Climate Change Pushing World to Brink of Food Crisis as FAO Price Index Jumps to 208.1 in February


Along with water and energy, which are related to its production, it is one of the key commodities necessary to keep the world’s 7.1 billion people alive, healthy and happy. Its price and availability can determine the fate of nations and the stability of the world’s economic system. Rising prices mean risk of increasing poverty, risk of political instability and, in the worst instances, a creeping spread of hunger and malnutrition about the globe.

And ever since the year 2000 world food prices have been steadily and inexorably rising.

FAO index February 2014

(UN FAO Food Price Index through February of 2014. Image source: UN FAO.)

The UN FAO Index — An Indicator for Global Crisis

The United Nations provides a valuable index that comprehensively assesses the overall cost of food in both real and nominal terms. Managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the food price index has been tracking global indicators for this valuable commodity since 1961.

The FAO Index emerged in a world that hosted 3 billion people. A world that was just beginning to realize the strengths and limitations of its new, mechanized, fossil fuel-dependent, civilization. A world where new fossil water resources and slow to recharge groundwater were being tapped through drilling. A world where farming was expanding into even the most marginal and vulnerable of regions even as forests continued to be converted into farmland at a stunning rate.

From a period of the 1960s on into the first years of the 1970s, the nascent FAO price index recorded stable if moderately high global food prices. By the 1970s, food prices spiked along with the cost of energy during an oil crisis related to a Growth Shock as US and western energy production encountered a series of difficult to cross boundary limits.

The First Test — 1970s Energy and Climate Crisis

The FAO also emerged in a world where agriculture was heavily dependent on fossil material and energy inputs — for machinery, pesticides, and for fertilizer. This single commodity dependence meant that any spike in oil prices also had a deleterious effect on food access. And energy price spike after energy price spike occurred throughout the 1970s. A first warning that such a high level of reliance on just one commodity — oil — was a clear and critical weakness for the global economic and food distribution system.

At the same time, an intense drought swept over Africa. The rains that annually drenched the Sahel region faded and, then, for a period of about a decade, simply failed. The energy crisis combined with severe decadal climate shifts in Africa to further stress world food markets already reeling under oil price shocks. Higher prices, political instability and widespread hunger soon followed.

During this time, the link between human fossil fuel emissions and a potential to radically alter the climate in a way that was far more hostile to traditional agriculture was mostly unexplored. But despite this general lack of awareness, changes were already lining up that would have severe consequences for human agriculture within only a few decades. A then less visible, but no less important, weakness resulting from industrial agriculture’s, and much of modern civilization’s, reliance on oil, gas and coal. Fuels whose endlessly ramping use created long-term and ever increasing damage to environments in which human agriculture could be reasonably expected to exist.

Rise From Crisis Without Addressing Underlying Vulnerability

Political pressure was put on the Middle East to make energy more cheaply and readily available. Forests were cut down in South America to make room for more farmland. Saudi Arabia mined fossil water to farm its deserts. Meanwhile, the rains eventually returned to Africa and so prices again fell to far more affordable levels during the 1980s and 1990s. But the key weaknesses — reliance on fossil fuels for agriculture, an immense world population that jumped to 4, 5 and then 6 billion, a host of problems and vulnerabilities emerging from big industrial farms, and increasing agricultural vulnerability to water scarcity and related climate shifts were not addressed.

So as the world entered the first decade of the new millennium and signs of crisis began to again emerge, it found itself radically unprepared to deal with what was shaping up to be a more vicious repeat of the shocks experienced during the 1970s.

Energy Shocks, Extreme Weather, Consumption Changes, 7 Billion People

Entering the first decade of a new millennium, food prices were again on the rise. Oil shocks were starting to once more ramp up and strange changes to the world’s climate were starting to spur extreme drought and rainfall events that were outside of the typical context of human agriculture. Meanwhile, emerging economies in Asia such as India and China were beginning to demand more meat thereby putting additional stress on the world’s farmland — as meat-based agriculture is about 1/50 as efficient on a calorie comparison basis when compared to simply farming grains, legumes and vegetables.

By the middle of the decade, a series of crisis points had been reached. Worldwide demand for both food and energy was raging. Populations were nearing 7 billion souls. Oil price increases were leading more nations to use farmland for biofuels production creating a competition for land use between fuels and food. Australia was suffering its worst drought in 1,000 years and many other regions of the world were likewise sporadically hit. But the big, severe, widespread droughts would wait for next decade to emerge with even greater force and rapacity.

By 2007, world oil prices were screaming toward record levels and an already climate and demand stressed food market rapidly followed. By 2008, the FAO index had surged to a record level of 201. Such a large jump had numerous and far-reaching effects. Hunger again became an issue of serious concern in Africa and, sporadically, various countries began to see food riots as the distribution system painfully rebalanced to reflect new levels of increased demand and struggling output. Global economic recession immediately ensued and prices were drawn down through the economically vicious process of demand destruction.

Russian Wildfires 2010

(Satellite shot of smoke from massive wildfires raging across Russia during 2010. The largest smoke plume in this image is 3,000 kilometers in length, about the distance between Los Angeles and Chicago. Image source: Lance-Modis.)

As 2010 opened a new decade, a weak El Nino combined with human caused climate change to produce a powerful and persistent heat dome over Russia and the Ukraine. As spring continued into summer, the heat intensified and massive wildfires began to break out. A pallor of smoke covered millions of square miles as millions upon millions of acres burned. The fires and coincident droughts brought Russian, Eastern European and Ukrainian grain production to its knees. The situation was so severe that Russia cut off grain exports, keeping all its production to feed its own citizens.

The effect to global food markets was apocalyptic. Food prices surged through 2010 and by 2011 peaked at an FAO index value of 229.9, the highest level yet on record. High food prices swiftly rippled through a number of the world’s most vulnerable regions and food riots, which had been sporadic, became national phenomena. Hardest hit were teetering nations in the Middle East that lacked the economic muscle to provide their populations with adequate food supplies. Egypt, Libya and Syria faced outright civil war and/or regime change due, in large share, to social stresses sparked by food scarcity.

Rising Threats for the Current Day

The world’s primary response to this major price spike was to simply plant more land. But as this new rush occurred, extreme weather got a radical boost. Sea ice losses, by end of summer 2012, had totaled more than 50% in area and extent values since 1979 while volume measures had brutally fallen by over 80%. As a result, the Arctic had lost about 4% of its albedo and was undergoing a period of rapid heat amplification. These changes would result in more persistent and severe Jet Stream patterns that would deliver an increasingly extreme battery of droughts and deluges to the Northern Hemisphere. Meanwhile, warming had now resulted in an amplification of the global hydrological cycle by 6%. This amplification meant drying of the land came on more rapidly, setting the stage for intense drought initiation even in regions that weren’t seeing more stuck weather patterns.

