How Fast Did Earth’s Climate Change In The Past, & What Is An Abrupt Climate Change Event?

How Quickly Did Earth's Climate Change In The Past? (Abrupt Climate Change Events)

Abrupt climate change can be differentiated from regular climate change behavior and patterns.

In this guide, we look at what an abrupt climate change event is, and events that may have happened in the past.

We discuss whether abrupt climate change may happen in the future.

 

Summary – How Fast Earth’s Climate Changed In The Past, & What To Know About Abrupt Climate Change

  • Earth’s climate has varied and gone through different periods in it’s 4.5 billion year history
  • When defining Abrupt climate change specifically, this is a sudden change in the climate over the course of a few years or decades, or even the span of a human lifetime 
  • One current admissions about abrupt climate change is that ‘Scientific understanding of abrupt climate change is generally poor’ (wikipedia.org)
  • According to studies of paleoclimatic records, there has been several ‘abrupt’ climate change events throughout Earth’s history, although they are rare
  • Temperatures are thought to have changed by as much as +10 °C (+18 °F) within a timescale of a few years during studied abrupt climate change events (studied from ice cores)
  • Each abrupt change event in the climate was due to different specific factors
  • One of the effects of abrupt climate change might be that humans and the environment have difficulty adapting to the change, or even that the change results in destructive and dire consequences
  • What some scientists are saying, is that the rate of warming we are seeing today has some similarities to these abrupt climate change events of the past (increased CO2 levels, increasing temperature, events like a rising sea level and ocean acidification etc.). Additionally, some climate trends we are seeing today, such as rapid warming, may increase the probability of abrupt change happening
  • They do also say though that a true abrupt climate change event is unlikely right now at least for the next century, but, increasing our emissions from fossil fuels could make one more likely (and conversely, reducing our emissions as quickly as possible might be the best way to reduce the likelihood of an abrupt or rapid climate change event happening in the future)

 

Firstly, What Is Classified As A True Abrupt Climate Change Event?

  • The term “abrupt climate change” describes changes in climate that occur over the span of years to decades, compared to the human-caused changes in climate that are occurring over the time span of decades to centuries. 

– ucsusa.org

 

  • The term is … used within the context of global warming to describe sudden climate change that is detectable over the time-scale of a human lifetime
  • Timescales of events described as ‘abrupt’ may vary dramatically
  • [Abrupt climate change may occur rapidly and unexpectedly] 

– wikipedia.org

 

Potential Uncertainty About Abrupt Climate Change

Interpretation of past abrupt climate change events might be taken as a general guide and not as an absolute because:

  • ‘Scientific understanding of abrupt climate change is generally poor’ (wikipedia.org)

 

On Average, How Quickly Has Earth Climate Changed Throughout History?

You can read about Earth’s general climate history in this guide

 

Abrupt Climate Change Events In The Past (& What Caused Them)

Abrupt Climate Change Events From The Past

  • Past [abrupt climate change] events include the end of the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse, Younger Dryas, Dansgaard-Oeschger events, Heinrich events and possibly also the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum.
  • Changes recorded in the climate of Greenland at the end of the Younger Dryas, as measured by ice-cores, imply a sudden warming of +10 °C (+18 °F) within a timescale of a few years. Other abrupt changes are the +4 °C (+7.2 °F) on Greenland 11,270 years ago or the abrupt +6 °C (11 °F) warming 22,000 years ago on Antarctica. 
  • By contrast, the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum may have initiated anywhere between a few decades and several thousand years.

Read more about the above events at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrupt_climate_change 

 

  • Most past changes in global temperature occurred slowly, over tens of thousands or millions of years. However, there is also evidence that some abrupt changes occurred, at least at regional scales.
  • For example, during the last ice age, temperatures in the North Atlantic region changed by 5°C or more over as little as a few decades, likely due to sudden collapses of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets or changes in ocean currents.

