\”People do not quite realise the scale of the issue,\” added Bevan. \”This is one of the most serious problems that science has ever faced.\” In Britain the lives of hundreds of thousands of people will be threatened by food shortages. Across the globe, tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – will be affected.
In Britain, a global food shortage would drive up import costs and make food more expensive, just as the nation\’s farmers start to feel the impact of disrupted rainfall and rising temperatures caused by climate change. \”If we don\’t address this, we can expect major destabilisation, an increase in rioting and potentially significant problems with international migration, as people move to avoid food and water shortages,\” he told a conference earlier this year.
What is it that will cause all of this?
Strangely, no, it isn\’t climate change. That\’s a very minor player here. Similarly, it\’s not population growth, we can handle the sort of growth that\’s likely to happen with the sort of productivity growth we\’ve already got (for example, just bringing African farming up to 50% or so of first world productivity would solve that entirely).
So what could possibly cause such problems?
\”We can certainly do it, although it won\’t be easy,\” said Bevan. For a start, farmers will have to increase yields using greatly reduced amounts of agro-fertilisers because their manufacture is energy-intensive. Some 3% of the world\’s energy is used in the manufacture of fertilisers and in a post-Copenhagen world, dominated by renewable energy, such carbon consumption is likely to be prohibited.
That\’s what\’s going to cause the problem. Fertiliser is pretty much made from natural gas through the Haber Process. Now if we\’re going to be stupid enough to ban people from doing this then of course we\’re going to have problems. But note that it\’s not climate change nor population pressure that\’s causing this. It\’s our reaction to the threat of climate change.
And of course we have choices about how to react to that threat. And the most obvious and basic choice is not to make choices which are worse than the climate change itself.
Hundreds of millions short of food as we ban artificial fertilisers which account for 3% of energy use? Or carry on using the energy and have 3% of the predicted climate change? And 3% of the damage of the predicted climate change?
As a purely personal opinion I think you\’d have to be entirely insane to ban fertilisers on this basis. But then again, purely on that same personal basis, I\’m convinced that a lot of what we\’re being told we must do about climate change is indeed entirely insane. Huge numbers of people seem to have missed the point that there are always trade offs and there are some trade offs that we really don\’t want to make.
Like, perhaps, starving hundreds of millions to avoid a 0.12 oC temperature rise (which is what 3% of a 4 oC rise would be).