Cognitive Climate Dissonance

From Tech Times: “As average global temperatures begin to rise due to human activity, scientists say the drastic effects of climate change continue to take effect all over the world.”  (Umm, what effects?)

“One of the most severely affected sectors is the field of agriculture. In the past decades, extreme weather conditions caused by climate change have disrupted global food production. “The food system is already stressed in many ways,”said Professor Navin Ramankutty of the University of British Columbia, an expert on global food security and sustainability.

Ramankutty is the senior author of a new study featured in the journalNature, which examined the link between weather-related disasters and food production.

Along with a team of researchers from UBC and McGill University, Ramankutty found that extreme heat waves and droughts have reduced global cereal harvests such as maize, wheat and rice by 10 percent in a span of 50 years.”

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Grain production

Last year set records.

Now both Ramankutty and the USDA could in theory be correct–we could have set records for production and still been 10% below our potential harvests.

But given that between a quarter and a third of the world’s food either rots or is eaten by rodents and insects before it gets to the table and almost a quarter is thrown away unconsumed, perhaps focusing on harvests is a tad misguided…


And given that in the developing world agricultural productivity is far lower than found in the West, perhaps better farming practices and procedures would more than compensate for the effects of climate change to date and maybe even into the future.


Finally, given that increased CO2 has helped the planet green by about 15%, shouldn’t we note the good along with the bad?

Greening the planet

Don’t get me wrong. Food security is a serious issue in a world with a rapidly growing population, a changing climate and a diminishing habitat for non-domesticated species,both animal and plant.

But focusing on an issue that has not materially affected the well-being of humanity or our ability to feed ourselves isn’t contributing to the discussion. Instead it is distracting us from the more serious issue while pandering to the obsession of the moment.

Not. Helping.



11 responses to “Cognitive Climate Dissonance

  1. Conclusion: science journals print what isn’t really fit to print. I read Nature owned journals, including SciAm, to understand politics, the science can’t really be trusted.

  2. The corrosive impacts of extremist climate obsession is damaging nearly all areas of life. Politics, investment, academia, journalism, ethics, honesty are all suffering from the influence that the climate obsessed have in the public square.

  3. It is entirely possible that more crops are being lost to weather than ever before – most likely because we are producing more crops than ever before.

  4. Thanks for this Tom. People often talk about the quasi-religious aspects of climate obsession. But there’s something else in the Christian kitbag that’s not so often mentioned: the command to always be thankful. The data you present occasions this in me, despite congenital grumpiness. Those of us over 35 have been on the receiving end of an amazing period in human history. To take two very different examples from the one you mention:

    What is it that makes people suppress such good news and only want to talk doom and gloom, however speculative? In an amusing example recently hundreds of people followed Andy Revkin – not sure how this was organised but it looked far from spontaneous – in tweeting in very similar terms the settled opinion of James Lovelock from 2008:

    Yet that wasn’t quite the whole story, was it?

    I must have tweeted about fifty such corrections and, to give them their due, about three of those I picked up on it thanked me for the extra info.

    Thanksgiving. Not just a US public holiday 🙂

    • Richard Drake, I am thankful that deceitful practices of Andy Reckon and his ilk are uncovered by good people like yourself.

    • PC’s have not dropped by anything like 99.9% in price. I bought a state of the art PC from Dell (called PC’s Limited in those days) for about $2000 in 1984. Now I can get one for something like $500. So even allowing for inflation, 99.9% is off by two orders of magnitude.

      Of course, 30 years ago I could not have bought the equivalent of a modern laptop at any price. But that good news has not been “suppressed”, just the opposite.

      • Yeah, I realised the figure was wrong the moment I saw it yet I published it here. That’s what a good news bias does to you 🙂

      • In any case the second example was rather more important. Here it is unfolded.

        An aspect of the ‘peace dividend’ since the fall of Soviet communism to which few on right or left draw attention. Not that there isn’t more to do. There’s always more to do.

      • Mike M., true.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the unit performance cost, based on a metric of $/Mips or $/MB of storage (RAM, hard drive, removable drive), has declined by three orders of magnitude. Of course, in 1980, one didn’t have memory/CPU hogs such as we have now — because those resources were scarce.

        But you’re right that what counts is the utility, and a modern PC with 1000x the CPU or memory, isn’t 1000x as useful. One is only composing one letter, or balancing one checkbook, at a time. On the other hand, even if one had adequate communication bandwidth in 1980, the PC of that day would have been unable to show movies or TV shows. Let’s say half an order of magnitude more useful, and half an order of magnitude less expensive…so 90% cheaper than before. That’s just what you said, the 99.9% figure is off by two orders of magnitude.

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