– science.org.au

 

  • An example of an abrupt climate change event is the Younger Dryas (~12,000 years ago), a period of abrupt cooling that interrupted a general warming trend as Earth emerged from the last Ice Age. During the Younger Dryas period, average summertime temperatures in New England cooled by about 5-7°F (3-4°C). This and other abrupt events have been linked to changes in an ocean circulation pattern known as thermohaline circulation.
  • Indeed, during some of the abrupt events in Earth’s past climate, scientists find evidence of large catastrophic flows of fresh water into the North Atlantic from the melting of glaciers and ice caps, and due to flooding from glacier-dammed lakes. Without the large-scale sinking of salty water in the North Atlantic the influx of warm water to replace it from the tropics would not occur, effectively switching off the thermohaline circulation.
  • Past changes in thermohaline circulation have occurred during periods of relatively rapid climate change, such as transitions in and out of glaciations.

– ucsusa.org

 

  • …there have been several times in Earth’s past when Earth’s temperature jumped rapidly, in much the same way as they are doing today.
  • Those times were caused by large and rapid greenhouse gas emissions, just like humans are causing today.
  • In Earth’s past the trigger for these greenhouse gas emissions was often unusually massive volcanic eruptions known as “Large Igneous Provinces,” with knock-on effects that included huge releases of CO2 and methane from organic-rich sediments. But there is no Large Igneous Province operating today, or anytime in the last 16 million years. Today’s volcanoes, in comparison, don’t even come close to emitting the levels of greenhouse gasses that humans do.
  • …Those rapid global warming events were almost always highly destructive for life, causing mass extinctions such as at the end of the Permian, Triassic, or even mid-Cambrian periods.
  • The symptoms from those events (huge and rapid carbon emissions, a big rapid jump in global temperatures, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, widespread oxygen-starved zones in the oceans) are all happening today with human-caused climate change
  • … global warming 66 million years ago was due to catastrophic eruptions in India, which emitted a pulse of CO2 that sent global temperatures soaring by 7°C (13°F). 

– skepticalscience.com

 

Skeptical Science explain more about what causes rapid global warming in this guide – https://skepticalscience.com/Lee-commentary-on-Burgess-et-al-PNAS-Permian-Dating.html 

 

Causes

In addition to what is identified as causes of specific events above.

More generally:

  • Abrupt climate change is possibly the result of ‘feedback loops within the climate system’ … [where a] warming event causes a change that ads to further warming (wikipedia.org)

 

Possible Effects Of Abrupt Climate Change

It can possibly result in:

  • Mass extinctions
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Changes in ocean circulation

– wikipedia.org

 

How Are Abrupt Climate Change Events From The Past Interpreted?

One way is through ice cores:

  • Changes recorded in the climate of Greenland at the end of the Younger Dryas, as measured by ice-cores, imply a sudden warming

– wikipedia.org

 

But, various forms of proxy material can be used:

  • From ice cores, ocean sediments, tree rings, and other records of Earth’s past climate, scientists have found that changes in climate have occurred quickly in the past—over the course of a decade

– ucsusa.org

 

Climate Models & Abrupt Climate Change

  • Climate models are unable yet to predict abrupt climate change events, or most of the past abrupt climate shifts 

– wikipedia.org

 

Will Abrupt Climate Change Events Happen In The Future?

Abrupt climate change in the near future is only a possibility at this stage, and probably a low possibility at that [at least over the next century].

Certain factors and precursors may increase the likelihood of an abrupt climate change event happening in the future.

