Climate Science On African Agriculture – When The Cock Crows

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Boy I’ll tell you-  climate science is getting more and more convincing with every passing day.

Remember how we were always told that climate change would impact poor Africa the most…and negatively? The German language Die Presse has an online report called:

Warming: Will Africa starve or flourish?

It’s about the PNAS 28.2 paper just out, which came to the astonishing conclusion that climate change will either have positive impacts on agriculture in Africa, or it will have negative impacts. Not only that, agriculture there will have to adapt to these changes.

How brilliant! It took leading earth-systems scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to figure that out.

First, recall that the 2007 IPCC Report claimed that crop yields in some countries could get reduced by 50% and that access to food could be put at risk – all because of climate change.

These were the dire projections made just a few years ago. But then came Climategate and the discovery of a series of errors in the IPCC report, and its heavy use of grey literature. Scientists began to doubt. So to get more certainty on the subject, projections were re-evaluated and are now being revamped. The PNAS presents the new certainty.

The new results are out and were produced by a group led by Christoph Müller of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and appear in the PNAS 28.2. The group assessed 20 scientific studies on Africa and its agriculture since 2007. Unfortunately the latest results show everything but consensus and certainty. Die Presse writes:

Müller’s group found that some studies predict agricultural production in Africa will collapse to almost nothing while other studies see blooming agriculture like never before – with crop yields up by as much as 168%.”

Does anyone think these results are going to be of any use for African policy makers? The PNAS 28.2 abstract says:

Despite large uncertainty, there are several robust conclusions from published literature for policy makers and research agendas: agriculture everywhere in Africa runs some risk to be negatively affected by climate change; existing cropping systems and infrastructure will have to change to meet future demand. With respect to growing population and the threat of negative climate change impacts, science will now have to show if and how agricultural production in Africa can be significantly improved.”

Say what?

– Robust conclusions?
– Agriculture everywhere runs some risk?
– Cropping systems and infrastructure will have to change to meet future demand?
– Science will have to show how agricultural production can be improved?

No kidding! Really? Folks, what a pile of scientific crap this is! This report says nothing except confirm that they don’t have a clue about what will happen in Africa and its agriculture. They know less than ever before. Die Presse sums up the rubbish beautifully, describing this paper with an old German saying that is often used for such results:

Wenn der Hahn kräht auf dem Mist
Ändert sich das Wetter
Oder es belibt wie es ist

In English, roughly (doesn’t quite rhyme):

When the cock crows on a pile of shit
Either the weather will change
or it’ll stay as it is.

This means this PNAS paper says nothing. But this is kind of the crap that gets published by “prestigious scientific journals” nowadays. And so Die Presse writes:

The very science that cannot even project what will come in the future is now supposed to tell us ‘if and how’ agricultural production in Africa should adapt and how agricultural yields can be ‘significantly improved’ under the unknown new conditions.”

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18 responses to “Climate Science On African Agriculture – When The Cock Crows”

  1. John F. Hultquist

    At least the folks at the paper were on to the slush.

    Thanks for the translation. That is a new one for me, and I can’t think of any other quite like it.

    There is the story supposedly told by Ronald Reagan about the little boy and the pile of horse poop, and maybe, like Ron, we should all be optimists:
    http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/28/messages/718.html

    1. DirkH

      The rhyme is a parody of weather lore (German “Bauernregeln”; lit. farmers rules). Interestingly, weather lore is codified knowledge for long range weather forecasts; maybe even able to beat the Met Office’s supercomputer. (I’m kidding. Of course it beats the Met Office.)

      1. Green Sand

        Beat the Met Office super computer?

        Oh no, no, nothing can beat the MO! Take a look at their prediction for 2011.

        “Although La Niña has stabilised, it is still expected to affect global temperature through the coming year. This effect is small compared to the total accrued global warming to date, but it does mean that 2011 is unlikely to be a record year according to the Met Office prediction based on the three main datasets. Nevertheless an anomaly of 0.44 °C is still likely — with the range very likely to be between 0.28 °C and 0.60 °C. The middle of this range would place 2011 among the top 10 warmest years on the record.”

        “with a range very likely to be between”. So they don’t even commit to a range of 0.28 to 0.60C? That’s real super computer accuracy for you, a very tight 32 point spread.

        Then we have “the Met Office prediction based on the three main datasets”. So the MO prediction is not based on their own dataset. They don’t actually say what their own “super computer” predicts.

        You have just got to love such a real Teflon coated prediction of “0.44 °C is still likely”

        Likely? It uses the same amount of power a major town and we get LIKELY!

        http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2010/record-temperatures

  2. Doug Proctor

    The conclusion that AGW may have a negative effect on African crop yields probably and “logically” ensues from an underlying Uncertainty Principle. This Principle hyper-values negative results; the resulting “adjusted” +/- of certainty is mathematically translated philosophy – which is what politicians use to make policy decisions.