As 2013 rolled into 2014 drought was widespread and severe in large zones from California to Brazil and Argentina, to Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, to Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia, to China and Australia. Many of these droughts are among the worst and most widespread on record. Meanwhile, severe rainfall and wind events over Britain and Western Europe are also disrupting agriculture and causing direct damage or inundation of crops. And though the world was planting a massive number of acres during 2013-2014, the effects of these various and wide-ranging weather emergencies were again starting to take hold.

For by February of this year the world FAO index had risen to 208.1 — a level very close to 210 which is considered to be the point that high food prices begin to result in the potential for major social unrest worldwide.

High Risk Outlook for 2014

With so many regions experiencing drought, with human-caused climate change playing havoc with the world’s weather, and with the rising risk of a moderate-to-strong El Nino emerging in the Eastern Pacific, the world appears to be entering yet one more period of high risk for another major food shock. El Nino is traditionally known to produce drought in Australia and Southeast Asia. And while it is has not historically tended to coincide with drought in Russia and Eastern Europe, it does tend to shift weather patterns toward hot in those regions. With the hydrological cycle amped up by human-caused climate change and with ridges/blocking patterns more prevalent due to added atmospheric heat content and sea ice loss, it might be wise to consider the 2010 spate of extreme drought and fires in this region a potential risk as the year and a likely El Nino progresses.


Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)


Growth Shock: Tragedy and Hope at the Limits of a Finite World

Is Meat Sustainable?

2010 Russian Wildfires

Russian Ban On Grain Exports Begins

Climate Change and Rising Food Prices Heightened Arab Spring

Arctic Albedo Falling at Twice Expected Rate

World Food Security in the Cross-Hairs of Human-Caused Climate Change

El Nino is Coming

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

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  1. Reblogged this on abraveheart1.

  2. Andy

     /  March 7, 2014

    An interesting graph would utilize the above FAO index combined with number of conflicts globally, as well as the poverty rate ( global, and or regional ). I suspect a correlation may exist.

    • Hmm. One might be available….

      • There is actually, although it’s two separate papers.

        The first is the NECSI research plotting civil unrest against the FAO price index – and 210 is about where conflict starts, so we are right on the cusp now.

        I very strongly recommend anyone not familiar with it becomes so, if they want to understand the current state of affairs. This dimension of things is a strong component of my analysis predicting near future civilisational collapse.

        Now to look for the second paper, which goes some way to identifying which countries will be affected in this way – and I hope it identifies the conditions that define them, as obviously the set of countries is liable to grow non linearly as feedback in human systems bites.

      • This is the second paper, for which I had to dig in one of Neven’s forums threads (originally brought to my attention by someone else).

        If memory serves (and I must confess to not having reread it all right now), it explores the identification of the nations that would be vulnerable and helps to clarify the targeting of the effects described in the first paper.

        Clearly there is some way to fall for high and medium income nations to become low income nations where the food price is a big enough burden of the cost of daily living to trigger mass riots and civil wars – but one must consider that climate change is no acting in isolation and look at the bigger economic picture and all the fragile inter-dependencies, if one seeks to join up the dots I have to draw my picture.

        I would stress that the human systems respond non linearly and even quite close to the final iterations of widespread collapse, it will appear that life is normal – or relatively so. The later iterations are larger and potentially more violent (inasmuch as violence is amenable to being quantified that way).

        Thus – and most especially when coupled with the various psychological mechanisms that make it hard for people to confront these matters realistically – almost everyone will be taken by surprise by the rapidity of our final failure as a globally organised community.

        • Oh, it’s a long way down. If/when something like this begins to happen, producer countries start holding on to more of their resources, or trying to. That’s when the danger of conflict rises. It can happen internally too. For example, if the US stops it’s food stamp program as prices rise… Places with high inequality and or low resources will be most unstable. Places with high levels of resources but with less power and influence and/or monetary clout will be vulnerable to external threat and meddling.

          I still think we are in the age of near misses. But this one is worth tracking.

        • Trouble is the world market supply of key commodities (necessary for the current way of doing things) then disappears. I think this might be relevant? (particularly for accounting for a faster rate of disappearance from the market than production figures imply)

          In this case applied to food – but actually – one can probably apply it to any resource you like. Food just happens to be one that is far more fundamentally destabilising than most.

          So – you start to cut your exporting nations from the pool – and then, you have fewer distinct sources for key commodities. This disproportionately amplifies the disruption caused if there is a problem in one of those regions above and beyond baseline.

          Then there is the China test. For as long as China maintains it’s growth of 7% per year – every ten years it will double resource consumption. For how many years is that possible? What happens when it is not possible?

          All sorts of these factors are coming together all at once – any one of them might represent a manageable stress factor (for a while at least), but the sum of them all I expect to intensify (and feedback amongst each other) much faster than most people looking at any single factor expect.

        • Oh absolutely. And the real madness is just continuing on blindly. That said, there’s flex in the system. Note that the meat industry is the first to get hit. Think of it as low EROEI food…

          Many nations may well be forced to ration — as we see in Brazil and in many of the water stressed regions now. Hopefully this will develop an urgency to plan more and to set more aside for hard times.

        • Incidentally the food stamp situation in the US (and state welfare in the UK) are great examples of human stupidity acting to accelerate failure. Both nations more than prosperous enough food should not yet be a source of social stress – and yet – for apparently purely ideological reasons… the poor should get hungry and desperate… bad timing for this ideology in the bigger context.

        • The vicious ideologies and the hard times seem to coincide. I think one causes the other. Chicken and egg.

    • BTW, this is post #500 for me. I feel like I should order vegan pizza or somesuch to celebrate 😉

      • Michael Hornick

         /  March 8, 2014

        I’ll definitely buy you a beer – or whatever is your pleasure – anytime you are in the Toronto area! Congratulations on your 500th post. And thank you very much for your efforts – I know I say this on behalf of many people who feel the same.

        • Thx Mike! I may take you up on that if I happen by Toronto way.

          A buddy of mine is moving to Austin, despite my best efforts. He’s off loaded his bar stock onto my wife and I. Now I think I should be sending everyone a bottle of jack or port or some such!

      • Andy

         /  March 8, 2014

        If you make it out to San Diego, there is a beer in it for you here as well. I’ve been a lurker on your blog for some time. The folks who contribute and comment are of an exceptional caliber (I do not group myself in there, that would be narcissistic) such that this is the one place I add comments.

        • Oh I would certainly love to come to San Diego and have a drink or two!

          All insights and questions are welcome. What I appreciate most is the honest and open discussion and the overall spirit of learning. I think we all have both something to give and something to learn.

  3. I’ve mentioned several papers I use to base my analysis upon in other comments, but I’d like to mention my notes on Limits to Growth here (as many people try to argue Limits to Growth predicts failure in around another 40 years, which I feel is a misreading of what Limits to Growth actually is).,231.msg4709.html#msg4709

    There is some discussion in the thread (mostly by me, I was unable to engage people in the discussion to the extent hoped) about the two papers too.

