmer weather.

Finally the weather today is the same as 1940 give or take half a degree. Enjoy the warmth and growth of life while it lasts as Earths climate is predominantly colder.

Warmer weather can cause more precipitation in some places and drought in others.

Provide a citation for this: “Warmer weather leads to wetter weather (greater evaporation and precipitaion) not a dryer Earth. Even the IPCC now admit that”

Your hogwash about plants and animals is not worth addressing.

VJ, you really need to stop swallowing hyperbole, propoganda and spin like some 4yr old at Kindergarten. Warmer weather leads to greater precipitation (more rain) and that includes in desert areas. Earths geological records show this as fact. My ‘hogwash’ about plants and animals being more abundent, healthier, growing faster, living in a lovely warm enviroment is actually very true. It’s global cooling that leads to species dying, more humans dying, more animals dying and extreme weather events. If you have some facts (as apposed to the spin and propoganda you’ve swallowed whole) please post it to this forum. I’d be delighted to educate you further and de-bug and de-propoganda your brain.

Johnnyb said: “My ‘hogwash’ about plants and animals being more abundent, healthier, growing faster, living in a lovely warm enviroment is actually very true”. No, it’s rubbish. Just check out what global warming is doing in Australia. Wheat crops are down substantially. This will be repeated in NA very shortly. Of course, what doesn’t get killed by drought and heat will be washed away in flash floods, all of which have been predicted to increase with AGW.

Try doing some reading of factual information, stay away from such sites as climatefraudit and junkscience, they will destroy even more of your neurons.

Also check on the biochemistry of what happens to plants under higher temperatures and CO2 concentrations. The key enzyme in the fixing of CO2 is inhibited under those conditions.

See: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/24/13430

Ian Forrester

Ian Forrester, the study you refer to seems to be heating plants to 40 to 42 Degrees, I’m not sure what the value is! Take a look at American and Australian wheat yields since 1940 - all show large increases in growth/yield per acre with the occasional blip. Try growing wheat, rice or any staple human food in colder climates and feed yourself? If you can’t understand basic biology prefers warmer weather there’s no helping you!

I went to the same site.
“Net photosynthesis (Pn) is inhibited by moderate heat stress.”
“Depending on the CO2 concentration, Pn decreased when temperatures exceeded 35-40C.”

Leads to extreme weather? More hurricanes?
How come hurricane season is during the summer?

Tom, I’m not sure hurricanes do happen in summer! Hurricanes and Cyclones occur in the Atlantic and Pacific basins and according to the experts are the result of the oceans salination (salt) and evaporation levels.

You will notice the worst weather and highest wind speeds happen in winter, not summer. Similarly the Earths weather is worst in the colder regions and global warming is not to be feared, it’s global cooling that will bring the worst weather.

Indeed in the latter half of the 20th Century - when U.S. manufacturing exploded Hurricane activity actually decreased by nearly 20 percent, declining to 28 Catagory 3-5 hurricanes from 1951 to 2000.

Here’s a link to the Hurricane records which have shown little sign of any change.

“Hurricane Center: Global Warming Equals Fewer Storms”

The IPCC’s Hurricane Expert, Chritopher Landsea, who found ‘no global warming signal found in the hurricane record’ and resigned when an IPCC member ‘hyped’ there was signs of increasing extreme weather. http://www.climatechangefacts.info/ClimateChangeDocuments/LandseaResignationLetterFromIPCC.htm

You’re not sure hurricanes do happen in summer?
Of all the goofy things I’ve read here; that is, without a doubt, the absolute winner.

Tom, the Atlantic hurricane season ends in December, is that Floridas summer or winter?

How about Hurricane Katrina, which formed on August 23rd? Looks like summer to me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina

VJ, you and Tom could well be right about Hurricanes forming during summer. Frankly I’m not bothered either way as the worst weather is still during winters and global cooling. But just to ram home the point there’s no global warming signal in the Earths cyclone or hurricane activity here’s some more articles to stop you claiming a link (as the IPC did, but have stopped doing - in fact I don’t know the IPCC have any hurricane experts left now Chris Landsea resigned!);

“Global Warming & Hurricanes”
William M. Gray

The Spin on Greenhouse Hurricanes
Robert C. Balling Jr., Ph.D. Professor of Climatology

Counting Cyclones back to 1900
Christopher W. Landsea Ph.D. Atmospheric Science

Global Warming Didn’t Cause Katrina

Hurricane Hysteria
by Patrick J. Michaels

“Hurricanes and Hot Air”
William M. GRAY - Wall Street Journal (July 26, 2007)

Manuel was one of William M. Gray’s students, and originally doubted that AGW might be having an impact on the intensity of hurricanes and cyclones. But he followed the science and has changed his mind (leaving Gray in his dust, refusing to keep up). See this letter in Nature: ftp://texmex.mit.edu/pub/emanuel/PAPERS/NATURE03906.pdf
If you doubt his credibility, please see his home page:
Fern Mackenzie

Johnnyb said: “Frankly I’m not bothered either way as the worst weather is still during winters and global cooling”.