    There should be another Proctor (ahem, ego here) Theorem of Policy Value buried in here:

    Where X is a value to be considered when determining its proportional importance to a decision, and y is the chance of an unacceptable change in X occurring then, the value of X to be used in decision-making is X(1), such that:

    X(1) = X/y

    For example, if X is flooding (or the costs of flooding), and y is that a calamitous flood has a 1:20 chance of occuring, then the value flooding or the threat of flooding should enter into consideration is 20X.

    Although counter-intuitive, i.e. one would think that that which is most likely to happen should get the most attention, the Uncertainty Principle allows in this way minor threats that have large consequences can get their true social impact into public policy.

    Actually, one might think this Theorem is already in practice. Universal sickness, poverty, war and general violence gets small shrift in National budgets. But there is funding for planetary defense systems against rogue asteroids, you know. Space-based lasers and nuclear missiles a-la-Meteor, Deep Impact and Armeggedon. Compared to paying to avoid bits of heaven falling on our heads, cap-n-trade is a minor stretch.

    Anyone help me with a research grant application on this one? Might be a logarithmic function, y’know.

    1. DirkH

      You gotta obfuscate that formula. Post-normal science needs to be opaque to work properly; otherwise the paying public might be tempted to check your numbers. 😉

  3. Brian G Valentine

    The cock is one of many crowing upon the dung heap that is climate”science.”

    In fact there are numerous of them crowing, and they become more irritating to me by the day.

  4. mindert eiting

    And all this is based on a statistical blunder of the first degree.

    1. DirkH

      All these climate scientists wanted to become scientists when they were kids. They got what they wanted… sorta.

    2. mindert eiting

      This is what I mean:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/27/can-these-scientists-end-climate-change-war

      I do the following predictions:

      1. There is no exceptional warming in recent times.
      2. Since 1700 the earth warmed with no more than 1 degree Celsius.
      3. Global temperature-time series are random walks during periods of a few centuries. In these short periods only regional time series are reliable, to be more precise at latitudes of 0, 20, and 60 degrees North.

      We will see. Always funny to do predictions!

  5. R. de Haan

    The South African economy is self supporting in coal to liquid gasoline and they now oil prices have hiked they pay a lot less than we do.
    Africa will do fine, with or without good for nothing climate reports.

    1. Bernd Felsche

      I commented several years ago to an Australian MP that Australia should conserve its carbon resources for transport fuels, investing in nuclear for at least baseload electricity.

      Having a working CTL and/or GTL technology on-tap provides a ready cap on market prices and reduces degee of speculation. IIRC, a self-fuelled CTL process becomes comnpetitive around an oil price of US$80/barrel and it could be quite a bit lower if there’s a nuclear plant nearby that can contribute to process heat.

      To replace the 30 GW of coal-fired power stations with nuclear would be a great deal cheaper than the tax that Australia’s rogue government wants to impose; a tax which will destroy the livelihoods and lives not of the rent-seekers, but the producers.

  6. R. de Haan

    There are also these other reports about Africa.
    About a tyrant like Mugabe who in ten years time destroyed Zimbabwe, one of the biggest African food producers by killing the farmers and running the country into the ground. A similar process is now developing in South Africa where the number of farmer killings is on the rise. There is the UN and it’s army of NGO’s who undertake everything possible to make African agriculture self sufficient as long as they don’t use modern agricultural techniques and equipment like a tractor for example or a harvester, let alone the use of insecticides.

    The policies sold by the UN to local tyrants have resulted in a ban on the burning of camel dung in the Sudan area.

    Camel dung is the only available fuel to heat water and the women who use it are whip lashed and beaten up.

    And what to think of the US and EU policies to flood African markets with heavily subsidized food stocks that bankrupt the local food producers making them more dependent on imports?

    And when the markets have stabilized we in the West start processing food crops into ethanol causing price hikes so the Africans can no longer afford our food exports. This and the drop of the dollar is a big trigger behind the current protests in N.A and the M.E. and they will soon expand to Asia and South America

    This good for noting climate report is part of the hypocritical policies to keep the Africans from real progress and development.

    From all the challenges Africa has to meet to build it’s future, climate change is not on the list.

  7. John Blake

    Classic English translation is: “Cocks on dunghills loudly crow, yet who knows how the winds may blow?”

    Best eschew obscenities, profanities, barnyard epithets and sailors’ oaths.

    1. Brian G Valentine

      Good advice, ordinarily, although impossible in direct or indirect reference to AGW.

      There are no other means to describe it.

  8. Shub

    You know that climate prince Rahmstorff was the one who wrote to the Frankfurter Rundschau to retract an article that showed how the IPCC’s passage on African crop yields was utterly unfounded?

  9. Jimbo

    You talk about uncertainty for Africa I see. Here is more uncertainty.
    Sahel to get more rain
    Sahel to get less rain
    Sahel to get more or less rain ;O)

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