Cheap food reduces war

This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts.

As has been noted about Hitler’s Lebensraum. If German agricultural productivity had risen from 1920 to 1940 by the amount it did between 1950 and 1970 there would have been no point – no economic point at least – in invading eastwards, would there?

So, Greenies, arguing that we should all eat more expensive and land hungry organic food. Why is it that you want to invade Poland?

Ms. Lucas misunderstands

We know that infinite economic growth simply isn’t compatible with a planet of finite resources, and we also know that the treatment of environmental concerns as “externalities” in pursuit of never-ending GDP increases is incredibly damaging.

We don’t deliberately treat environmental concerns as being something outside our area of concern. Instead, we note that GDP, and other market based measures, don’t capture externalities very well – that’s actually what the word means, that these righteous and just concerns are external to market processes.

We then try to shoehorn them into our decision making process as best we can, there are entire libraries stocked with discussions of this very point. Usually, by adding the price of them to those market processes.

This is absolutely super about Tesla’s battery

The world’s biggest battery was officially launched in Australia on Friday, a day after the Elon Musk-driven project was powered up early to meet demand amid a bout of hot weather, officials said.

Musk’s Tesla built the Powerpack system, which can provide electricity for more than 30,000 homes, to ease South Australia’s energy woes after the state was hit with a total blackout in 2016 following an “unprecedented” storm.

The maverick billionaire earlier this year offered on Twitter to build the battery farm, and completed it last week to narrowly beat his self-imposed deadline of having it ready in 100 days.

“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy, delivered to homes and businesses 24/7,” state Premier Jay Weatherill said Friday at the launch to coincide with the first day of summer.

“This is history in the making.”

No, really excellent.

1) We see how well it all works. Does this size of battery actually truly aid in smoothing power dispatch?

2) We see how much it costs.

3) Such costs and effectiveness will no be incorporated into all financial estimates of intermittent power generation sources, won’t they?

We must elect a new people

At my suggestion, the school invited the charity Living Streets to come in and enthuse the children about walking or cycling to school. I attended the first assembly, at which one of their organisers spoke. She was lively, funny and captivating. With the help of a giant puppet, and the promise of badges if they joined in, the children went wild for her and for the cause. The school, led by its committed headteacher, has done everything it can to support the scheme.

For a few weeks, it worked. Everyone noticed the difference. No longer were cars mounting the pavement – and almost mounting each other – outside the gates. The children were using their legs, and families were talking to each other on the way. But the cars have crept back in, and now, though the clever and catchy programme continues, we’re almost back where we started: school begins and ends under a cloud.

Humans, eh?

Seriously folks, stop worrying about pissant little nonsenses

After the war on plastic bags and packaging, waste experts have a new target in their sights – till receipts.
UK supermarkets issue more than 26,000 miles of them every week – enough to stretch round the world, and most of them are thrown straight in the bin.
Recycling experts say the problem is exacerbated by stores that print out additional offers along with the legally required receipt.

So, a small consideration of the importance of this.

So, 80 metres long till rolls, 20 of them, weight 5 kg (that includes the packaging I assume but why worry?). There are 1,600 metres to a mile. 5 kg of till rolls is thus one mile. That means the shops are using 130 tonnes of paper per week, or some 7,000 tonnes a year, as till rolls.

Paper and board consumption appears to be some 9 million tonnes a year for the UK.

So, this particular story is people worrying about 0.07% of UK paper consumption. A goodly part of which, probably the majority, is a legal requirement.

Waste specialist Business Waste found that

Seriously people, fuck off.

Again, the misuse of “despite”

Despite a national hunting ban, the attitude to bears has become increasingly hostile, with some remote villagers taking matters into their own hands

As is so often true it should be “because.”

Then, last October, the Romanian government made a surprise decision to ban the hunting of bears and other large carnivores altogether. The environmental minister, Cristiana Pașca Palmer, a newly appointed, avowedly progressive politician largely at odds with her political surroundings, claimed that under European law “hunting for money was already illegal, but it was given a green light anyway.” The idea that hunting was acting to protect citizens from bears was, she claimed, just a cover for the hunting industry and based on nothing but pseudoscience. Conservationists across the world threw their hands together in applause.

Sure, nature is nice to have around but apex predators are indeed apex predators. And when there are two around, humans and bears, that second needs controlling in some manner. Or, obviously, the humans and their activities will be predated.

Well done to My Lord Melchett here, Oh very well done indeed My Lord.

No, not the Blackadder one, this is Peter Melchett of the Soil Association. He’s taken issue with something from yesterday and left this in the comments:

Peter Melchett
November 22, 2017 at 4:23 pm [Edit]
Tim Worstall says ‘to big up organic farming’ the Soil Association decided ‘to make up this stuff about a cocktail’ of pesticides. This week’s Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine heard presentations from scientists about recent (peer reviewed, published) scientific research. Papers cited include: Pettis, et al; 2013; PLOS ONE, 8 (7) 70182 ; and Traynor et al; Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 33207 DOI: 10.1038/srep33207, which suggest that mixtures or ‘cocktails’ of pesticides present at well below the official regulatory level (the MRL) pose a risk, and that eating a succession of pesticides at well below the MRL can also pose previously unidentified risks (Ashauer et al; Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (5), pp 3084–3092). No MRLs are set for mixtures or succession consumption, nor given the potential diversity of mixtures and successions, could they be. Given this, a scientist at the conference was asked what people should do, and he said the only way to minimise pesticide intake was to eat organic food.
Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association and organic farmer.