    All in all I feel we were lucky last year. Food prices are now liable to permanently pass conflict triggering levels and we will see collapse starting to spread in a non linear fashion. I can’t say I have a good feeling about this year, but can’t yet really point at anything specific – just a general impression our statistical good luck last year is going to be balanced out.

    That said I wouldn’t predict widespread collapse this year – the peak of the effects of bad harvests this year will fall spring next year. For collapse to really go into positive feedback territory, I anticipate that not only will the Arctic situation be depressing harvests far more than most people seem to expect – but the amount of conflict from civil wars will also be causing further depression of agricultural output, while simultaneously causing large scale migrations of people into stable regions (progressively destabilising them) and also disrupting the complex network of global trade that the world has come to rely upon as though it were eternal.

    Many of the effects may therefore not be immediately obviously linked to climate change, as the human world is more than capable of doing all this even without it (ie just with resource constraints at work – which climate change is effectively fast forwarding in some key areas like food).

    Anyone who thinks the more affluent peoples are going to voluntarily change their diet and stop using biofuels in order to assist the falling nations they extract their resources from may wish to evaluate what has already happened over the last 6 years in the context of this daydream. Theoretical spare capacity within the global food system remains exactly that – theoretical.

    • If anyone hasn’t yet real Limits to Growth, I highly recommend it. Probably prophetic for the coming age.

      My view is we might have 20 years to make needed changes if there was some way to move to an emergency footing and coordinate globally. Fighting for resources just makes matters worse and simply follows ‘the long way down.’

      • Please excuse typos. I’m on my iPhone.

      • I remain considerably more pessimistic than you, I think – but time will tell…

      • Harry

         /  March 8, 2014

        Robert, congratulations on 500 posts! I am a relative latecomer to your website but it is required reading now.

        CCGwebmaster, I share your pessimism unfortunately. I haven’t read anything to persuade me that David Korowicz is incorrect re the global economy’s remarkable vulnerability to cascading failures and supply-chain contagion. Liebig’s law of the minimum applies. Our financial arrangements are the weakest link. They do not have the flexibility to cope with dimishing returns, predicated as they are on debt and growth. My personal suspicion is that collapse will be greatly hastened by events in the stock markets. A 20-year period of grace seems unlikely.

    • Andy

       /  March 8, 2014


      I will definitely read those papers.

      I have found the cause effect curve as it relates to human nature to be fascinating and frightening. I have made my own observations and predictions (to no-one but myself). It is a subject that will become front and center, sooner than most realize.

      Remember, the rains and my river moved to your country and I would like it back.

    • mikkel

       /  March 8, 2014

      Hell, the biggest misreading of Limits to Growth is it predicted collapse by the year 2000! There was a “sustainability” course on coursera that I figured I’d check out,

      In the first lesson, he endlessly quotes from the UN about what sustainability is (including the idea that 9 billion people is no problem if we can reduce per capita consumption to make sure it is the current level in aggregate!) and then said the Limits to Growth was hideously wrong because things hadn’t fallen apart yet.

      Needless to say, I didn’t continue with it.

      What is your definition of “collapse?” I personally feel we are on the cusp of “collapse” in terms of neoliberal consumerism as the organizing force, and will move back into Realpolitik. I read Ukraine as the first major example of this.

      I believe this will quickly reverse the “progress” made in developing countries but actually *relieve* pressure in the developed nations. Breaking down the supreme power of capital and carving up most of the world back into quasi-colonial status will lessen quite a few ills for another decade or two.

      • I think it bears noting many of the resources the developed nations rely upon are sourced from developing nations (can I note again recent unrest in Venezuela and Argentina in the context of Ukraine – all are significant for energy or food?). Europe seems especially vulnerable in terms of energy and agricultural inputs (inputs moreso than food itself, eg it heavily uses phosphate from Africa).

        My definition of collapse is a substantial and essentially irreversible regression in living standards for bulk of the global population (collapse with erosion of limits). It is an ongoing process (I view it as having started around 2007/08). I would differentiate it from the usual cycles of boom and bust and other tides of history by virtue of the lack of a meaningful expectation of recovery and the essential ultimate absence of continuity between modern civilisation and what comes next (the “dark ages” that followed the decline of the roman civilisation are a reasonable analogy – some roman influences persisted, but their civilisation itself did not).

        In that sense, my end point for collapse is complete breakdown of all existing global communities – even for nations such as the US. People may operate in a similar fashion as modern day Somalia (fragmented groups of local warlords squabbling over scraps). Exactly how low the technological floor goes, I wouldn’t like to speculate – but I expect most modern technology to be lost (over decades).

        Viewed this way, collapse is a process – that has already started – and that takes decades to complete. Climate change ultimately mops up most post collapse communities (over decades probably).

        I also think that it will be a process with a rapid phase (and where positive feedback effects in human systems dominate), followed by a long tail as some regions manage to cling on for some time longer (decades potentially). Only for those in the long tail do I think anything resembling normality will persist for decades.

        We are all already tasting it (even in the developed nations, many people find food and energy more expensive and wages less) but I think in the foreseeable future (within a few years) that taste is going to sharpen considerably. For an ever larger set of people the more violent phase of collapse (conflict) will expand to include them (I’m going to tip certain southern european nations as increasingly vulnerable in addition to the obvious suspects).

        With collapse not being a single definable event (but rather a succession of events and the wider context) it’s rather problematic to identify it. The difficulty that most people have in looking at these issues makes me wonder if most people won’t ever realise it’s happening?

        Instead they will blame a war, or the economy, or cultural decay or some other more convenient and easily grasped at reason or event for the loss of their living standards. At the point at which the overriding imperative becomes survival – I doubt most people will think about such things at all.

        There are of course some wildcards in all this – the risk of world war 3 – for instance. That would greatly accelerate failure and probably cannot be ruled out (the politicians of today surely do not inspire confidence).

        I’m not sure if I’ve really managed to properly answer the question after all that.

        • “Instead they will blame a war, or the economy, or cultural decay or some other more convenient and easily grasped at reason or event for the loss of their living standards.”

          Science. “Why didn’t you warn us??!” And scientists. “If you’re so smart why didn’t you keep this from happening?!?”

        • I am not particularly well traveled, and yet I find the ignorance of peoples about each other somewhat dismaying.

          In Russia, they believe (figuratively speaking) that the streets of the US are paved with gold and life is wonderful there. They believe they are backwards and impoverished compared to the Americans and dream of escaping there, even as they have cars, broadband internet and air conditioning and food at low prices one couldn’t dream of in the USA. Their ideas therefore are over ten years out of date now, for the most part (I grant I am talking mostly of city dwellers here, the Russian countryside is still very poor). They react with disbelief if told that 46 million Americans rely upon the government to help them afford food.

          In America (if they think anything at all of Russia – I find the knowledge of Americans about the outside world generally pathetically poor) they either think of the Soviet era and communism or (rarely) they think of an impoverished and chaotic nation following an international debt default. They don’t seem to grasp that time passes and Russia now is resurgent, using the high oil prices of recent years to rearm and rebuild strength (actually given the ham-fisted approach the US is taking towards Russia in several recent geopolitical situations I don’t think many people in the US even in the corridors of power quite get it…).