From the above statement we can conclude that the sand box that johnnyb’s head is buried is air-conditioned.

That statement is just complete rubbish. The most serious weather events all occur in the spring, summer and fall. Due to global warming their seasons have been extending on both sides. I refer to tropical cyclones, tornadoes, drought, flooding and high winds. These all cause very extensive economic damage and fatalities in the SPRING, SUMMER AND FALL.

As for your comment about global warming and hurricanes, the IPCC says that it is likely that “intense tropical cyclone activity will increase” in severity and numbers as global warming continues. (Table SPM 3, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report)

You are just spouting nonsense in just about everything you post.

Ian Forrester

The official Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends November 30.
97% of all hurricane activity happens between those 2 dates.
That means the season starts in spring, runs through the summer and ends in the fall.
Winter starts December 21.

I went there and that item was posted September 25, 2005.
You are aware of what that year was don’t you?
The most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history!
According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center:
Record 27 name storms
Record 15 hurricanes
Tied Record 7 major hurricanes
Record 4 category 5 hurricanes
Record lowest central pressure Wilma 882 mb
Record most damage for the United States over $100 Billion
and of course that was the year for Katrina
Fewer storms? Are you serious?

Tom, sorry you’re deeply wrong to link global warming with increases in hurricanes (even the IPCC has given up on that old chestnut). Secondly higher insurance costs are also no indication of global warming, just a sign more people and property are now living in coastal regions (ie. the hurricane path, like Florida).

Regarding NOAA’s forecastings in “2006 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook,” forecasting an “80% chance of an above-normal hurricane season, a 15% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 5% chance of a below-normal season.” NOAA called for “a very active 2006 season, with 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and 4-6 major hurricanes.”

And NOAA was quite sure of upcoming calamitous storms. “The main uncertainty in this outlook is not whether the season will be above normal, but how much above normal it will be,” the agency stated in the section of the report entitled, “Uncertainties in the Outlook.”

Though the predicted storms were slow to develop during the ensuing months, NOAA remained confident of an above-average hurricane season when it issued the “August 2006 Update to Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.” NOAA continued to predict a 75% chance of an above-average season, a 20% chance of a near-normal season and only a 5% chance of a below-normal season, including 12-15 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes and 3-4 major hurricanes.

NOAA has yet to issue its final seasonal summary for 2006, but one thing is clear – NOAA’s predictions for the 2006 hurricane season were way off. During the 2006 hurricane season there were only 9 named-storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes – none of which hit the U.S.
According to NOAA’s own classification system, these numbers classify 2006 as a “below-normal” hurricane season – something NOAA gave only a 5% chance of happening.

How can so many smart folks be so wrong? Consider NOAA’s predictions for the 2006 hurricane season in the context of the manmade global warming hypothesis.

Despite the vast collective expertise of NOAA scientists, immense quantities of atmospheric and oceanic data, and unprecedented computing power, NOAA failed miserably in predicting weather events a mere 6 months into the future – and reiterated those same ill-conceived predictions at mid-season.

Yet global warming alarmists, including those at NOAA, expect us to unthinkingly buy into their dire forecasts of global warming – predictions that extend 100 years or more into the future. Forecasting global climate change decades into the future can only be described as orders of magnitude more complex than forecasting an imminent, 6 month-long hurricane season.

And NOAA were just as ‘out’ for the 2007 mseason too.

Article. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,233454,00.html

Everyone seems to somehow miss the point. It’s water not food that is the limiting factor. We’ve proven we can easily grow plants in deserts with enough irrigation. Where does the water come from? That is the real issue. I expect we’d need to desalinate the seawater and pipe it. It might stop us dumping our crap in the ocean too.

Regarding hurricanes, it pays to keep up to date. Emanuel is one of very few hurricane specialists who said hurricanes would get worse. The majority of the experts say the jury was out. However very recent papers from universally respected scientists have indicated that indeed we can expect no increase in hurricane frequency or strength because wind shear has a negating effect with temperature and relative temperatures have in any event more importance than absolute temperatures. NOAA has now released the definitive statement basically saying the jury is now in - nothing to worry about. Check their site. Emanuel has since been largely silent.

Fracking for natural gas

“We cannot solely rely on abundant gas to solve the climate change problem. The climate change problem requires a climate change solution. Abundant gas could be great for any number of things, but it is not going to solve the climate change problem.”

This statement was made by Haewon McJeon, the lead author on a new study published last week by Nature magazine, which concluded that...

read more