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‘It’s not looking good for corn’ - new video from Peter Sinclair

Posted on 6 August 2012 by John Mason

Here's a new video from Peter Sinclair, the latest in his excellent 'This is not cool' series, reposted from the Yale Forum. I've long admired Peter's incisive techniques when it comes to communicating the reality of climate change and the dangers it poses. In this case, with severe problems in the arable sector of the USA due to the prolonged heat and drought that has been experienced, climate change is going to hit a lot of ordinary people in the pocket as food prices rise in response. Perhaps someone ought to ask James Inhofe, Republican Senator for drought-stricken Oklahoma, what he plans to do about that. It's supposed to be his job, after all. But don't hold your breath. In a March 2009 speech, he declared:

"I will now report to you about the skeptical Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change in New York City this week. As the most outspoken critic of man-made global warming alarmism in the United States Senate, I am pleased to see the world’s largest-ever gathering of global warming skeptics assemble in New York City to confront the issue, “Global warming: Was it ever really a crisis?”

Meanwhile, back home in Oklahoma, triple-digit temperatures continue and the wildfires burn on. Over to Peter:


 ‘This Is Not Cool’ Video: Focus on 2012 Weather Extremes

“Oh the weather outside is frightful.”

You can forget about the next line … chances of snow are nil for most of the United States for the next several months.

It’s the first line of the second verse that might be a bit more relevant, though not very comforting: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping.”

Holiday carolers and those behind the “Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow” lyrics could not have had the nation’s 2012 spring and summer in mind when they penned those words.

But the wildfires plaguing much of the nation’s west … the wilting and widespread droughts across much of the country’s “Grain Belt”… the blistering high temperatures across wide swaths of the country — all those play out in The Yale Forum‘s new video, “2012 Drought Update.”

The eight-and-one-half minute video couples historical footage with contemporary clips and news segments. In one of the latter, for instance, NBC anchor Brian Williams opens the network’s flagship news program with the words: “It’s now official. We are living in one of the worst droughts of the past 100 years.”

This month’s “This Is Not Cool” video shows NASA scientist James Hansen early and later cautioning about risks of “extreme droughts” in the nation’s breadbasket, such as those now commanding headlines. It captures Illinois Governor Pat Quinn warning of “the driest time” and “the hottest weather” in his state’s history. West Lafayette, Indiana, newscasters express concerns about the growing percentage of the nation officially designated as being in a “drought condition.”

NOAA climate scientist Tom Karl tells a national television audience that scientists increasingly “can actually say with some confidence that these events would not have been as strong or as intense if it were not for the greenhouse gases I the atmosphere.”

And a Michigan State University crop and soil scientist, Phil Robertson, cautions that “it’s certainly not looking good for corn.” Robertson advises that genetics and new planting strategies might help the agricultural community cope with chronic changes in weather. But it’s the variability of longer heat waves and hard-to-predict seasonal droughts — more difficult to predict and having more critical effects on crops — that Robertson says might pose particular challenges.

The video — which points to a 118 degrees F day in June in Norton Dam, Kansas — uses a basketball metaphor to illustrate how a warmer atmosphere has “raised the floor …. all plays are starting from a higher level.” Making for more slam dunks and illustrating how “the stats have begun to change.”

But they’re not of the crowd-pleasing variety. And no one is rooting for more of the kinds of slam dunks Midwest farmers are trying to defend against in the summer of 2012.


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Comments 1 to 13:

  1. Good video from Peter, as usual. I must add that I do not like the technique of repeating clips of an opponent that he has used a few times now - like the "laughing denier" at about 1:38. Sinclair did the same with his interview of Marc Morano - showing Tony Soprano repeatedly seemed to me to be a ham-fisted way to make a point. My view, Peter, is that you are much better when you use a rapier instead of a club. Any semi-smart viewer knows what you mean so keep the message plain. If deniers destroy themselves out of their own mouths, viewers can get it.
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  2. Camburn had a post that was deleted claiming the current drought is not as bad as the 50's and 30's. Jeff Masters here summarizes the current state as the drought and gives figures to compare to the historical record. You can decide how the current drought compares to 1934 and 1954. Scroll down past the hurricane data to see the drought.
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  3. Well, that was depressing.
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  4. I have to disagree with Shoyemore at #1. Specifically with respect to the "laughing denier", it needs to be driven home (= "clubbed" into people's heads) just how completely bonkers the denier community is. Yes, a dry, subtle presentation works for those of us reading this blog...but Sinclair's larger audience will include some people who are on the fence, or simply don't get enough exposure to the hard facts. No doubt some of them have heard the points made by the deniers, and think "Gee, I've heard somewhere that Global Warming isn't all that well-accepted." A rapier will not work on them.
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  5. From the Jeff Masters link: "The U.S. is the world's largest exporter of corn and wheat, and 3rd largest exporter of soybeans. According to the Christian Science Monitor, food price increases due to the U.S. drought is already causing unrest in other parts of the world: "Take Indonesia, where soybeans are used to make tofu, the staple protein for the country's poor. There, soybean prices have risen 33 percent in the past month, and are already causing tensions. On July 26, there were clashes in Jakarta and other major cities in markets as a coalition of tofu producers sought to enforce a national production strike protesting against a 5 percent soybean import duty." Comparing the 1930s drought to the 2012 drought is unsafe because in 1930 there were ca. 2 billion mouths to feed; now there are ca. 7 billion. Therefore, a severe and prolonged drought is likely to have more serious implications today.
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  6. I know the heat and drought that parts of the USA is going through at the moment is very severe and many people are suffering, but I wish that when scientists and others -- rightly -- highlight the role that climate change is playing in this extreme weather, they'd also mention that it's part of a wider picture that has opposing repercussions for people in other parts of the northern hemisphere. In the UK for instance so far this summer we've had two months or more of rainfall which is more than 200% over the typical monthly average creating several extreme flooding incidents (and as if to emphasis the point, the rain just started beating hard on my roof as I write this). This is echoed by even more extreme weather experienced elsewhere. It seems these events are all linked. The problem of concentrating on the heat and drought and not referencing the other repercussions, is when next winter is long and perhaps unusually cold it doesn't compute with lay people and they think you don't know what you're talking about. Now's the time to prepare them with what 'extreme' weather actually means and why it's now called 'climate change' in preference to 'global warming'.
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  7. John, good points there. It's a whole portfolio of weather that can at bare minimum be characterised as 'snotty'. Where one ends up under the relevant bit of each Rossby Wave tends to dictate what kind of snot one has to deal with. Here, talk is of what summer vegetables one can grow that have resilience to cool, dull and often wet weather - though I suspect this is easier to work with than severe drought.
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  8. The corn crop quality graph in the video was not a good sign at all.
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  9. Out where I live, I am surrounded by thousands of acres of corn, most of it irrigated (by center-pivot irrigation, draining the local aquifer, but *don't* get me started....) but some corn is dry land; I can confirm that that corn is in really bad shape. Our (Colorado) precipitation is down by 50% over last year, which wasn't a great year, and in a average year, we'll see ~26 cm of precipe per annum. It has been so dry that my weeds have literally died from lack of moisture. It could get *interesting,* sez he who depends on a well.....
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  10. The biggest impact this drought will have on people in the USA is the price of meat. Corn is primarily used as feed for animals. First the price of smaller animals (chickens, pigs) will rise, then cattle. Beef Poultry Pork
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  11. The United States National Climate Data Center released their monthly report for the Continental United States (CONUS)(the global report is issued around the 17th of the month). July 2012 is the hottest month ever measured in the CONUS. Anyone who says the 1930's or 50's were hotter is wrong. The last 12 months are the hottest 12 months ever measured. Forecast: continuing hot and dry. The amount of the US rated as in drought is still lower than the peak of the 30's and 50's droughts, but drought continues to expand. Hopefully they will get some rain before it kills all the trees.
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  12. Colorado, as of 8/8/12: 55 days of 90F+ temps (2nd longest run in CO history), and August is still not half over. It's the hottest July ~ever~ here, and we're down by more than half for yearly precip, which in a good year *averages* 28 cm. The deniers/fake skeptics are beginning to sweat, methinks...;) Though, it's the first time I've ever seen *weeds* die because of drought.
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  13. Came across a paper, Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models If Dai is right, we can expect more of the same. While not a perfect fit, there is a similarity between recent events and the Figure 2. The red zones cover a disconcerting amount of prime agriculture. Vroomie, cheers neighbor, Go 'Hawks! :-P
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