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THE Earth in 2100 Thread (merged)

Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby rockdoc123 » Tue 14 Feb 2012, 23:25:05

You can't farm the tundra productively, no matter how pleasant the temperature may get there.


although the topsoil is thinner the main problem is the height of permafrost and the short growing season. If you take the two away then you have a difference. In the prehistoric past these areas were capable of supporting forests not just lichens etc. There are areas in the north where you have pretty much exposed Precambrian basement and little soil coverage but that isn't the whole tundra. There is a large group of people who have figured out how to grow various vegetables in Alaskan Tundra under current climate conditions. If it got warmer there is little reason to believe they wouldn't benefit further.

At one point in the not too distant past all of North America was covered in ice, it isn't anymore and generally is pretty productive.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Lore » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 00:10:47

rockdoc123 wrote:
You can't farm the tundra productively, no matter how pleasant the temperature may get there.


although the topsoil is thinner the main problem is the height of permafrost and the short growing season. If you take the two away then you have a difference. In the prehistoric past these areas were capable of supporting forests not just lichens etc. There are areas in the north where you have pretty much exposed Precambrian basement and little soil coverage but that isn't the whole tundra. There is a large group of people who have figured out how to grow various vegetables in Alaskan Tundra under current climate conditions. If it got warmer there is little reason to believe they wouldn't benefit further.

At one point in the not too distant past all of North America was covered in ice, it isn't anymore and generally is pretty productive.


Doubtful that the alpine tundra could ever support a very large population within the next several thousand years, let alone the next couple hundred. You not only have very poor soil conditions, but a short growing season as well. That growing season is also determined by the amount of sunlight crops get. The soil you can do little about with the exception, possibly, of small terraformed parcels.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Tanada » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 06:37:45

Lore wrote:Doubtful that the alpine tundra could ever support a very large population within the next several thousand years, let alone the next couple hundred. You not only have very poor soil conditions, but a short growing season as well. That growing season is also determined by the amount of sunlight crops get. The soil you can do little about with the exception, possibly, of small terraformed parcels.


So far as I can tell nobody was talking about Alpine tundra, which is what you find above the tree line on mountains. We are talking about low altitude tundra here, decreasing in altitude down to sea level at the Arctic ocean shoreline.

Two things are key to growing things in the Arctic or Antarctic, you can ask people in Finland and Alaska if you don't want to accept that. The first is, the plant has to grow well and productively in whatever temperature range the summer season has. The second is there have to be enough hours of sunshine to provide the energy input the plants need to grow. You also need all the regular factors like water and nutrients but in general the Arctic actually has plenty of both or you wouldn't get forests like you see in the Paleoclimate record.

Alaska grows some of the worlds largest vegetables and that is without greenhouses or exotic chemicals. That isn't to say they are not carefully tended or fertilized, but you can grow quite a bit of food from fewer seeds in the Arctic if you choose seed lines carefully.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby dohboi » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 07:01:48

"If you choose seed lines carefully" is key indeed.

But CC doesn't just mean that particular locations are getting gradually and reliably warmer.

It means wild, extreme and unpredictable swings in heat, cold, flood, drought, winds, humidity...things we have already been getting a little taste of in the last couple years.

So every year you will have to either gamble that the one kind of seed you used will produce the right crop for the wildly unpredictable season, or you will have to plant a wide variety of seeds hoping that one or two might end up being right for that growing season and accepting a partial or total loss for the rest. (The latter has been wiscur's strategy recently, iirc.)

And of course big ag (Monsanto, Conagra...) is doing everything it can to restrict the range of seeds available, in fact trying to wipe out the availability of varieties that can produce viable seeds themselves.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Tanada » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 07:09:37

Indeed dohboi, I didn't mean to imply it would be simple or easy, but people are a creative species and it is doable. A few years ago when I was investigating moving to Alaska I learned a bit about extreme northern farming. The advice I got from farmers up there boiled down to proceed with caution and don't overextend yourself, plus a big dose of use common sense.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby dohboi » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 08:04:11

"it is doable"