          If – despite the immediacy and potency of modern communications – people can remain so ignorant, how are the masses meant to see what is happening in the wider context?

          For that matter – even for those of us who are watching, how are we to easily see? The modern media fixates on one or two big issues to the exclusion of the rest. How will our experience be different in a world with ten active hotspots than one or two? How easily can the storm sneak up on us? Think of all those places mentioned in passing and all those significant events that are never mentioned again – yet continue to rumble on?

          Actually in this latter set of points I harbour a secret hope our esteemed blog author here will do a good job tracking and chronicling decay and breakdown once it emerges in earnest. America is a good place to do so from as presumably it will stand coherently for longer than most places.

        • I know, the ignorance is terrifying. Especially since so many people do have Internet access and could learn so much if they tried. But they apparently mostly use it for playing games, looking at porn and exchanging lolcats.

        • The US is a wealthy country. It’s just that most if that wealth now goes to corporations and those who own them. Everyone else copes with endless cuts to standard of living. If the definition of collapse is when things started getting worse, the US probably began mid 70s.

          That said, I’m thinking Russia has been pretty inexcusable and bellicose in its dealings with Ukraine. I don’t consider invasions and land grabs a sign of strength. More a knee jerk reaction to perceived weakness. That said, if we don’t stand up to Russia, it will encourage continued abuse.

        • Regarding finger-wagging on the part of the USA about international belligerance on the part of other countries…glass houses do come to mind.

        • Should we simply sit back and do nothing just because some oil company execs drew us into an unnecessary war in Iraq? For one, the US has never had it as a foreign policy objective to invade Ukraine, for example.

          And this meme of US and European impotence is somewhat nonsensical. The issue is how much force is needed to get the Russians to back down in Crimea and stop efforts that essentially rip the Ukraine apart?

          It can probably be done without military force but would require a shift in geo-economics. Yet one more example of how oil and gas dependence bites us.

        • I’m hard pressed to be too critical of Russia following the multiple invasions (and ongoing drone warfare, massive scale espionage, illegal rendition/detention/torture) applied against various countries by the US and UK…

          Russia’s actions have a marginally stronger (albeit still tenuous) justification than “weapons of mass destruction” or the various other thinly veiled excuses given by our own socioeconomic elites. I’m not sure I exactly condone Putin – but the more I’ve learned about the Ukraine the more complex it has turned out to be and the less amenable to a simplistic treatment given the context of the wider history there (you’d be surprised just how strongly the general Russian population feels about this matter versus the apathetic “do we really care” stance of the US/UK populations…).

          It’s not going to be easily resolved – and it seems increasingly likely to me that it’s going to turn into an ugly local war resulting in damage to all parties – Russia, Ukraine, and EU/US (the US by association with the EU as while Russia is not a major US trading partner, the EU is). There is a good chance it is a serious strategic miscalculation by Putin, notwithstanding the cold war legacy, the high proportion of genuinely ethnic Russians and Russian military interests and so on.

          I don’t see the EU or US doing the damage – I suspect they’re mostly going to look impotent and stupid (though there is a strong argument for standing up to Russia, ie no appeasement, what exactly do you call the response of the world to our own military adventures?) – it’s likely to be the Ukrainians themselves that give Putin his bloody nose. In a sense, they already escalated events forwards by ignoring the agreement mediated that would have permitted Yanukovych to remain in power a little bit longer. Let’s remember they rose up following the rejection of the treaty with the EU in the first place and have no love for Russia.

          Anyway, we’ll see – I could be very wrong somewhere, this isn’t really my forte.

          I’d really like to think some solution can be found that permits all sides to walk away happily as I have a personal stake in this one (mentioned near the end of my last blog post) and there already seems to be unofficial and unannounced sanctions being applied against Russia in terms of the movement of money.

        • Yep. Here comes the witch hunting and messenger blaming…

        • My opinion is that what’s dragging us into collapse is a dominant system that excludes pretty much all forms of non fossil fuel development. A kind of calcified worldwide monopoly whose technologies are all narrowly twisted toward that singular focus. The system is appealing to elites because it is exceptional at concentrating profits and related power. It tends to suppress more equal and sustainable systems so, therefore, it generates it’s own collapse through both increasing inequality and increasing damage to the world we live in. The hope is that the system falls apart and/or is collapsed internally before such a high degree of irreversible harm is inflicted that a positive human future cannot be realized. I think the opportunity exists for us to refuse the vicious, opportunistic and dominance-focused part of humanity and to choose the other part. The part that actually gives something back to the world. The part that, should we nurture it, has a vital future.

        • Agreed – and hopefully that’s where I’m drawing my personal battle lines, even if they’re in territory most would say was hopeless (ie I think the current system will crash and burn and is incapable of transformation in time).

          Some ancient peoples have had quite wise approaches to the world and sustainability, surely it cannot be impossible to marry that basic wisdom with technological capability and advancement of knowledge – no matter how low the base of recovery is from.

      • mikkel

         /  March 8, 2014

        Exactly. The tragedy and irony is that very few will even appreciate what is happening, *including* the people that have been waiting for collapse!

        I read this recent post ( and my first thought is I’ve hit peak collapse on a psychological level, meaning that like you, I believe we are in it now. It is difficult for me to rationalize that we are not when the majority of people in nations such as Spain and Greece are worried about survival on a fundamental level; and nearly 50% of Americans would quickly “drop dead” without government directly supporting them.

        I agree with your projections, just that like the collapse of Rome, there could be quite a long time before daily life is threatened on a daily needs level inside the “first world” countries. Instead those countries will see continued inequality and authoritarianism, perhaps even official dictatorship.

      • @miep – Speaking as someone who has literally spent years of his life absorbed in computer games, I can only say that the reason for continued ignorance is a combination of lack of exposure (through one’s favorite flavor of mind-numbing isolation) and especially bias against the idea of impending doom.

        Even if tomorrow it were to be reported that, yes, there’s an impending global crisis, I dare say most people would dismiss it as some hoax manufactured to take their money (or something they could do nothing about) before they would research it further or even consider the idea of sacrificing time and money to a contingency plan.

        People don’t seek out things that generally make them feel helpless and/or accountable. My primary interest and onus being anti-aging, I had never even considered looking at the state of the world, believing someone else would take care of it, before I encountered this blog. The only reason I started to take the ideas of climate change and economic collapse seriously is because I have a respect for the facts above my feelings.

