Seems logical

Governments may be seriously underestimating the risks of crop disasters occurring in major farming regions around the world, a study by British researchers has found.

The newly published research, by Met Office scientists, used advanced climate modelling to show that extreme weather events could devastate food production if they occurred in several key areas at the same time. Such an outcome could trigger widespread famine.

If all the major growing areas failed at the same time then yes, serious problems.

Give it two days and some idiot will be telling us this means we must become more self sufficient in food. You know, thereby concentrating the risks of a disaster.

18 thoughts on “Seems logical”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    “The group found there is a 6% chance every decade that a simultaneous failure in maize production could occur in China and the US – the world’s main growers – which would result in widespread misery, particularly in Africa and south Asia, where maize is consumed directly as food.”

    I’m quite weak on statistics so happy to be proved wrong but that looks to me like an event every 180 years or so.

    Either way that a very precise calculation for what is essentially a chaotic system which aies me suspicious.

    If I right we have bigger worries with a greater risk, such as war between China and the USA, economic meltdown caused by socialism ….

  2. +1 on the arithmetic BiND
    Odd that the widespread misery of a failure in China and the USA is not in China and the USA. It’s almost as if having technology to store food, freezers, nitrogen warehouses, big cows, etc mitigates the risks.
    I suspect though that the risk is less than it was if the same models were run 30 years ago, but the article does not answer the Sowell question: “Compared to what?”

  3. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Tne spread that they describe encompasses several thousand miles of land and sea. I suppose it is the usual Guadianesque racism that assumes that all Africans are the same and that these countries are only a few inches apart on the map.

    Anyway any such catastrophe will not be caused by climate but by a disease that will devastate the monoculture cf past spud famines.
    Unless of course Monsanto has created a resitant strain.

  4. “some idiot will be telling us this means we must become more self sufficient in food. You know, thereby concentrating the risks of a disaster.”

    Hang on thats not logically correct. The UK becoming more self reliant for its food needs does not preclude us from importing food from other countries in the event of a crisis of UK production. What you are saying would only be true if we actively prevented imports, even when the shops were empty, because we had some physiological hang up about eating foreign food, or food air miles or something.

    Whereas if were were largely self reliant we would be in a better position if there was a global crisis. And given that the major food producing areas are in significantly different climate zones than the UK while the chances of a global crisis are indeed pretty low, the chances of a crisis of production both in the UK and globally are vanishingly low.

    So logically the best position to be in is to be largely self reliant, but able to get imports if a domestic crop fails, but be able to feed ourselves if the global crop fails.

    Declaration of interest: I am farmer!

  5. There is a 6% chance each decade of simultaneous crop failures in China and the USA due to extreme weather.
    And how many famines have been suffered due to Communism in the seven decades that it lasted? [Then you can add in the number of times Oz has fed Russia and/or China after a cropfailure to prevent a famine].

  6. I suspect also they haven’t allowed for the current greening of the planet due to that positive externality, anthropogenic CO2.

  7. Is this the same Met Office that lost the BBC Weather contract because they were so utterly, utterly shit?

    Oh yes—yes, it is.


  8. @Jim

    Does it count as being “self-reliant” if Britain is simultaneously a major food exporter and importer? A lot of the “self-reliance” folk seem to want us all to “buy local”.

  9. “Does it count as being “self-reliant” if Britain is simultaneously a major food exporter and importer? A lot of the “self-reliance” folk seem to want us all to “buy local”.”

    Its the net figure that counts one assumes – how much of demand can be met from home production? If we export and import loads, but could switch the exports to supply the home market if the imports dried up then that would be fine. If exports nowhere near cover domestic consumption then we could be in trouble.

    Personally I think all this ‘self reliance’ stuff is nonsense. For a wealthy country like the UK the issue is not whether we can get enough food, its how much we have to pay for it. Put it this way if food supplies are so low that the 5th biggest economy in the world can’t afford to buy enough food to feed itself then the rest of the world is screwed entirely, and we’ve a global starvation catastrophe on our hands.

    Even in a scenario where the UK has maintained domestic food production (maybe by subsidising it for example) the price of food is still going to rise in the shops in a crisis because commodity prices are set globally. When wheat leaves my farm the price is the global one, not one based on purely UK demand/supply.

    So in a scenario where the global wheat harvest has failed, but UK production is unaffected, the price of bread in the shops is still going through the roof, because the global price will have doubled or tripled over night. No farmer is going to say ‘I can get £300/tonne for my grain if I export it, but rather than take that money I’ll sell it to Tesco for £150/tonne so they can sell cheaper bread’

    The only scenario where a policy of maintaining domestic production is a ‘winner’ is if food supplies are so low there just physically isn’t the food available to buy at any price. Then physical supply is important. Apart from that its just a question of price, for the UK at least.

  10. ‘advanced climate modelling’

    None of that old climate modelling crap.

    That’s right: all before was crap. Yes, a generation of predictions over which politicians spent a trillion dollars was all crap.


    ‘used advanced climate modelling to show that extreme weather events could devastate food production’

    Idiocy. Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get. [H/T Mark Twain] The writer, Robin McKie, seems not only to not know what the difference is, but also to not even know what the words mean. Guardianesque, it is. The science and technology editor for the Observer is ignorant, and not too shy to show it. Are employees too scared to pull him aside and correct him? Or is anything ‘climate’ sacred and not subject to criticism? Revealed truth stuff?

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    Don’t the big bread makers forward buy from you or is it all your risk?

    When we had that harsh winter in 2010/11 a couple of the dairy farms here were cut off for a couple of days. I was told by a herdsman that their farm didn’t have a contract with the big supermarket and they had to pour the milk away at their loss. The other farm had a Sainsbury’s contract and because they didn’t collect he still got paid.

    AIUI Sainsbury paid less and were a pain in the arse when it came to hygiene inspections and if problems weren’t fixed immediately contracts were dropped.

    In your case I suppose it’s difficult to forecast a year or even 3 months ahead what you yield will be?

  12. @ Bind,

    Risk management are why futures market in commodities were created all those years ago…

  13. Reading this, it just struck me as funny that the same people who go on about ‘localism’ for food are all for large electricity distribution networks to solve the problems of renewable intermittency.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    FYI: an event that occurs independently with a 6% probability in a given time period has a 50% probability of occurring at least once in 11.2 time periods (solve 1 – (94/100) = 1/2; n → ln(2)/ln(50/47) ~ 11.2)

    When was the last time the US and China suffered a simultaneous crop failure?

  15. @ BiCR
    We do not know because the Oklahoma Dust Bowl occurred during a period of civil war in China. The habit of the USA exporting vast quantities of maize to Africa is less than a century old and China’s maize production was not significant in world terms until the 1950s.
    The famines in China under Mao were largely unrelated to weather.
    So we don’t have enough historical data to make an intelligent comment and the Guardianistas can say whatever they like without fear of contradiction by pendants like me who care about facts.

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