Depends what "it" is. Supporting 10 billion people on the thin soils and sparse sunlight of the highest latitudes? Or growing a few nice vegetables for you isolated doomstead?
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Lore » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 08:48:25

I agree that it would be doable for only a miserable few. Even with rapid warming the subarctic soil conditions would only amount to a saturated bog for many hundreds of years, ripe with disease carrying masquitos. The poorly decomposed top soils only fit for the most hardy of plant life. Even the trees that exist there now, do so because they are xerophytic in nature. The biodiversity of the area could only be improved by what ever populations bring with them and would survive in such harsh conditions. Most other natural plant and animal life will never adapt or make the migration.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Pops » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 15:27:37

The hitch is, it isn't just a matter of deciding which seeds it is a matter of eating between now and then. I've been harping on this forever (some of you probably just read it elsewhere LOL)

We have become a world population who lives on a tiny variety of plants. Maybe even more importantly, the monoculture model has not only dramatically reduced the diversity of our food crops themselves, but the drive for efficiency and profit via globalization has also reduced the diversity of crops in any given region by extending globalization and specialization to the entire world. Whole regions are given over to concentrated production of crops ideal for that particular climate and soil and that area becomes a global supplier reducing competition from inferior areas. Trillions of dollars are then spent on crop specific infrastructure in those places making competition from other areas impossible except for tiny niche markets.

Every time I bring this up people tell me how popular "local food" is becoming. That's all well and good, except our diet is based on grain, always has been. Commodity foods like grain and potatoes and rice and beans aren't grown on little organic farms. They are grown at high efficiency on huge tracts of land by businesses with cash flow in the millions and profit margins in the single digits. Not to say it can't change but it is a dramatic misrepresentation to say trillions of assets in industrial ag will be abandoned and trillions more invested in grub hoes overnight.

A commodity is a good that's interchangeable with any other of the same type of good, bought on price alone, flour, sugar, vegetable oil. We are hugely efficient today and spend a tiny fraction of our incomes on tomatoes from Peru. To think we are going to change that overnight just isn't realistic.

My point is that these areas, "The Corn Belt" for example, don't decide from year to year whether to plant strawberries or rutabagas or grain. They plant grain every year. It may be wheat, maybe soybeans, maybe corn but always grain because nothing there is set up for strawberries or avocados - even if they would grow. Grain is what the farmers know, what all of their equipment and facilities are designed around and what the entire regional ag infrastructure and economy is geared to.

You don't just plant different seeds.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby ritter » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 17:57:21

Pops wrote:You don't just plant different seeds.


Bingo. You need 10s of years to tool up and learn the new crop. It's a lot like a factory (factory farms, anyone?). You can't make sprinkler heads one day and switch to Barbie Doll legs the next. You've got to retool the whole factory first, including your supply line in and your distribution out. The "plant Canada and the Arctic" people have complicated it even a bit further. Not only do you have to retool the factory, you have to relocate it. It's a whole lot like starting over.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby AgentR11 » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 18:13:40

On the grain thing, a while back I was reading some of the stuff Ludi recommended, though scaling it up in my head to the 10ac'ish "garden". One of them discussed the temperature ranges where stuff grows, and how past 90F efficiency really falls off (which makes sense thermodynamically). It occurred to me then, that the biggest hurdle wasn't so much that things were getting warmer, but that the planting date selection was become much more of a gamble. Continue to plant late with a good margin against the frost line, and you run the risk of plants still being immature when the very hot days begin, stunting their growth and food production. Plant earlier to prevent that, and you are taking a massive gamble that the subtle strength of climate change will overpower the massive force of the seasonal variation, winter->spring. Scary, and funny at the same time, global warming causing concern over the potential of a freeze killing the crop to late in the season to plant again.

I do get distressed when people here talk about gardening vegetables, as opposed to grain. Vegetables are decoration, luxury, and pleasant flavor. Corn, wheat, and rice, prevent you from dieing of starvation. I know corn well enough. I wish I were better friends with wheat and rice, but I just don't know them. Did a bit of traditional rice seedling germinate and transplant routine, but I don't have access to a field appropriate to the whole task, and wheat is completely foreign to me.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Pops » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 18:33:40

Yes>

As well, on the increased variability risk, is unseasonable warming early in the year leading to early budding of fruit crops and then the "expected" frost killing them. This is the problem I have, a good frost free date and long growing season but extreme variability early.