    • The comments here have done much to turn me into a doomer. Given a worst-case scenario, I’m thinking that the best place to find to settle now, assuming everything does go south, is somewhere characterized by these attributes:

      – Geologically stable/unlikely to be subsumed in sea level rise
      – Out of the way of projected fallout scenarios
      – Sparsely populated; secluded
      – Very sunny
      – Access to fresh water or water that can be solar-desalinated
      – High elevation

      I’ll see you guys in… Um. Shoot. *Googles furiously*

      • The Lovelock list is as good as any:
        – island nations climatically buffered by surrounding ocean
        – high altitude regions retaining rainfall
        – continental fringes, especially towards the polar regions

        I think it’s fair to say though that there will be considerable challenges for anyone anywhere for the foreseeable future and there is nowhere to run per se, only to draw a battle line and fight.

        And really, that’s what CCG is all about and now more people seem to be gradually arriving nearer to the intellectual territory of my long standing conclusions perhaps I can soon expand on my ideas more (the boat is just a vehicle for my personal implementation). For now suffice it to say I don’t think anyone needs to merely be concerned with survival, but rather with building a new future for their distant descendants – the only catch is we don’t get to live to see it, but rather to hope that our descendants can understand our wisdom in this and do the same for theirs. Unfortunately my generation and the next few are going to pay for their ancestors party in earnest as they stole our tomorrows.

        I guess one can think of this as an examination of sorts for humanity – and the choices are essentially cling onto short term rebuilding and our species future is an iteration of ever dwindling collapses – or address the problems and find a successful sustainable pathway forwards.

        Unfortunately however nice the ideals one suspects the implementation gets rough around the edges in places either way.

  4. mikkel

     /  March 8, 2014

    Robert, you often talk about how becoming vegetarian is one of the #1 things to do to fight climate change/food insecurity. How much do you know about aquaponics and integrated pasturing a la Joel Salatin and the like? I have been convinced they are much more sustainable than vegetarianism on a full life cycle basis.

    • mikkel: a big part of it is the need for animal wastes if you aren’t synthesizing nitrogen.

      • mikkel

         /  March 8, 2014

        Yes and ability to raise protein during sub-optimal growing seasons. It is true that consuming meat requires 4-10x the number of base calories than being a vegetarian, but a lot of those calories can come from insects and grasses. Cows are right out, but rabbits/chickens/goats have good caloric conversion and pigs are such immense foragers that they all can add net positive impacts.

    • While the more affluent portion of the world eats more meat than can or should be justified, I think it’s always worth a note that for some places animal husbandry is the only intelligent use of the landscape the people live within. The hills of Scotland and Wales are never going to produce much of anything except sheep (and I suppose goats if they were in fashion but goats are rather destructive creatures)…

    • Oh I think aquaponics is a fantastic form of polyculture, if you have access to it. I generally promote veganism as a form of sustainability that pretty much anyone can access. For my part, I’ve also grown attached to reducing harm to sentient animals as much as possible and I find veganism helps me greatly in this respect. There’s a kind of compassion that comes when you don’t objectify animals for use as food. And I feel more alive in the sympathy I find with other creatures. I think compassion and connectedness with the natural world go hand in hand. I guess it’s a kind of living systems spirituality.

      • Plants solve problems proactively. How do you know they aren’t sentient? Because they don’t have animal brains? That would seem kind of self-centered.

        • And yet more than half the plants I eat are not killed. Fruits, nuts, leaves.

          No harm at all and if not then least harm possible.

        • I am a big fan of eating fruits and nuts and leaves myself.

      • And animals eat each other all the time. Are they objectifying each other?

        That’s always the problem I’ve had with veganism, it has this kind of holier-than-thou thing going on that dismisses how all of life feeds each other in different ways. To live, someone must die, to eat, someone must be eaten. To say plants aren’t people objectifies plants.

      • I think a legitimate frame for this debate is that if you’re not willing to take some responsibility for animals you eat (or their milk or eggs), then you are failing ethically by eating them. They give to you, you should be giving back. I agree that I don’t hold up my end there as well as I could, by far.

        See, we are talking about more than one thing here.

        I lived on a farm once for six months. They raised goats. I helped with the goat-tending.

        Goats started at dawn. They required milking, feeding, caring for. And just in-person interaction. Goats are really interesting people.

        They needed tending when they gave birth, the kids required tending. The does were added to the herd, and the bucklings were shot and eaten by all of us. We didn’t eat a lot of meat.

        The only other alternative would have been to sell them to someone who might have killed them less carefully.

        I was friends with the woman who killed the bucklings, and also the chickens. It was hard on her. She was always working on better, kinder ways to do it. I admired her a great deal. She had that job because somebody had to do it, and she was the best because she cared so much. Nobody made her do it. She was just the best person to do it, so she did.

      • I feel positively barbaric now! Not only do I not intend to stop eating animals – but I believe people who eat animals should be prepared to kill and butcher them themselves as far too few westerners understand where their food is coming from (same with plants too really, but it’s uglier with animals).

        Ironically, that would probably greatly cut meat consumption in the developed nations – but where I feel especially barbaric is that I’ve personally seen plenty of animals die to be eaten, and have no hesitation in killing one myself (I grew up in the country and we raised them for food). How is it so many can express abhorrence at the thought of killing a chicken and feel nothing about pouring corn based ethanol into their fuel tank when it might have fed hungry people in another nation? (that isn’t a specific accusation, just a general observation about western society as I see it)

        That said I do believe we owe it to our food animals to give them as pleasant and decent a life as reasonably possible before going to the dinner table and unreservedly condemn a lot of modern agricultural practices around meat. A good quick clean kill after a contented happy life doesn’t seem so very bad? Does that lesson my barbarism?

        • ccg: It’s complicated. Robert cares deeply about being a vegan and I really didn’t mean to diss him about it. I was just bringing up some subjects of interest to me.

          The question of whom one is capable of killing matters a lot. A human I know once told me that he could probably kill a chicken if he had to, but probably not a pig. “Not if it was looking at me,” he said.

          But people who slaughter for a living…I don’t think I want to get to know any of those people.

        • A butcher I used to frequent (intelligent guy who was well worth a little chat each weekend) once made the comment that he thought it was easier for people used to killing animals to kill people. I think he had a point (additional to all the other points usually made in this rather emotive argument).

          However western society is riddled with contradictions. It’s humane and decent to take a sick dog to be killed at the vet, and yet often impossible to let a fellow human die a dignified death when they are plugged into beeping machines needlessly prolonging suffering with only one logical conclusion.

          Most of us inherit our views (contradictions and all) from our social peers.

          Adopt new views and you gradually become ever more of an alien to your fellow people. Indeed, if you aren’t an outcast from day one – perhaps it’s almost impossible to leave the herd?

        • So true.

          I have this gig with our animal shelter where I foster housecats. That usually means mothers and kits, sometimes kits from another mother paired up with a mom whose kits died. Abandoned cat people dumped at the shelter, with no hope for survival if not for people like me.

          I have a new one now, a very young cat, maybe eight months, so small. And very pregnant, too far gone to spay and abort.

          Housecats can be seen as a luxury, as destructive. They can also be seen as cat people who didn’t ask to be born any more than any of us did. They can be all these things.

