WRIGHTS REGISTER ARTICLE FARMING IN THE GREENHOUSE JUNE 08
This month Wrights Register have printed an article by Peak Food entitled, Farming in the Greenhouse on their climate change page (p16):
It isn’t surprising that so many people are still skeptical of climate change in spite of overwhelming evidence that proves warming is happening. Denial is after all a well-understood psychiatric term meaning defence mechanism against painful thoughts, and this is exactly what makes people discount all evidence to the contrary, however compelling.
Some of us choose to believe that serious climate change is not happening because the consequences are just too appalling to contemplate. Tackling it would lower our standard of living in the short-term, and who wants to give up their 4 x 4 and holidays abroad?
Many people though can recall a specific television report or newspaper article that changed their thinking. My own moment of acceptance came when I realised that the natural greenhouse effect (which has been understood and accepted for many years) has made the world warmer, and that without the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, life as we know it would not be possible. Greenhouse gases trap heat energy, reducing the amount that is radiated from the earth back into space, acting as a partial blanket and causing a difference of about 21C between the average temperature that we would have and the actual average of the earth surface temperature. By increasing the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere we are enhancing the greenhouse effect. The earth is responding just as we should expect it to by warming up.
So, what will global warming mean to farmers like you and me? Well, weather patterns changing relatively quickly will be very difficult for us to deal with. Except where reliable irrigation is available, the biggest constraint on crop yield is lack of soil moisture at critical times. Farmers plant the type of crops that suit their soil and normal weather, but if the rain does not fall at the right time or is insufficient, the yield can be slashed. Of course to some extend lower yields will be offset by rises in food prices, but this shouldn’t make us complacent.
At the same time as our climate is changing we will be affected by a host of worldwide problems including a rapidly increasing population, a greater demand in Asia for the diet and lifestyle we take for granted, and competition for land from biofuels and the building of new cities and roads.
On top of this there will be oil and gas shortages to deal with. And again, before you dismiss this as far into the future, remember that both oil and gas are finite resources and many analysts believe production has already peaked. It is only a matter of time before fertilisers and diesel become more expensive.
With world carry-over grain stocks at dangerous levels, we badly need a series of good harvests to avoid the panic, hoarding and speculation that would happen if we have a series of bad ones caused by changes in weather patterns. Governments seem to have no idea of what is on the horizon, or they would be making food production and the rebuilding of grain stocks the priority it should be.
Our thanks go to Janet Richardson for printing it. What do you think?
At last world leaders seem to have realised that we are facing a food crisis, but it has taken rising prices to alert them.
Unfortunatly, they seem to think that it will be easy to increase production by using the same methods that have allowed the world population to triple in the past 70 years.
We have been able to replace animal muscle power by engines to free up the 30% of land that was needed to feed those animals, and use fossil derived fertilisers and pesticides to push up yields to unbelievable levels. In farming we now use about 10 calories of finite fossil energy to diliver 1 calorie of food energy. This worked well when those supplies were cheap and plentifull, but will fail when they inevitably become very expensive and scarce.
World leaders should be putting huge amounts of money in to finding sustainable ways to convert more of the abundant solar energy that reaches us each day in to food energy.
Robert Mugabe being there makes the whole conference look like a farce.