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View Diary: Jeff Masters: the Climate Has Shifted to a New State (280 comments)

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  •  another facet of it: (15+ / 0-)

    Something I realized when I read the 1984 EPA report on climate change:

    As temperatures and precipitation shift, there comes a shift in the areas that are suitable for growing crops, and those that are not.  Existing farming areas become untenable, and new ones become viable.  

    However, the ability of a society to shift its agricultural infrastructure: farm ownership, labor, machinery, transportation, other resources; is limited: it will always lag behind the shifts.  

    So the inevitable result is that less new land comes online, than existing land goes offline; and the gap between the two is a chronic food shortage with rising levels of hunger.

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 01:10:52 PM PST

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    •  Problem with farming areas... (27+ / 0-)

      The problem with farming areas is that they take centuries or millennia to become farming areas as near-surface rock erodes, minerals get released and the interaction of plants, insects and other organisms deposits carbon in the soil.  Also the wonderful soils of the American Midwest were deposited by glaciers scraping the Canadian shield;  move the crop zone north and you hit the Canadian shield.  Go northwest toward Yukon and the NWT and it's muskeg and peat.

      "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

      by Yamaneko2 on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 02:03:18 PM PST

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      •  We've also built over chunks of the best farmland (11+ / 0-)

        this part of the continent offered. Grain production will certainly be constrained by what you point out.

        Intensive vegetable production bests takes place closest to market (cities). Much of that is now suburban America no matter which direction on the compass you point.

        “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

        by the fan man on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 02:41:43 PM PST

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      •  exactly; that's the part I missed. (6+ / 0-)

        In my analysis based on the report, I thought that Canada would replace the US midwest, and the Soviet Union would also become a major breadbasket.  Turned out wrong on both counts: up in Canada it's basically very rocky soil there.  

        However the generalization of existing farming areas going out of production before new areas can be brought into production, still holds.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 02:51:00 PM PST

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        •  an analogy can be found (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ColoTim, G2geek, ozsea1, JanL, adrianrf

          in how a warming climate pushes bands of vegetation zones up hillsides. sure, the same flora and fauna moves upwards, and is in that way sort of sustained (if it can migrate as fast as the zones move; trees are less limber than birds), but on the other hand, the surface area of the top part of a cone is decidedly smaller than that further down on the lower slopes.

          so change will also bring a net reduction of useful cropland in addition to the spatial displacement. a recipe for hard times if there ever was one.

          •  good insight there! (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozsea1, DawnN, BusyinCA, SME in Seattle

            If I understand you correctly: Regardless of everything else, shifting the agricultural regions further toward the poles is analogous to shifting them up a cone toward the apex: the available surface area is smaller.

            Interesting, and yet another factor in the coming dieoff.

            Here's to maintaining an attitude of scientific detachment as a preferable alternative to getting depressed to the point of paralysis.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 07:22:34 PM PST

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            •  That's actually not accurate (4+ / 0-)

              Take a look at a globe. There's more land surface area at high latitudes than at low latitudes, up to a point; the oceans narrow, but the continents actually don't (much).

              The problem is the quality of the land, not its expanse. Canada and Siberia are very, very large.

              "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

              by kyril on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 07:39:30 PM PST

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              •  Hmm, OK.... (0+ / 0-)

                The central part of Canada got scraped down into the US midwest, but I wonder about other parts, and about the northern parts of what used to be the USSR.  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 08:53:52 PM PST

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                •  you need to take the soil into account (5+ / 0-)

                  that´s where the otherwise seemingly logical idea that agriculture moves to canada or siberia, fails. Where it is today, agriculture is sustained by soils that have grwon in their appropriate climate zones over timescales of thousands of years. Thats the times necessary to build such a thing. When a permafrost melts becuase a different climate zone moves over it, then it doesnt yield arable land as soon as its thawed. To the contrary such land would be a quasi regolith, on which successive waves of vegetation would have to work for a long time to create anything remotely similar to the postglacial black soils of the Ukraine for example. Thta means, yes, after a long wait those newly warmed lands could take over the breadbasket role of the southern lands - not before.

                  thats whats meant with teh "quality" of the land. It has none to start with, it first would have to build some, and that could take easily tens of generations, time thats not available if we need to replace some breadbasket quickly.

                  the speed of climate change makes it so deadly.

                  •  yes, and yes. though, compost. (0+ / 0-)

                    Municipal organic wastes e.g. "food and yard waste" can be composted relatively quickly, and could be shipped in large quantities to till into the soil. Add manures (cow, horse, chicken), add biochar, add a few other things, and one can produce something like a viable soil fairly quickly.

                    However all of that still lags behind the speed of climate change, and the economic cost of doing it will slow it down further.

                    Bottom line: lots of starving people in Africa and Asia, and the emergence of chronic hunger but not quite starvation as a recognized social problem in Europe and the US. And then it only takes a few very pissed off people with access to the internet and a highschool-level chem/bio lab, to whip up a revenge-plague and unleash it by suicide carriers. Mark my words.

                    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 10:59:36 PM PST

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    •  Water a big issue too (8+ / 0-)

      A huge part of fresh water supplies are "stored" in glaciers and snowfields and melt every spring and summer.  As glaciers and snowfields retreat, we cannot make up that storage.  That is going to limit agriculture as well.

      The scientific uncertainty doesn't mean that climate change isn't actually happening.

      by Mimikatz on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 03:36:39 PM PST

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      •  California is water-poor now, both due (7+ / 0-)

        to weather/climate patterns and competition for water from development.  We are way too dependent on the irrigated Central Valley of CA for fresh fruits and vegetables; that system is highly vulnerable to collapse right now.  It's really important that we support smaller-scale local farms nationwide to keep them in operation rather than bulldozed for housing developments.  These local/regional food systems are what can keep us fed when the mega-food system experiences a crisis.

        •  southern valley already collapsed (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kkbDIA, kyril, ozsea1, DawnN

          in terms of the poisoned aglands that can't be fixed without them being washed clean..that water isn't available except at great price to the western part of california/Sacremento Delta.

          From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America!...Langston Hughes

          by KenBee on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 05:21:02 PM PST

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        •  California was always water-poor (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, BusyinCA, mightymouse, kkbDIA, adrianrf

          It was a very strange state to farm in the first place.

          "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

          by kyril on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 07:41:21 PM PST

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          •  Being able to apply water on demand (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, BusyinCA, mightymouse, adrianrf

            is the best case scenario for farming, because you don't get the insect and fungus issues of a moist climate plus you get warmth and sun, sun, sun. Thus, California.

            But it falls apart if it doesn't snow in the Sierra Nevada.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 10:05:30 PM PST

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          •  the soil is good, just not enough water in the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, mightymouse

            right places. The central valley used to have tule marshes, now it is all big agri-business. The central coast is pretty much water independent of the rest of the state, except for the coastal cities that suck too much water. It's the south, where it was once mostly desert, that uses most of the water. That, and LA stealing all the water from the Owens valley.

            Add water to the constant sunshine and mild temps, and its the perfect place to engage in year-round farming.

            "I don't need a script to tell the truth" Ed Schultz, Feb. 4 2010

            by BusyinCA on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 10:50:11 PM PST

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