          This cat was really well socialized. She is just terrific, when our shelter manager brought her here, she didn’t even try to hide.

          So my job is to tend her and her kittens when she has them, until they are old enough to be adopted at about eight weeks, and then I’ll keep her until her milk dries up, and then she will be spayed by the shelter and put up for adoption.

          Meanwhile I’ll be feeding all these cat people flesh from mistreated fish people and bird people and cow people.

          I don’t like that part of it. But I like what it does for me to intercept the housecat waste stream and give these cat people a chance. Because I think everyone deserves a chance, not just humans. And this is what I can do, where I am. I can tend to and socialize housecat kittens. And our mission with all of this is heavy on spay and neuter. It’s illegal to fail to spay or neuter a shelter rescue animal in New Mexico.

          So this is what I do. It’s not perfect, I know that. But it matters to me, it speaks to me.

      • mikkel

         /  March 9, 2014

        Miep you’d probably really enjoy this piece on the increasing evidence for plant intelligence.

        I respect Robert’s ethics but am skeptical that veganism is locally sustainable outside of the tropics from both a nutrient and growing cycle perspective. My ethics are built around human oriented ecosystems. I feel somewhat guilty when going around to rip out unwanted plants and destroying the habitat of the existing denizens, but can rationalize it because I’m doing so in order to increase diversity, topsoil and thus overall amount of life.

        I completely agree with you and CCG about the importance of having as much of a personal connection with food in general; animals in particular, but as much as possible ideally. Of course this means only a little meat consumption is possible if you have the amount of land that you “deserve” on a per capita basis.

    • vardarac

       /  March 13, 2014

      Mikkel, I don’t know if you’re still there, but what concerns me about aquaponics is the need for trace minerals and micronutrients like phosphorous and potassium. Nitrogen can literally come from thin air with the right plants, but that other stuff only exists in the ground. If you know of existing and sustainable solutions to this problem, please message me back.

      • mikkel hangs out a lot here, off and on. I don’t think he left or anything. And that’s a very good question you posted.

  5. Phil

     /  March 8, 2014

    A bit off topic but I saw on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) event might be heading for the North Pole. The web link is:,92.msg21451/topicseen.html#msg21451
    (see the last couple of entries and especially the one by Jim Hunt).

    I understand that if this were to eventuate, it could prolong the cold winter with potential polar vortex visits in USA while leaving large positive temperature anomalies over the arctic similar to what we saw earlier this year. The timing is interesting also from the perspective of the approaching commencement of the melt season.

  6. Porch chair.

  7. Oh, I’m sorry. I keep forgetting that doesn’t work on WordPress.

    I’ll try this:

    back porch 1

  8. Tom

     /  March 8, 2014

    Miep: you’re a gentle soul. Thank you for your efforts.

    By my reckoning we don’t have 20 years to make any kind of changes that will matter except one (and 20 yrs isn’t long enough for this) – shut down and decommission all our nuke plants.
    Many make the mistake of assuming things will remain the same, but they’ve already changed and continue changing all the time now, the consistency is gone, weather patterns have shifted (which will continue) and conditions are becoming worse for crops and animal farming on any large scale (see CA).

    America is only a wealthy nation because of fiat currency. As soon as that goes we’re as broke as everyone else and the problems will be just as acute. Recently Russia said something about screwing up our entire economic system by getting rid of their dollars (China is in their corner), so it isn’t a “far-fetched” idea. Meanwhile, we’re self-destructing on our own by neglecting much needed infrastructure maintenance, printing money out of thin air and awful government domestic and foreign policies. A few years from now we’ll be in the same boat, with regard to food supplying, as other struggling nations due to climate change effects. That’s when it’ll get dicey around here. It won’t be long, so enjoy the time you have.

    Phil: I saw that article. That (SSW) could happen at any time and would most definitely throw off the growing season of most countries.

    Robert: another great post – congratulations on your work, many of us stop by here every day to see what’s going on, read the comments from your intelligent and informed guests and I link to your site often in discussions around the blogosphere. Thanks again and may you post many more! There’s practically no end to the information as things get ever-worse and I’ll look forward to your perspective, analytics and links along the way.

    • Phil

       /  March 8, 2014

      Want to see something really scary. Look at the USA money base – link at:

      and no inflation with that monetary expansion beginning post GFC with TARP program and then QE1 to QE3.

      Monetary expansions like that would have been expected pre GFC to cause hyperinflation but post GFC, not a blib. Something very strange is happening with the economy. There has been a complete breakdown of traditional transmission mechanisms linking real economic activity with monetary policy.

      Who are the real beneficiaries – I suspect Wall street who have used TARP to offload bad debt (causing sovereign debt issues) and QE’s to generate stock market bubble. Economic activity has certainly lagged the stock market significantly.

      • The money is going to investors who are simply holding onto it. You’d only expect inflation if there was real hiring and real wage increases.

    • Thanks Tom! Will keep working hard. There’s quite a lot to write about now, unfortunately.

  9. ’Once in a Hundred Year’ Storm Pounds Christchurch, New Zealand

  10. Storms and floods: have your trees been damaged?

    A huge number of trees have been felled and damaged by the tough winter weather. What can we do to protect them in future?

    it is estimated by the Forestry Commission that up to 30 million trees may have been blown down.

    This last statistic alone shows what an unprecedented period of extreme weather we have just come through. More trees have blown down since October than the combined total lost in the great storm of October 1987 (15 million), the Burns Day storm of 1990 (3 million) and the great Scottish Storm of 1968 (8 million).


  11. Colorado Bob:

  12. apneaman

     /  March 8, 2014

    “Places with high levels of resources but with less power and influence and/or monetary clout will be vulnerable to external threat and meddling.” As a Canadian I think a lot about a future where masses of American climate refugees show up armed with guns and manifest destiny attitudes. Of course almost everyone I know thinks I’m losing it.

  13. Climate change and global food security

    • It is absolutely damning that at the end he concedes – having just explained that new projections are basically likely worse than the IPCC forecast (no news there really) – that he isn’t aware of people looking at phosphate/oil constraints in combination with climate change. That is only going to add another layer of yield depression into our future.

      Furthermore if no attempt is being made to include the consequences of diminishing resources of this nature even in terms of exhaustion of known reserves, there certainly will not be any attempt to quantify additionally loss of market access or availability due to the consequences of the high food prices and hunger – conflict modes such as civil war, revolution, rioting, etc. which tend to cause problems for extractive operations and distribution thereof.

      That would tend to further depress yield projections into the future, and accelerate substantially the overall pace of events.

      • This and the take away message apparently is, it does not include extreme weather impacts on food crops. Hence 30% crop decline can be considered a very conservative estimate. Which means that the developed nations are screwed too.

        • Which I think one always knew – but at least one questions ones sanity a little less to see the research gradually drifting towards the same conclusions.

        • Consumption patterns will have to radically change. My view is that the meat production industry, as it stands, will get severely winnowed down even if we don’t make that rational choice.