Hmm. Well, Pettis is here.

Recent declines in honey bee populations and increasing demand for insect-pollinated crops raise concerns about pollinator shortages. Pesticide exposure and pathogens may interact to have strong negative effects on managed honey bee colonies.

That’s not exactly about pesticide cocktails, is it? Rather more about the interaction between exposure and infestations with mites and the like.

Traynor is here.

This study measured part of the in-hive pesticide exposome by analyzing residues from live in-hive bees, stored pollen, and wax in migratory colonies over time and compared exposure to colony health.

Not really about cocktails either. Ashauer:

“The dose makes the poison”. This principle assumes that once a chemical is cleared out of the organism (toxicokinetic recovery), it no longer has any effect. However, it overlooks the other process of re-establishing homeostasis, toxicodynamic recovery, which can be fast or slow depending on the chemical. Therefore, when organisms are exposed to two toxicants in sequence, the toxicity can differ if their order is reversed.

Well, yes, if I’ve already fried my liver then booze will have a different effect than if I have the booze, recover, then fry. But then it’s not really cocktails, is it?

And let’s remind ourselves what the Soil Associations’s original claim was, the one I was commenting upon:

The number of chemicals on supermarket vegetables has increased by up to 17 fold in 40 years, data shows, as the organic food industry and scientists have warned that consumers are exposed to a “toxic cocktail” of pesticides.
Figures released for the first time by the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, show the number of toxic chemicals found in onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s.

Well, yes, two studies on bees and one on a crustacean, all about direct exposure to pesticides and none specifically about a cocktail of them nor the effects of, is used as proof that a declining level of pesticides, but more varieties of them, upon supermarket vegetables is a threat to human health.

Up to a point Lord Copper, up to a point.

Given this, a scientist at the conference was asked what people should do, and he said the only way to minimise pesticide intake was to eat organic food.

Well, yes, when considering the cocktail of natural and man-made pesticides in food eating only organic will reduce your pesticide exposure by perhaps 0.1%, maybe 0.01%.

So, hands up all who believe My Lord Melchett is attempting to advance science here and how many think he’s the head of a trade union for organic farmers trying to big up the practice?

Well, no Mr Simms, not really

And the story of killing the goose that lays the golden egg in order to extract its riches, and finding nothing, stands as a parable for how we over-exploit the environment everywhere from our seas, to our forests, farms, fossil fuel extraction and more.

A rather more modern use of that tale might be to warn against killing the capitalism and markets which have made us rich enough to be able to care about the environment.

This is one of these things which might actually work

One of France’s oldest breeds of heavy horses, the Poitevin, may be saved from extinction if breeders succeed in convincing local authorities to draft them into service to pull dustbin carts.

Dozens of French towns and villages have already ditched dustbin lorries in favour of horses and carts as a greener way to collect household waste.

Dunno about greener – there’s probably more methane from those guts than there is CO2 from a lorry.

However, the breweries that retained horses on their drays did find that they appeared to be more cost effective up out to 4 miles from the brewery. Plus they were great advertising. Add in some little value, whatever you might want to think of, of “saving” the breed and you might well be onto an economic winner there.

I don’t say that’s true, only that it’s entirely possible. The biggest barrier I see to it in fact is being able to pay the people with that rare skill these days of being able to manage a team in harness.

Not a good omen

Britain’s much-maligned £3 million ($3.95 million) surf reef has hit a new low after a section of it washed ashore during Storm Brian this weekend.
A massive geotextile bag used to create the defunct artificial structure has been found strewn across Southbourne beach in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Yes, I know, different technology and all that. But it doesn’t bode well all the same for those offshore wind farms, the various tidal ducks and all the rest. The ocean is a pretty unforgiving environment.

In fact, as far as I know at least, the only long term structures we’ve ever managed to keep out there are lighthouses and oil rigs……both using up rather a lot of maintenance.

This is interesting

Bad news is always more newsworthy than good. The widely reported finding that insect abundance is down by 75 per cent in Germany over 27 years was big news, while, for example, the finding in May that ocean acidification is a lesser threat to corals than had been thought caused barely a ripple. The study, published in the leading journal Nature, found that corals’ ability to make skeletons is “largely independent of changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, and hence ocean acidification”. But good news is no news.

And bad news is big news. The German insect study, in a pay-to-publish journal, may indeed be a cause for concern, but its findings should be treated with caution, my professional biologist friends tell me. It did not actually compare the same sites over time. Indeed most locations were only sampled once, and the scientists used mathematical models to extract a tentative trend from the inconsistent sampling.

