31 May 2019


Anybody remember 2012?  Beef got cheap.

One edge of what we're looking at with the American maize crop not getting planted is chicken getting cheap.

If you're a scientist speaking in a scientific capacity, you're constrained in your language.  Most people don't know how to read it; it's a skill they've never had cause to develop.

I'm not a scientist.  I don't have the obligation of constraint and I'm not trying to get anything through a committee nervous about political responses.

Irrespective of what happens in this year of the Common Era two thousand and nineteen, industrial agriculture is going to break hard and forever by 2030.  This is a combination of dependency on fossil carbon, mass use of bioaccumulating toxins (agriculture that kills all the pollinators is not functioning agriculture!), and needing to know when it's going to rain.

Is this year the year?

Maybe not.

Thing is, the climate is going to get worse for the next couple centuries; the whole truly foreseeable future is the climate getting worse.  It will do that if all use of fossil carbon stopped tomorrow by miraculous means.  It's plausible that the Arctic Amplification feedback tipped in 2005 or so and we're going to get 8 C of warming by 2100.  It's not impossible that we're going to get thereabout of 12 C when all is said and done and the feedbacks have unwound.  It's quite likely that the notion of a temperate zone in the climate is going to go away; whether you want to think of this as Arctic and Not Arctic or Tropical and Not Tropical is much of a muchness.  That means a couple of things; the most important is that absolutely no one knows where it's going to rain how much at a level of detail useful for farming.

(Some of the others are that the direction the weather comes from is likely to change, and over the next little while -- one human lifetime -- lots of places become uninhabitable.  Which is irrelevant; the relevant thing is the first time it goes over 35 C wet-bulb and even the hale and robust and well-hydrated people die.)

What can you do about it?

Bloody revolution is an annoying distraction.  General strikes lack sufficient population buy-in and the brain mangling via media is too effective to expect to change that in a useful time frame.  (The useful time frame was back in about 1980.)

No place in the Northern Hemisphere below 45 North is all that likely to stay habitable; it might, especially at higher altitudes, but it might not, too.  And if it does it might be dryer than a dry dry thing most of the time and food is mostly water.  Plus we're not likely to see the survival of the industrial nation-state able to support major overland transport; bootstrapping one where you've had a credit system and thus a fuel supply collapse, for example, isn't going to be a "everything fine in five years problem", because that'll be the second hard blow to the head of food security.  Any shipping is likely to be by water, and it's likely to be small-scale, slow, and never cross the equator.

So what you could do is to get far enough north somewhere currently wet (and thus likely-ish to stay wet) and vaguely coastal and see about growing food by one of the labour-intensive, high-yield-per-area robust approaches.  Any non-fossil-carbon tech base you can install is likely good; don't forget that you need some kind of sewage handling just after you need food, because sewage handling is what lets you have neighbours in a social way and you need neighbours.

(To tangent on to a go-bag thread; toenail clippers.   You're considering to walk indefinitely off yonder and you haven't got toenail clippers?  Unless you're skilled and flexible enough to trim yours with a knife, this is a bad plan.)

Have we got the whole ten years?

I kinda doubt it.


Mr Wiggles said...

The biggest greenhouse gas is water vapour. By far.

More CO2 has a small greenhouse gas effect, which raises temperature slightly. Which means more water vapour in the atmosphere, which raises temps somewhat more, which raises humidity which, etc. CO2 is the driver, increased humidity the amplifier.

Yes, some places will get dryer after global warming, as wind patterns change. But most places are looking at wetter climates - quite a bit wetter.

Graydon said...

+Mr wiggles

CO2 directly is about a quarter of the warming, yes. But it's also the rheostat to drive (nearly) everything else.

The issue isn't so much the wetter versus dryer -- though I will note that the current problem is mostly "much too wet" in the US midwest -- is how erratic things are. If you knew two years ahead, you could plan for it. But of course we don't know ahead at all.