          A chicken, for example, eats 50 times the calories it provides. Since most of this is in the form of corn meal, we are essentially trading 150 meals for three. This translates to acres planted and people fed.

          Other methods, such as various forms of polyculture, and other methods that do not rely on base farmland support for livestock support would be very helpful overall. But these methods are nascent or practically non existent on the scale of global food trade. So any advancements would have to extraordinarily rapid.

          For my own part, I choose to opt out of a system that slaughters 50 billion animals, which we have strong rationality to believe are both sentient and innocent, all while making our situation, from a sustainability standpoint, far more tenuous. In my view such a system and all rationalization a to continue its support are amoral and unconscionable.

  14. Global warming and changes in drought — Several recently published studies have produced apparently conflicting results of how drought is changing under climate change. The reason is thought to lie in the formulation of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the data sets used to determine the evapotranspiration component. Here, we make an assessment of the issues with the PDSI in which several other sources of discrepancy emerge, not least how precipitation has changed and is analysed. As well as an improvement in the precipitation data available, accurate attribution of the causes of drought requires accounting for natural variability, especially El Niño/Southern Oscillation effects, owing to the predilection for wetter land during La Niña events. Increased heating from global warming may not cause droughts but it is expected that when droughts occur they are likely to set in quicker and be more intense.

  15. New Study Yanks Away Glimmer of Hope on Climate Change.

    According to NASA climate scientist Drew Shindell, the lead author of Sunday’s paper, the September IPCC study assumed aerosols were distributed uniformly over the Earth’s surface rather than concentrated over Northern cities. That assumption biased the IPCC’s results, says Shindell, causing them to conclude that the observed warming so far implied the possibility of low sensitivity.

    Instead, says Shindell, when you account for the actual behavior of aerosols and other atmospheric pollutants such as ground-level ozone, the resulting conclusions about the Earth’s climate sensitivity are significantly more pessimistic than those in the IPCC’s study.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 10, 2014

      Not good. Climate sensitivity to CO2 and other GHGs is also a concept many people have trouble understanding.

  16. Australia has endured another summer of searing temperatures, with more than 150 weather records broken, a new report shows.

    The Climate Council’s latest Angry Summer report analyses climate data from across the country for the 2013-2014 summer.

    The report says Adelaide experienced 13 days above 40 degrees Celsius, including five days in a row above 42C.
    The South Australian capital also had its hottest ever February day, reaching 44.7C.

    While South Australia was described as the summer’s “ground zero”, it was also the driest summer on record for 38 spots in New South Wales and 45 in Queensland, while Sydney had its driest summer in 27 years.

    Melbourne had its hottest 24-hour period, with an average temperature of 35.5C, and Perth had its hottest-ever night and its second-hottest summer on record.


    • The highest temperature recorded in the summer was 49.2C in Emu Creek, Western Australia. Overall, 156 temperature records were broken in the 90 days of summer.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 10, 2014

      If its that hot in Adelaide on the southern coast, what’s it like in the desert interior, say Ayers Rock?

    • Phil

       /  March 10, 2014

      Yes, and all on the back of ENSO neutral or slightly cooled conditions. If a strong El Nino hits, then really watch out. In the past, if we had had conditions similar to the last 15 years, the average temperature would have declined between 0.15 to 0.3 of a degree. This time it did not – rate of temperature increase slowed but did not decline. This is what is really different about the last 15 years and a true enhanced footprint of global warming in my opinion.

      Also looks like Queensland has missed out on the rain from the two cyclones so still remains largely drough declared. Also looks like rests of South East Australia face significantly below average rainfall conditions and drough like conditions over the next couple of months. The cyclone off the coast of Queensland is now heading back out to sea away from the coast while the one in the Gulf of Carpentia is headling for the Northern Territory. GFS longer run modelling suggests Cyclone Hadi might return in a week to 10 days time but that is so far out and could change very significantly.

      Also saw on Arctic News web site that another earthquake occurred in Arctic sea on March 6th and methane readings are up once again.

  17. New Ozone-Destroying Chemicals, Which Are Also Potent GHGs, Found in Atmosphere

    Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed.

    The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed “ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story.”

    Until now, a total of 13 CFCs and HCFCs were known to destroy ozone and are controlled by the Montreal protocol, widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental law. But scientists have now identified and measured four previously unknown compounds and warned of the existence of many more.


  18. Ireland 250 acres smaller after floods tear chunks off coastline


  19. Methane-producing microbe blooms in permafrost thaw

    March 10, 2014

    In time with the climate warming up, parts of the permafrost in northern Sweden and elsewhere in the world are thawing. An international study published in Nature Communications describes a newly discovered microbe found in the thawing permafrost of a mire in northernmost Sweden. There it flourishes and produces large amounts of greenhouse gases.

    Read more at: Link

  20. Mar 10, 2014

    Ocean acidification of the depths is hard to mitigate

    As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase, so too does absorption of the gas into the oceans, making them more acidic. But what if we manage to decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to pre-industrial levels? Would ocean acidification be mitigated or reversed?

    In response to this question, Long Cao and colleagues from Zhejiang University found that, even if atmospheric carbon dioxide can be lowered in the future, acidification of the deep ocean will persist for many years.


  21. JPL

     /  March 10, 2014

    Hi Robert – thought I’d use your 500th post to say hi. I’m up in Seattle. Discovered your site several months ago and read regularly now. Your content is fantastic and I really appreciate the folks that comment, as well as your efforts to keep those that troll and derail the conversation in check. I don’t feel like I have much to add to the conversation, but I might ask questions from time to time. I’m learning a ton. Thanks for all of your efforts!

  22. Residents in several parts of northern France enjoyed the warmest Sunday ever reported at this time of year, weather authorities said, with Paris beating a previous record held in 1880.

    The French capital, where outdoor terraces filled up with sun worshippers, saw temperatures soar to 21.6 degrees Celsius (70.9 degrees Fahrenheit) — beating the 1880 record of 20.7 degrees Celsius — Meteo-France said Monday.

    • you sure you want to mod that Facebook group?

      It would be a gift on your part. But it’s like this huge clusterfuck.

      I’m up for sticking with it, and your help could really benefit.

      There are some good people there. But yikes.

  23. I saw this comment on Paul Beckwith’s page –

    “Have you looked at the ASI yet? Already falling apart. You know I don’t like to jump to conclusions with ASI, but conditions are equalt to or worse than ’10 and ’12 at this time. Open water west of Greenland, eastern end of the NW Passage and coasts all over. Svalbard never even froze all the way.

    And an El Nino on the way.

    Won’t call it now, but looking hard like a record year. In a bad way, of course.

    Check MODIS.”

    Can anyone tell me what ASI is?

    • Arctic Sea Ice for a guess.

    • Also take note, Paul Beckwith has (wrongly) predicted total sea ice loss for the last two years now. The cynic in me points out that he’ll be right sooner or later if he keeps it up.

