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Feeding the Future
Malthus Chokes on Bumper Wheat Crop

A generation after leading scientists and experts warned the world of an escalating series of horrendous famines, the crop gluts continue. The latest kick in the pants to the Malthusian doomsayers is a bumper global wheat harvest. The FT reports:

Extensive planting and benign weather have forced analysts to repeatedly raise crop outlooks. The International Grains Council last week increased its global wheat production forecast to a record 743m tonnes, up 1 per cent from last year. […]

The recent US winter wheat harvest was 45m tonnes, up 21 per cent from 2015, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Merchants who have run out of room in silos are piling wheat outdoors.

Storage concerns are also growing in Russia, which is this year set to become the largest wheat exporter after hauling in more than 70m tonnes. In Canada, the government anticipates the second-largest wheat crop in 25 years, of 30.5m tonnes. Australia’s imminent wheat harvest is forecast at 26.5m tonnes, the most in five years.

Defying not only the Club of Rome doomsayers, but also the climate Chicken Littles who have been warning about damage from rising temperatures to world agriculture, food production is booming even as meteorologists call July 2016 the hottest month ever.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t problems and worries in the world, but the combination of human ingenuity and the complexity of natural systems means that science is never quite as settled as publicity seeking scare mongers want people to think. The future doesn’t look as grim as the doomsayers want to make it, and our ability to meet its challenges is surely greater than those eco-pessimists believe.

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  • JR

    This is awesome. I’m totally saving that link when some alarmists starts prophesying doom and gloom.

  • Andrew Allison

    NOAA continues its fudging to maintain the illusion of “record” temperatures: Not content with adjusting historical temperatures downward, the agency simply omits inconvenient data.

  • GS

    One good harvest year lasts only one year. What harvest the next year will bring, heaven knows.

    • LarryD

      Harvest depends on water, nutrients, temperature, and weather. Cold is bad. Dry is bad. Too wet, or at the wrong time, is also bad. Warm is good. And agronomists and florists have known for a long time, carbon dioxide is a plant nutrient. They estimate that plants’ ability to take in carbon dioxide maxes out at 2000ppm. Five times current levels, more or less.

      We’re in an inter-glacial epoch. A relatively warm period between ice ages. The more common climate for Earth is hothouse, with no glaciers, no ice caps at the poles. And carbon dioxide levels a lot higher than current. And vegetation flourishing.

      Oh, by the way. The Earth’s orbit is slightly eccentric, making a difference of ~90 watts/sq. meter between summer and winter.

      As it happens, the Northern Hemisphere is in winter when Earth is closest, but the Southern Hemisphere’s summers are hardly insufferable. IIPC AR5 states that the radiative forcing added to the atmosphere by the CO2 increase in the 261 years between 1750 and 2011 is 2 watts/sq. meter. And this portends disaster?

      • GS

        And add the witches who (horribile dictu) are pulling the grain from a neighbor’s fields to their own. And the stinkers used to do the same with the milk, too.
        More seriously, one excellent year is too little to see it as a new norm. More likely, it is a blip.

        • LarryD

          World Bank chart of Cereal Yield (kg per hectare) world wide. Up thru 2014

          Looks like a positive trend to me. Bumps and fluctuations along the way, sure, but the underlying trend is increasing yield. The Mauna Loa data shows an upwards trend in carbon dioxide, if, as they claim, the temperature has also been rising, the thesis that higher temperature will damage crop yields looks pretty shaky.

      • ARMSTROB

        I am definitely not very intelligent about this entire issue but from what I have read much of the Malthus theory was intended to persuade politics. Much of it was based on bad or insufficient science. is that a true statement in your opinion?

  • Blackbeard

    And yet Paul Ehrlich is still an esteemed professor of ecology at Stanford and his disciple, friend and co-author, John Holdren, is President Obama’s science advisor. Perhaps facts are not as determinative as TAI would like to believe.

  • Before we all pat ourselves on the back too much, it’s important to remember that the Malthusian trap was just a system of differential equations involving technology growth, food supply from that technology, and population based on the food supply. In the trap, population collapsed chaotically as its growth outstripped the growth in food supply enabled by technological growth. When technological growth exceeded some threshold, population started growing smoothly, because the food supply could increase as fast or faster than the population.

    But there are almost certainly other systems of differential equations out there that produce similar traps. I’m still worried that the next one is going to couple automation with the price of labor, and result in an equally unpleasant situation where population chaotically collapses because adequate resources stop flowing to those who can’t compete with the automation. It’s obviously too soon to say whether this will be a problem of Malthusian proportions or not, but complacency probably isn’t warranted.

    • John_Newcastle

      A couple centuries of kicking Malthus’s caboose surely deserves at least a brief back-pat

    • LA_Bob

      My guess is, complacency never dominated the pre-industrial age. Complacency became somewhat characteristic of the mid-to-late 20th century (except of course for issues like nuclear annihilation and “running out of resources”). But, it is never warranted. Life is fragile, and that is not changing real soon.

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    Merkel has herself to blame for her crazy policies. She and the rest of the UE elite are obviously light years from the concerns of the ordinary folk. Besides, how could the UE understand the concerns of the proverbial man on the street when it is an anti-democratic, utopian entity managed by an privileged elite, which responds to the lobbies of 500 big corporations. She must have other problems also as Duetsch Bank seems about to go under, and may bring down the whole financial system, in a crisis which would leave the Lehman Broters bust seem like a tea party. It may be another bank which will bring about the next financial meltdown. Either the UE reingeers itself and ditches the dream of a United States of Europe, or it will fall apart. The euroradicalss will have to face reality and that reality is that the ordinary folk have had enough to multiculuralism, politically correct baloney and Muslims.

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