PSDBAnyone who imagines that with climate change we will simply shift agriculture towards the poles probably does not even have house plants, much less a garden, and certainly knows little or nothing about agriculture or climate change.
In an earlier post I discussed some of the impacts on existing agriculture as Understanding why climate change means global famine”. Now I’d like to discuss a couple of aspects of one of the stock answers “we’ll just move our food production north.”
The reason this will not work is shown very simply with a map.
Begining with the Southern Hemisphere and the obvious, there is less land area as you move towards the pole. South America narrows rapidly, Africa less rapidly but it still does, and Australia simply ends; there just isn’t the land available to sustain anything close to current levels of food production.
The Northern Hemisphere is only slightly more complicated. Looking at the soils you see that much of the north consists of Gelisols, Entisols and Spodsols.
- Gelisols: “…chemically they are not highly fertile…”
- Entisols “…. most are basically unaltered from their parent material …” ie lacking the organic matter, soil structure, etc that you need for agriculture.
- Spodosols “…are the typical soils of coniferous, or Boreal forests.” ie shallow and acidic. “Most Spodosols are poor soils for agriculture.”
Put simply, these soils are total crap for food production. The entire region where the delusional are hoping to grow all of our food is not good for food production based on soil alone, never mind other factors.
Just to hammer this point home beyond all question here is a soil fertility map.
You can clearly see that we are supposedly talking about moving agriculture from the good to excellent soils to poor and very poor.
Even if there were no other challenges (and there are plenty, as have been and will be discussed) we would have to massively expand the area under cultivation since the land would simply not be as productive.
Such expansion means the cost per unit of production and distribution (ie food price) goes way up, the environmental impact goes way up, and there still isn’t enough land to match current levels of production.
Soil quality is not the only issue by any stretch. Much of Northern Canada is geologically Canadian Shield. A significant part of Northern Europe and Russia are similar. It is the geology that underlies most of the world’s Boreal forest.
This is the land that was covered in ice during the most recent glaciation of approx 10,000 years ago. There simply has not been sufficient time since then for it to form significant soil and here is what it looks like today (below, or do your own image searches).
Is there anything about that landscape that makes you think “Gee, I can just see the potential here, I sure wish I had a plow.” Or is it more along the lines of “How the hell is anyone supposed to farm THAT?”
Personally I favour the second, particularly as I did my MSc studying aspects of the biology of this landscape. Yes there are some decent soils in river valleys and other basins that have collected eroded minerals and organic matter, but for the most part it is like what you see above.
Of course in another 50,000 years or so these regions will have developed deep rich soils. As it is global food reserves are scarcely enough to allow for food production to be interrupted for 50,000 minutes.
Something else to consider, forestry and agriculture are two major greenhouse gas producing activities. Even if it were possible to simply move our agricultural production towards the poles (and it clearly isn’t), consider the implications of the massive deforestation required, and the increased CO2 release that accompanies converting land to agriculture.
The very act of moving our agriculture would cause a huge acceleration of climate change, thereby ensuring that the regions in question would quickly become unsuitable for agriculture. The whole notion is self defeating.
Yes, climate change is already well underway and we will have to shift some of our food production towards the poles. Yes, there is a need for some ‘adaptation’; there is no avoiding it.
However, the notion that we should abandon efforts to slow or stop climate change and simply adapt is ridiculous. Even if the climate of the north allowed for agricultural production (and it won’t – future post) the geology does not. It cannot be done, not on the scale we would need, period.
We must curb our CO2 production and we must do it now. Words such as ‘urgent’, ‘crisis’, or ‘emergency’ all fail to capture the scale, urgency and severity of the problem.
Having fun yet? This series looking at climate change and food is far from done, and the news does not get any better.
However, hopefully it is helping give people the proper perspective of what we are up against and why we must act now to the absolute limits of what we are capable of, individually and collectively.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 119 … still no evidence.