Today is 50*F, +10* of normal.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Tanada » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 19:56:26

True enough as far as it goes Pops, but the northern area's (like Idaho and Michigan) or culturally oriented Irish Potato's, Swedish Turnips or whatever except for the extension of the Great Plains up through North Dakota into Alberta/Manitoba/Saskatchewan grow root crops and vegetables and always have. Nova Scotia was colonized with Cabbage as the main crop for crying out loud, people grow what they can grow and live on it if they are small hold farmers. I despise Big Ag and its globalization BS with all the fibers of my being because I grew up on a small farm. Endless acre's of mono-crops are a terrible way to run a farm but you will never convince Big Ag of that.

Ireland in the early 1800's was a major consumer of root crops, grains were a luxury with a low ROI for what we would call micro-farms today of under 20 acre's each. But on a small plot like that a huge family could be raised and kept well supplied with calories.

Because of Big Ag our diet today is one of monotony, grain is the major source of calories even if you count meat because so much of our meat is raised in yards and grain fed instead grass grazed like we did it on our land when I was growing up. Wen they built an ethanol plant in the next county over I wrote them and asked if they were going to use waste potato's as well as corn. They were flabbergasted. Potato's are grown on many farms in the surrounding ring of counties and gathering the overs and unders after the market size are gathered is just a case of resetting the forks and going over the fields a second time. All those calories of starch are plowed under each fall instead because the plant manager was not interested in using the option, they get subsidies for corn and pretty much only corn. It isn't about making better use of resources, it is about getting that government handout.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Newfie » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 21:44:02

I'm a late comer to this thread, I just read through and think that things are going down a bit of a rabbit hole.

In my view the BIG STORY here is that there is going to be a massive human die off due to climate change. (Not to belittle the mass, possible human, extinction event, but I'm trying to stay on track.)

Some crafty minority may be able to grow gardens and get by, for some further decades.

BUT, the mass of asses living in our cities (self included) will be SOL if our huge food production process takes much of a hit.

We have some elasticity in the system due to diversion to meat and fuel production, but that is maybe 30% to 40% of basic food production? Then with some nimble work, some cities (Baltimore, and DC but not Vegas) can create 'Victory' gardens that could possibly add 10% production.

But when production falls below that margin then people starve.

And that is only discussing what happens in the US which is much better off than the rest of the world.

So while the discussion about root vegetables and cabbages is wonderful, and something I am paying close attention to, it does not change the course of future history, except for a few wily individuals for some time.

If the temperature rise predictions come true, then humanity is well and truly screwed.

Let us not loose sight of that simple fact.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Lore » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 22:30:23

Let's add to that, there will probably not be enough non-hybrid (open pollinated) seed stock available for all those lonely gardners.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Pops » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 22:45:37

Tanada wrote:Because of Big Ag...

I know, I beat on Big Ag too. But for the most part "Big Ag" is the middleman, the producer is still just a farmer and farmers don't grow what people don't eat. They're only out to make a living, just like everyone else - everyone else who, by the way, up and moved to town at the first chance when mechanized, large scale ag came along. LOL! We as a society do not know how to feed ourselves on small scale ag anymore and it may be that we can't at this population level anyhow.

My point is not that globalized ag is how things "ought" to be, my point is it's how they are, it's where the assets are buried. How things are don't change easily in a culture like farming anytime. If the sing-song now is "we don't want to invest because of uncertanty" when the impetus changes from opportunity-for-profit to bankruptcy-by-climate-change I can't imagine who's gonna feel like gambling.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby Lore » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 23:19:11

This is true Pops. I grew up where my small town grocery store actually bought and served a variety of produce from the local farmers in the area. All the beef we use to eat was actually butchered in this market, including our own which we raised. Today, as I live here in Michigan, monoculture crops are now raised by farmers consisting mostly of corn and soybeans. These producers don't even grow a garden and now shop at WalMart for their groceries, just like everyone else. They have about as much of a clue as to how to create an agriculturally sustainable future as most city dwellers.
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Re: 11 Degree F Increase by 2100, Birol Announces

Unread postby dohboi » Wed 15 Feb 2012, 23:43:47

Ultimately we have to get into a discussion of the farm bill to get to the bottom of this. But I'm to tired to go through all that tonight. A really widespread movement could change it the next time around so it isn't quite so skewed toward commodity grains and away from all other varieties of foods.

