Climate change threatens future of pastaRichard Treadgold | December 24, 2012
This is from Newsweek on 10 December and I know it’s been expertly dealt with elsewhere, but it’s so questionable I can’t ignore it. From notes I made at the time, the links below start to argue with their alarming premise.
Hurricane Sandy’s recent devastation of New York and neighboring states reminded Americans of what Hurricane Katrina demonstrated in 2005: global warming makes weather more extreme, and extreme weather can be extremely dangerous. But flooding coastlines aren’t our only worry. Climate change is also imperiling the very foundation of human existence: our ability to feed ourselves.
Three grains—wheat, corn, and rice—account for most of the food humans consume. All three are already suffering from climate change, but wheat stands to fare the worst in the years ahead, for it is the grain most vulnerable to high temperatures. That spells trouble not only for pasta but also for bread, the most basic food of all. (Pasta is made from the durum variety of wheat, while bread is generally made from more common varieties, such as red spring.)
“Wheat is a cool-season crop. High temperatures are negative for its growth and quality, no doubt about it,” says Frank Manthey, a professor at North Dakota State University who advises the North Dakota Wheat Commission. Already, a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit of global temperature rise over the past 50 years has caused a 5.5 percent decline in wheat production, according to David Lobell, a professor at Stanford University’s Center on Food Security and the Environment.
But here are production figures that contradict that story:
This prediction out to 2026 further contradicts the Newsweek claims.
Global grain harvest sets record despite extreme climatic events
Finally, this new research paper quoting the FAO two months ago blows Newsweek’s inflammatory claims out of the water. Wheat production for 2012 will be a bit reduced, but others are setting records. It explicitly excludes climatic factors from causing reduced harvests now or in the future.
The FAO expects global maize production to increase 4.1 percent from 2011, reaching an estimated 916 million tons in 2012.
Global rice production achieved an all-time high of 480 million tons in 2011, a 2.6 percent increase from 2010.
World wheat production is projected to drop to 675.1 million tons in 2012, down 3.6 percent from 2011, with the largest declines in feed and biofuel utilization.
Since 1961, grain production has increased 269 percent and grain yield has increased 157 percent, while the grain harvest area has increased only 25 percent. This is due largely to the Green Revolution and the introduction of high-yielding grain varieties.
So much for Newsweek!