“Locust swarms can be devastating to farmers and, potentially, the food supply.” For that startling bit of information we can thank Tove Danovich, writing in TakePart. For a moment I misread the name of the publication, perhaps because I fully intend to take the story apart.
The story’s title should be the first clue: “Climate Change Makes Biblical Plagues a More Regular Threat to Farmers.” Using the word ‘Biblical’ is perhaps not the best way to announce a new threat.
Indeed, the story leads off with a current account of locusts swarming in Argentina. However, it says that it is the worst in 60 years. To my mind that means that a locust plague 60 years ago was worse. Worse, it means that the period of warming since the 1950s did not see locust swarms that were worse than the period before global warming.
The story cites the UN FAO as writing, “Locust are becoming even more dangerous in the context of exceptional weather events associated to climate change.” But confusingly, they also write that drought, which has afflicted East Africa and which climatologists predict to become more frequent, will ‘decrease locust numbers.’
However, the FAO warns that higher temperatures could “shorten the incubation and maturation periods and lead to a rise in the number of locust generations in a year.” Could? Umm, when? According to Wikipedia, locusts change their behaviour from grasshopper-like to locust like after the droughts have finished. I should also point out that the Wikipedia article says “Swarming behaviour has decreased in the twentieth century.”
Although the headline of Tove Danovich’s story is “Climate Change Makes Biblical Plagues a More Regular Threat to Farmers,” her story in fact concludes “All signs point toward locust swarms becoming more prevalent, making it all the more important that preventive measures become the norm.” So, umm, in fact climate change hasn’t made biblical plagues more frequent at all. Tove just thinks they might become more frequent in the future due to climate change.
I note that the headline uses the plural for plagues. Although Tove doesn’t discuss anything besides locusts, perhaps scientists should investigate the effects of climate change on the others.
Perhaps here we see the inspiration for Climate Cartoonist John Cook’s ‘Characteristics of Climate Denial.’
Perhaps some of those characteristics are shared by more than just the ‘deniers.’
In “Cycle 1,” there was the plagues of blood, frogs, and gnats or lice. In “Cycle 2,” there was the plagues of flies, livestock, and boils. In “Cycle 3,” there was the plagues of hail, locusts, and darkness. And the 10th plague was the death of the firstborn.
Oh–they already have! “The Biblical plagues that devastated Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament were the result of global warming and a volcanic eruption, scientists have claimed. From the linked story: “”Pharaoh Rameses II reigned during a very favourable climatic period. “There was plenty of rain and his country flourished. However, this wet period only lasted a few decades. After Rameses’ reign, the climate curve goes sharply downwards.” And it all went downhill from there. You should really read the story–it’s very interesting.
However, unless Rameses’ chariot was built Rameses Tough…
…it will be hard to link their plagues to human contributions of CO2 emissions to our beleaguered atmosphere.