We on the right are often called anti-science whenever we question the latest breathless claim on the dangers of a warming planet. Take this piece from Newsweek, for example, where we’re warned that global warming will mean the end of pasta. Really, that’s what they wrote:
The End of Pasta
Temperatures are rising. Rainfalls are shifting. Droughts are intensifying. What will we eat when wheat won’t grow.
Now, if I were to challenge the above claim, I’m “anti-science.” But thankfully, there are real scientists like Bjørn Lomborg who are around to put articles like this one from Newsweek where they belong — in the trash.
Scare stories have been an integral part of the global warming narrative for a long time. Back in 1997, Al Gore told us that global warming was making the El Niño winds stronger and more severe. That has not happened. Greenpeace and many others have told us for years that we will see more violent hurricanes. In fact, over the last six years, global hurricane energy has dropped to its lowest level since the 1970s, while the United States has had the longest absence of severe hurricanes ever (Sandy was a “superstorm,” not a hurricane, when it hit the vulnerable East Coast in October).
But the scares do not stop there. The World Wildlife Fund declared in 2004 that polar bears would go extinct by the end of the century, and that the calamity would start in Hudson Bay, where they would stop reproducing by 2012. The bears are still reproducing. And stories abound of global warming bringing malaria to Europe or Vermont. But here, too, the evidence contradicts such fears; in fact, malaria deaths have dropped more than 25 percent over the last 10 years.
It is understandable that pundits, worried about global warming and frustrated with the near-absence of political interest or solutions, see exaggeration as an easy way to garner attention. The problem is that when these scare stories are later shown to be wrong, people become less willing to listen even to reasonable arguments about global warming. Indeed, skepticism about global warming has gone up, not down, as the false alarms have become increasingly high-pitched.
And as for the “high-pitched” nonsense on “the end of pasta”:
Consider the newest global-warming exaggeration: an article from Newsweek shrilly claiming that rising temperatures are heralding “The End of Pasta.” All of the major grains—rice, corn, and wheat—are already suffering from global warming, the article explains, but wheat is the most vulnerable to high temperatures. So, as warming increases, we will see “shockingly high prices” for pasta and bread. Its central message is straightforward: “If humans want to keep eating pasta, we will have to take much more aggressive action against global warming.”
The argument is almost entirely wrong. Yields of all major crops have been rising dramatically in recent decades, owing to higher-yielding crop varieties and farmers’ greater use of fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Moreover, CO2 acts as a fertilizer, and its increase has probably raised global yields more than 3 percent over the past 30 years.
But increasing temperatures will harm some crops while benefiting others. Because most crops are already grown where they do best, it is not surprising that climate models show that temperature increases will reduce yields if farmers change little or nothing. In fact, farmers will adapt, especially over the course of a century. They will plant earlier, grow more heat-loving varieties, or change their crop entirely. And, as growing wheat and grains becomes possible higher north in Canada and Russia, even more opportunities will open up.
The largest study, conducted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, includes temperature impacts, CO2 fertilization, and adaptation, and projects a 40.7 percent increase in grain production by 2050. Without global warming, production might have been half a percentage point higher. With global warming, prices will most likely be slightly lower. Our linguine supplies are safe.
You can read the res of Lomborg’s piece here.