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It’s time to worry about climate change impact on our food

Dec 12, 2022

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President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act includes $369 billion in clean energy incentives and investments designed to make fossil fuel alternatives more readily available. Yet climate change remains one of the most challenging issues of our time, in particular with how it relates to the global food supply. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan warns that it’s time to worry about climate change impact on our food, before it’s too late.

Excerpted from Peter’s Nov. 9 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Waking up to ash from the red fire scattered across my tent wasn’t exactly how I pictured my morning going, but it does bring to mind an interesting topic – climate change.

No one has a great idea of how climate change will actually play out. It’s more of a broad spectrum guess situation, making meaningful policy and planning for the future a complex task to face. However, there are some tactical factors that decision makers should be looking at; these are sources of wind and stability of the climate zone. Think back to Oregon’s record temps in the summer of ’21 or where most countries are sourcing their food from. Understanding these realities is the only way to create policy that will actually help mitigate the impact of climate change.

The scary reality is that just because we (I’m talking people in general) might not be feeling the impacts of climate change, the food we consume (likely) is. The more stable the climate zone, the closer it is to the temperate zone with humidity, the greater the temperature shock is required to knock it out of alignment. But the further you are from that temperate humid zone, the more likely you are to… experience extreme fluctuations. So here in the Sierra Nevadas, it’s an arid zone at high altitude, so [it] always has low humidity. It’s one of the reasons I like backpacking here. But it also makes it one of the more vulnerable places in North America. 

And if you look across the world, most of the population lives in zones that are relatively humid, which is great. Think India or Southern China. But most of them get their food from places that are not. Think the Russian wheat belt, think Western Australia, think Southern Brazil. So we’re in this weird problem, where people might not feel climate change as much as their food production. And that generates a whole other series of issues. So I’m not as concerned about climate refugees, as most people. It’s not that I don’t think it’s going to be a thing. 

I just think we’ve got a bigger problem when it comes to food supplies.

Hi, everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from about halfway up Tenaya Peak just above  Mildred Lake. Behind me, you can see the smoke from the red fire, which started since I got here. And which is putting an unceremonious end to part of my backpacking trip, because I woke up with ash on my tent this morning. And that is no bueno.

It’s also a lovely opportunity to talk about some of the tactical aspects of climate change. Now, we’ve all heard the stories that the earth is going to warm by two or three or four or five or six degrees, or whatever it happens to be. Everyone has their own estimate and they’re all based on a series of educated guesses and simulations, because humanity hasn’t been around long enough with good data collection in order to make predictions down to this zip code level. 

So everyone kind of goes through the broad spectrum guesses. Makes it very hard to do any sort of meaningful policy, especially when it comes to things like mitigation, or planning for things like crops. But what we’re seeing right here is an example of two things. 

First of all, remember I talked about winds and how two sources of wind are better when it comes to…precipitation. California doesn’t have that. Neither does Portland, neither does Seattle, they get Pacific currents and that is it. They get nothing from the Gulf of Mexico. And because of that their weather is going to be significantly more erratic than what we have seen in the Midwest, for example. If you guys remember a couple of years ago, Portland was in the 120s or 110s…it was Canada that got 120. Anyway, it was a crazy summer. And for almost three weeks, Portland was hotter than Las Vegas had ever been. We haven’t seen that yet in California. Hopefully we never will. 

But this was a fire caused by a single lightning strike that has since gotten a little bit out of control. You can see what the impact is. Second, what was the second point? Oh, yeah, fringe. The more stable the climate zone, the closer it is to the temperate zone with humidity, the greater the temperature shock is required to knock it out of alignment. But the further you are from that temperate humid zone, the more likely you are to… experience extreme fluctuations. So here in the Sierra Nevadas, it’s an arid zone at high altitude, so [it’s] always has low humidity. It’s one of the reasons I like backpacking here. But it also makes it one of the more vulnerable places in North America. 

And if you look across the world, most of the population lives in zones that are relatively humid, which is great. Think India or southern China. But most of them get their food from places that are not. Think the Russian wheat belt, think western Australia, think southern Brazil. 

So we’re in this weird problem, where people might not feel climate change as much as their food production. And that generates a whole other series of issues. 

So I’m not as concerned about climate refugees, as most people. It’s not that I don’t think it’s going to be a thing. 

I just think we’ve got a bigger problem when it comes to food supplies. All right, that’s it from me. I’m going to be going up and over this mountain and then down to Cathedral Lakes. I might record another one there. See you guys soon. Bye.

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