First time I’ve heard that that paper is anything less than pure and perfect science.

Anyone got more?

This is fascinating from George Monbiot

One study in Britain suggests that, if we stopped using animal products, everyone in Britain could be fed on just 3m of our 18.5m hectares of current farmland (or on 7m hectares if all our farming were organic).

I’ve never seen it put quite so bluntly. Organic requires more than twice the land of industrial farming.

Oh, and if we’re not using animal products then where the hell do we get the shit for fertiliser from?

The logic here is not strong

Honey from across the world is contaminated with potent pesticides known to harm bees, new research shows, clearly revealing the global exposure of vital pollinators for the first time.

Almost 200 samples of honey were analysed for neonicotinoid insecticides and 75% contained the chemicals, with most contaminated with multiple types.

If 75% of honey is contaminated then we might well assume that 75% of bees are.

Neonicotinoids aren’t very damaging, are they?

Nonsense is nonsense

Industrial farming is inherently inefficient; it squanders precious land and water, poisons and pollutes with pesticides and fertilisers and causes significant welfare issues for the animals.

It’s even possible that industrial farming does all those things but that doesn’t make it inefficient.

We get more kilos of animal protein from the use of those inputs – that’s a measure of efficiency, not inefficiency.

An area the size of the EU is devoted to growing industrial animal feed yet we know that the world’s soils have only 60 harvests left.

What? Where in buggery does that come from? Ah, here:

Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday.
About a third of the world’s soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.

That’s not a source I would trust to be honest.

“We are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming,” Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements told the forum at the FAO’s headquarters in Rome.

“Organic (farming) may not be the only solution but it’s the single best (option) I can think of.”

Not using fertiliser doesn’t sound like a good way to deal with a reduced availability of farmland. This is interesting.

OK, seems sensible

Electric car owners will be paid for letting an energy company use their vehicle’s battery in a pioneering scheme to increase take-up of the cleaner vehicles and help power grids manage the growth in green energy.

Nissan and one of the UK’s biggest challenger energy suppliers, Ovo, will offer the “vehicle-to-grid” service to buyers of the Japanese carmaker’s new Leaf from next year.

After installing a special charger in a customer’s home, the supplier will take over the management of the car’s battery, with owners able to set a minimum amount of charge they want for driving the next day. Ovo will then automatically trade electricity from the battery, topping it up during off-peak periods when power costs about 4p per kilowatt hour (kWh), and selling it at peak times for about four times as much.

At a small scale at least. But what happens at larger scale? People who know more than I around here have been saying that this sort of thing needs a considerable upgrade to the local at least grid doesn’t it?

Quite right too

Wood burning could be banned in some urban areas in a bid to improve air quality.

We banned coal burning in urban areas for a reason:

It is estimated that a quarter and a third of all fine particle pollution in the capital comes from people burning wood to heat homes.

You know, all that stuff they’re blaming on the cars?

This is actually important

BP has started production at the Khazzan project in Oman, the largest of the new projects it has scheduled for this year, as the oil major attempts to export its US fracking experience around the world.

The $16bn gas project uses the same controversial drilling technique that has unleashed an energy revolution in the US. Fracking has been used to prepare around 200 wells that will tap gas three miles below the earth’s surface in extremely hard, dense rock.

Yeah, yeah, BP, engineering excellence etc.

And yes, I know, they’ve been fracking for oil in the UK for decades now.

However, there’s an important point about advances in extraction technology. Say that we’ve got a field or a well (Macondo? Sure, went wrong but….) in 5,000 feet of water and then deep under that. We work out how to drill and extract all the same. This does not then mean that we’ve got that extra oil from that one field or well. It means that we’ve, at least potentially, got all the oil that lies deep under the seabed in 5,000 feet of water.

Being able to frack gas in Pennsylvania does not just mean that the Henry Hub price goes down and the US chemicals industry booms. It means that we’ve the whole world to go explore again for gas deposits that can be fracked. Being able to process nickel laterites (something only worked out in the past couple of decades) does not mean that we’ve the nickel and cobalt output from Murrin Murrin. It means that all nickel laterites around the world are now potential sources of nickel and cobalt.

This is the bit about resource availability that the exhaustionists aren’t getting. Technical advance doesn’t just mean opening up the one deposit, it gives us a whole new world, another Earth, to go explore.

We can now hard rock frack three miles down? Great, so that’s the entire planet we can explore again for gas deposits in hard rock three miles down.

Or, as we might put it, technology creates new worlds for us.

Sadly, this isn’t going to work, is it?

National Grid will be able to tell people the cheapest time to turn on a washing machine up to two days in advance.

New software, developed with conservation charity WWF, breaks the day down into two-hour segments, warning users when energy is at peak demand and informing them when demand is low.

It combines historical data from the grid with weather information from the Met Office to predict times of high and low demand.

The National Grid said it expected energy companies to use the information to produce their own apps encouraging customers to use energy when demand was at its lowest and turn appliances off when there was pressure on the system.

Because it is the balance of supply and demand which matters. And we can’t forecast wind and solar 48 hours ahead…..