Going into a period of uncertainty, it would be much better to have a large number of people trying out a wide variety of crops in various circumstances so that there is a better chance that people will hit upon the things that work. But that's pretty close to the opposite of what we have now. Ag departments at Universities could help help here too, but they are pretty much in thrall to big ag to, as I understand it.

Pop's right that it will take lots of time to change infrastructure, etc, but it is really the policy that encourages that infrastructure that has to change first. And there are powerful forces preventing that from happening.

These guys have some pretty good research on this stuff and some mostly good activism (although I disagree with some of their policies): http://www.iatp.org/issue/agriculture
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Planet Earth 2100?

Unread postby SeaGypsy » Tue 22 May 2012, 03:47:50

What will our great grandchildren inherit?

A wasteland? Cornucopia? Something in between? Patches of both?
Last edited by Ferretlover on Tue 22 May 2012, 16:23:34, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Merged with Earth in 2100 Thread. Poster notified.
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Re: Planet Earth 2100?

Unread postby Timo » Tue 22 May 2012, 08:47:40

The Mother of all Prediction threads.

Fortunately, the year 2100 is well beyond my lifetime, and i have no kids, or grandkids for that matter. Your grandkids will likely inherit a warmer planet with much less biodiversity. Gorillas will be extinct. Ditto for tigers, rhinos, and a host of all sorts of mammals that, in our youth, we always took for granted and thought nothing about. ICE engine will largely be a thing of the past, as will be most of the fuel to feed those suckers. Oddly, though, even though the planet will be warmer, i predict that it will gradually become cleaner, since the the era of burning fossil fuels will be mostly a thing of the past. That said, human civilizations will be vastly different, probably in unimaginable ways. Simply making this prediction, i find it much easier to predict the overall state of the physical planet than predicting the state of human civilization. One prediction relies on a steady state of physical observations, backed by pretty good empirical data, while the other is enveloped by assinine human unpredictability. But, to answer the question as best i can, i'll simply predict that the overall gobal human census will be about 1/5th what it is today. The 21st Century will be remembered as a transitional era for humanity, reduced in number by starvation, disease, natural disaster, and war. Technologies will be used to secure the future for the living, which will become much more localized, and much less globally dependent. As for the human state of mind in 2100, i can't even imagine.
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Re: Planet Earth 2100?

Unread postby Ibon » Tue 22 May 2012, 09:04:31

One should make a distinction between the state of the biosphere in 2100 and the state of the humans living in it.

I have seen species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects present here at Mount Totumas that field guides say should be 800m lower so yeah even an amateur naturalist like me can see where the trend is going.

I was intimately connected to the Everglades in Florida for 10 years and saw how draining of this vast river of shallow saw grass resulted in freshwater habitat receding 20km inland since 1900. What took its place? Sea water encroached creating healthy mangrove habitat with great redfish, sea trout and snook fishing but far less birds.

The point of these last two examples is that the biosphere will be just fine in 2100 with flora and fauna adapting and perishing in results to climate change. A slight increase in extinctions is all I predict. This depends however on consequences having curbed rapacious Kudzu Ape's invasion into the last remnant habitats in biodiversity hotspots around the planet. If our population and consumption pulls back due to consequences extinctions will be far less than what many predict.

Well if our grandchildren are all pissed off at us for f*****g things up in 2100 then we are really screwed since being pissed off represents still some sense of self entitlement and requires a pretty stable status quo which means that Kudzu Ape wasn't held in check.

Let's hope for a far less numerous humble generation by then having passed through the bottle neck of severe consequences.
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