      As to exactly what counts as “ice free” in the Arctic is contentious – but the most relaxed definition I’m aware of is < 1 million sq km of ice cover. Personally – I call that significant ice cover and if I say ice free I'm really thinking just remnants drifting around and perhaps a bit stuck along the coast.

      With a bad weather setup I think ice free is possible this year, but probably only if we get unhelpful weather (so far we have). With normal weather I think we will set a new record (per 2012 and with a nod to the poor setup conditions for winter maximum), but favourable weather one suspects we'll just see another low ice year as last year (looking rapidly unlikely with the entry point we're aiming at for starting to melt).

    • Arctic Sea Ice. 🙂

  24. A little unusual to see the PIOMAS trend softening this time of year as much as it has this last update … the consequence of all that warmth surely – and a very poor setup for the oncoming melt season.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 10, 2014

      Or a good setup, if the world needs any more proof that we’re in an emergency situation. Perhaps the nearly complete loss of the arctic summer sea ice this year or the next is Mother Nature’s final warning before its too late.

      • It’s almost certainly already too late, especially once human nature is factored in. Many may cling onto the vague hope that humanity en masse will respond appropriately, and I think find only disappointment from here (and before) to the end.

  25. Mark Archambault

     /  March 10, 2014

    Hey, it’s been 48 hours, where’s Robert’s next article!? Just kidding. I don’t know how he writes such well-researched articles, moderates this blog, and does whatever else (paying job?) in 24 hours. Must be the clean vegan living!

  26. Robert,
    Where are you getting the 6% increase in the hydrologic cycle?
    Last year you said it had increased by 7%:

  27. The timely change in climatic conditions that helped to launch the Mongol empire “doesn’t appear to have been associated with any change in volcanic eruptions or solar irradiance,” says Kevin Anchukaitis, a paleo-climatologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The task that lies ahead: determining if weather influencers like El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation might have brought the beneficial rains in Central Asia.

    The climate chronology compiled by the Lamont-Doherty team reveals that the dawn of the 21st century has seen some of the hottest weather and most severe droughts in centuries—hotter and drier than even the severe drought years of the 1180s and 1190s. It also suggests that climate may play a role in a modern Mongol invasion—from the arid steppes to the crowded cities.



    • The tree rings show that after the empire’s initial expansion, Mongolia’s weather turned back to its more normal dryness and cold, though with many ups and downs over the hundreds of years since. The 20th and early 21st centuries are the exception. In the last 40 years, temperatures in parts of the country have gone up by as much 4.5 degrees F—well over the global mean rise of 1 degree. And, since the 1990s, the country has suffered a series of devastating summer droughts, often followed by a dzud—an unusually long, cold winter. The tree rings show that the most recent drought, from 2002-2009, compares in length and paucity of rainfall only to those of the pre-empire 1120s and 1180s. Perhaps more important: the drought of the 2000s was the hottest in the entire record. The heat evaporated water stored in soil, lakes and vegetation, and, in combination with repeated dzuds, devastated livestock. The last dzud alone, in 2009-10, killed at least 8 million animals and destroyed the livelihoods of countless herders. Now, displaced Mongol herders have formed a new invasion force—this time all headed to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, which has swollen to hold nearly half the country’s population of 3 million.

      Read more at: Link

    • Exactly. Not at all a happy state.

  28. Increase of extreme events in a warming world

    Stefan Rahmstorf1 and Dim Coumou


    We develop a theoretical approach to quantify the effect of long-term trends on the expected number of extremes in generic time series, using analytical solutions and Monte Carlo simulations.

    We apply our method to study the effect of warming trends on heat records.

    We find that the number of record-breaking events increases approximately in proportion to the ratio of warming trend to short-term standard deviation.

    Short-term variability thus decreases the number of heat extremes, whereas a climatic warming increases it.

    For extremes exceeding a predefined threshold, the dependence on the warming trend is highly nonlinear.

    We further find that the sum of warm plus cold extremes increases with any climate change, whether warming or cooling.

    We estimate that climatic warming has increased the number of new global-mean temperature records expected in the last decade from 0.1 to 2.8.

    For July temperature in Moscow, we estimate that the local warming trend has increased the number of records expected in the past decade fivefold, which implies an approximate 80% probability that the 2010 July heat record would not have occurred without climate warming.

    • Extreme precipitation events –

      A long predicted outcome of a warming world.

      I have long thought that as the system gains more energy, the increase in water moving through it would increase one type of precipitation like we have never seen before. And that is hail in ever increasing size. That is due to thunderstorms reaching above 45,000 feet on an ever increasing basis. Baseball hail is going to much more common in future. I followed this for some time now, and this report from India is pretty chilling :

      Is climate change responsible for the hail storms and unseasonal rainfall in Maharashtra?

      MUMBAI: Is climate change responsible for the hail storms and unseasonal rainfall in parts of Maharashtra? Or is it a one-off phenomenon?

      The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) on Tuesday described it as “unprecedented.”

      Hailstorms by the end of February 2014, initially thought of as a one-off phenomenon, continued to batter places like Solapur for nearly two weeks now. Rabi crops like wheat, harbhara, cotton, jowar, summer onion are lost, horticultural crops like papaya, sweet lime, grapes are battered and orchards which took years to grow are ridden to the ground. For many farmers the tragedy is unbearable as majority of crops were about to be harvested. Turmeric was drying in the sun, grapes were waiting to be graded, wheat was harvested and lying in the fields.

      According to a preliminary estimate, crops over 12 lakh hectares have been severely affected, thousands of livestock, animals and birds have succumbed to injuries and diseases, which threaten to spread. Around 21 people have lost their lives to the disaster.

      Link @ The Time of India

    • I’m just not seeing traditional ag coping very well with these kinds of extremes. The fields are dried, burned, blown or flooded. We are seeing 5-10 percent impacts. Will probably push 30% over the next decade. After that, all bets are off. Still in the near misses, but some of the big waves are coming.

  29. Save the Keeling Curve!

    By Dr. Jeff Masters

    Published: 2:13 PM GMT on March 11, 2014.

    Climate change’s most iconic research project is in danger–a victim of budget cuts in an era of increased government belt-tightening. The Keeling Curve is a measurement of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere made atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, begun in 1958 by Dr. Charles Keeling. It is the longest-running such measurement in the world. The curve was instrumental in showing how human emissions of carbon dioxide were steadily accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere, and raised awareness that human-caused climate change was an ever-increasing threat to the stability of our climate. After Keeling’s death in 2005, the measurements were continued by his son, Ralph F. Keeling. Support from NSF, NOAA and NASA is being diminished or withdrawn, and Keeling has turned to crowd-funding to help raise funds to continue these important measurements. I hope you can join me in making a donation.

  30. Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought

  1. Climate Change Pushing World to Brink of Food Crisis as FAO Price Index Jumps to 208.1 in February | robertscribbler | Enjeux énergies
  2. Cause for Hope | and Everything
  3. Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific | robertscribbler

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