Good morning Ron,
This reply is in reply to your own above comment, but you already know all this stuff, so it’s for anybody else who cares to read it.
The papers you refer to are professionally produced, and must be taken seriously.
But as everybody knows who knows anything at all, the numbers are estimates, and they could be far wide of mark either way, at any given time.
The odds of them being off on the low side, meaning a lot less than twenty five percent loss of production , are not important in the context of my remarks in this comment. That would be great, but I want to talk about how we might collectively deal with declining food production.
I walk and talk professionally in this one field in particular.
The loss of production could easily be a lot worse that twenty five percent, or it could be somewhat less, because we don’t know precisely how fast the climate will warm, and worse, we don’t have more than a general idea how much growing conditions will change in any given geographical area.
The ” worse” potential scares the crap out of me when I allow myself to think about it. People who are well informed often remind those who are less knowledgeable that averages aren’t all that relevant to understanding the EFFECTS of warming on agriculture.
Some places, including some of the best agricultural land of the world , are going to be hotter and drier by a substantial margin ON AVERAGE, compared to the rest of the world. A few places with great potential given more rain might get that rain, etc, but there aren’t many such places.
It’s true as some people point out that growing conditions will actually improve in some parts of the world, on average, particularly in places rather far to the north. But that’s not where the people are, and the people that are going to be in one hell of a fix for food live in countries that don’t own land in the northern climes anyway. Farming in such places in any case will be a crapshoot of the first order, which is something I will address in another comment later on.
It will be horrible when food production in places where people just barely have enough to eat NOW declines gradually, on the human suffering level, but there is some hope that the rest of the world will be able to help out enough to prevent outright famines, and maybe keep the lid on the pressure cooker at least to the extent that no hot wars are fought over access to food, at least for some period of time.
But I wouldn’t bet my farm on the rest of the world being willing to foot the bill, and there’s a very real possibility that the rest of the world WON’T HAVE food enough on hand to giterdone anyway.
There’s some hope gradual declines can be managed locally and regionally,for some years, on a country by country basis, by diverting resources from other endeavors to providing more food production.
It really is possible to grow a great deal of food at a very small scale , meaning the individual family scale, if it is NECESSARY to do so. A country in dire need that goes on a wartime kind of economic footing to produce food the same way munitions and soldiers are produced during wartime will be able to cope to some extent. Resources that are wasted now CAN be put to good use.
Add a little poop and pee, and a few thousand square feet of ground, even if the soil is pathetically depleted, can be extraordinarily productive, using just a LITTLE water, and just a few dollars worth of drip line tubing, etc.
But this sort of coping depends on the availability off food declining gradually, because it will ( very likely ) only be implemented with production declining gradually, as the people in dire need start doing anything they can to eat.
It takes a long time to establish family minifarms or little local community farms of this nature. People have to become convinced of the need, laws and regulations and customs have to change, diets have to change, and there is a STEEP learning curve to be mastered. The people involved, meaning most people, will have to devote a substantial amount of time to the job, time that is now devoted to other work or leisure, and they will have to get by with less other stuff, but they would be able to produce enough this way to substantially reduce the odds of outright famines.
It’s hard to estimate how long it would take to really exploit the potential for alternative production of this sort, but my guess is that it would take at least five to ten years from the time a really serious effort is made to get started.
Now HERE is the REALLY scary part. Consider that people who habitually drive drunk get away with it , ninety five per cent plus of the time, but they do have the occasional fender bender, maybe once or twice in four or five years. Sooner or later they have a SERIOUS accident, maybe this week, maybe five or ten years down the road, if they haven’t been jailed to keep them off the road.
Food production, and the problems associated with it, tend to vary in a fashion comparable to the accidents suffered by drunk drivers. There will be local and regional shortfalls, which will cause more or less pain and stress, locally and regionally, but they will be survivable, just as fender benders are survivable. And just as drunk drivers don’t take their fender benders seriously enough to give up either the keys or the alcohol, the people in such places probably aren’t going to change their ways, because the next two or three years , most likely, production will be up again, and they will continue to do as they usually do, ignoring the problem.
Sooner or later, a weather disaster will hit, and the odds of such a disaster happening grow a little higher every year as the climate heats up. A really wet spring season can delay planting for a few weeks , and this in and of itself can and does result in yields falling off ten percent or more.
If a drought hits after a wet late spring delays planting, production could easily fall off fifty percent or more, regionally. Regionally could mean an area as large as the Yankee bread basket, or half of India.
There are other substantial risks involved as well. A long spell of unusually damp weather can and does sometimes result in major outbreaks of pests and diseases, and while the drought problem vastly outweighs the flood problem, floods will be a problem too.
It’s a foregone conclusion that in places where it is possible to grow more food by putting more land to the plow, it will be done, and the ecosystem services provided by wild or semiwild lands will be lost in proportion to the amount lost, in some cases. In other cases, ecosystem support to agriculture will be lost altogether. Bats eat awesome numbers of insects where they are found, ditto many species of birds. If too much habitat critical to any given species of insect eating bird is lost, the population of that bird will crash, maybe all the way to ZERO over large areas. The species might even go extinct. Some will, there’s hardly any question about that. Predatory insects and wild pollinator insect species ( mostly various bees but there are others ) WILL crash due to habitat loss.
The depletion of fossil fuels, everything else held equal, will result in the price of synthetic fertilizers going thru the roof, sooner or later, and there is essentially no chance at all that production can be maintained on the grand scale, or over large regions, without these fertilizers, at least not for the next thirty or forty years. After that……. maybe. Miracles on the technology front are possible, and to be hoped for, but not to be counted on.
What all these factors combined boil down to, in a nutshell, is that it’s a foregone conclusion that plain old bad luck guarantees that various large regions will experience potentially catastrophic losses of production, without warning , in a fashion that can only be predicted in a general way.
I can say these sudden regional crashes ARE BAKED IN, but not how frequent they will be, nor where they will occur, nor how often. All I can say is that they will be more frequent than they have been in the past, for a lot more reasons than I have mentioned here today.
It’s rather unlikely that food production will crash dramatically in any one year on a global basis, so it’s unlikely that there will be massive unrest, riots, forced mass migrations of hungry people, etc in more than a few places any given year, at least in the earlier years of really troublesome warming.
Bottom line, regional crisis level food shortages, shortages at the famine level, are going to hit without warning. People are going to starve, slowly, or not so slowly, by the tens of millions, and once that happens, the other Horsemen, War, Pestilience, Death, will run wild.
How it will all play out is an open question, but one good thing about being an old fart is that I will most likely be gone before the shit is well and truly in the fan.
The consequences could range all the way up to flat out nuclear war, although I think the odds of nuclear war between the really big and powerful countries such as China, the USA, and Russia are very low. The odds of a nuclear war between say India and Pakistan……….. who can say?
In the past, biological warfare has mostly been a rather impractical and iffy undertaking, and not often successfully DELIBERATELY implemented. But it’s an indisputable fact that when we Euro types landed on the east coast of North America and established colonies, we mostly didn’t HAVE to bother ( sarcasm intended using this word bother) with genocidal warfare in order to play that old Darwinian game so beloved of Mother Nature.The contagious diseases we brought with us killed most of the local people here ahead of us. We rolled over the rest like a tsunami.
Sky Daddy alone knows what may be possible in the near future in terms of biological warfare. I have talked about these possibilities, not for attribution, with a few microbiologists and other specialists who know a lot about the various technologies involved, and my conclusion is that most of the people in the field, or related fields, believe there is a very real possibility, that within another decade or two, even relatively poor and backward countries will be able to invent and manufacture biological weapons that could wipe out just about everybody in places where they are deliberately released. Whether such hypothetical diseases could be contained by quarantine is questionable to say the least.
And if a new killer disease comparable to the flu ( but possibly far deadlier and far more contagious) that swept the world during WWI is created, who is to say the creators won’t already have a vaccine ready prior to releasing it? A vaccine reserved for the use of their own people?
It’s a damned good thing most of the real individual troublemakers in this old world are underachievers lacking in imagination, because they could cause a hundred times more trouble than they are causing so far, except for the areas where actual fighting is going on.
I won’t say anymore than that anybody who knows his shit when it comes to agriculture could potentially cause more problems, all by himself, than an an entire division of soldiers set loose to plunder a helpless country. I wouldn’t say this much, except that some of the trouble makers DO have brains and initiative, and know about the possibilities already. The ones who know enough to act also know enough to know that they might harm their own cause more than the enemies, and thus they so far have refrained from acting in this respect. They might not hold back,in the event they come to believe their cause is lost, and decide to take as many of their enemies with them as they can.
We live in interesting times, and although they are flat instead of round, all of us here have crystal balls, and if we live long enough, we can watch it all come to pass.