 

From Wikipedia.org:

  • Factors that may increase the probability of abrupt climate change include higher magnitudes of global warming, warming that occurs more rapidly and warming that is sustained over longer time periods
  • [A precursor to abrupt climate shifts is a sudden circulation shift]

 

Ucsusa.org:

  • While abrupt climate change is not a certainty, human-caused climate change makes abrupt events more likely [Human activities may be driving the climate system toward a threshold and thus increasing the chance of abrupt climate changes occurring.]
  • The possibility of an abrupt shift in the climate system is only one feature of a changing climate that is expected to become more erratic, with extreme weather events like droughts, torrential rainfall, and extreme heat becoming more common.
  • We can slow down global warming and reduce the likelihood of future abrupt climate changes by reducing our emissions of heat-trapping gases.
  • … the rapid warming we are currently experiencing could trigger an abrupt thermohaline shutdown and subsequent regional cooling. … [however] a shutdown of thermohaline circulation is unlikely to occur in the next century

 

Sources

1. https://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-last-time-co2-was-this-high-humans-didnt-exist-15938

2. https://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/impacts/abrupt-climate-change.html#.XE2WuM8zbR0 

3. https://skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period.htm

4. https://skepticalscience.com/Lee-commentary-on-Burgess-et-al-PNAS-Permian-Dating.html

5. https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-booklets-0/science-climate-change/2-how-has-climate-changed 

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrupt_climate_change

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-earths-climate-was-like-in-the-past-last-century-thousand-million-billions-of-years-earth-climate-history-timeline/

What Earth’s Climate Was Like In The Past (Earth Climate History Timeline)

What Earth's Climate Was Like In The Past: Last Century, Thousand, Million & Billions Of Years (Earth Climate History Timeline)

A common statement about climate change is that the ‘Earth’s climate has changed before’.

In this guide, we look at the Earth’s climate history timeline of the last century, through to billions of years ago.

We also look at how warm the Earth’s climate got in the past.

Down the bottom of this guide, we’ve linked to a guide that outlines things such as the factors the might influence and drive a change in the Earth’s climate at any one particular time.

 

Summary – What Earth’s Climate History Timeline Might Have Looked Like

  • The Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old
  • It has has gone through different patterns of temperature and climate changes throughout different time periods in it’s history
  • Recent temperature and climate records (from 1850 to present) are obtained from more modern technology such as thermometers, and satellites and balloons
  • Prior to that, different forms of ancient Earth samples (ice cores, deep sea sediments, tree rings, and so on) are used along with fields of study like Paleoclimatology to reconstruct, estimate or approximate what more ancient climates and temperatures were like. 
  • There can be some level of uncertainty with using ancient Earth data to interpret climate history, and this is especially true the further back in time we go. Climate history from millions, or hundreds of millions of years ago (and further back) for example might be seen as approximations, or have other issues with determining specific or absolute conclusions from (we have listed some of the uncertainties or issues with determining ancient Earth climate and temperature in the guide below)
  • Earth’s climate history can be divided into unofficial major time periods …
  • 1850 To Now – Globally averaged near-surface air temperature (global average temperature) rose by around 0.8°C between 1850 and 2012. This rate of warming is much quicker than any warming thought to have happened in the past 20,000 years or so
  • From 20,000 BC (The Last 20,000 Years Or So) – Earth’s climate has been unusually stable, but overall, has gradually been incrementally warming since that time (when it came directly out of an ice age at about -4.3 degrees celcius)
  • 3 Million Years Ago – The last 3 million years have been characterized by cycles of glacials (colder periods) and interglacials (warmer periods) that are part of a deepening phase within a prolonged ice age.
  • 40 Million Years Ago – A more extended ice age began about 40 million years ago with the glaciation of Antarctica (and eventually fed into the peak of the ice age at 20,000BC).
  • About 65 Million Years Ago – There was a series of abrupt thermal spikes that lasted no more than a few hundred thousand years (thought to have been caused by the release of methane and frozen methane ice)
  • 66 to 100 Million Years Ago – Average global temperatures are thought to have reached some of their highest in the last 200 million years
  • 542 Million Years Ago – Temperatures could fluctuate in this time
  • 1000 Million Years Ago – There could have been two or more major glaciations
  • Prior To 1000 Million Years Ago – ‘evidence of temperature changes and glaciation is usually too scattered and sporadic to draw firm conclusions though it seems likely that temperature fluctuations were also substantial during this period’ (wikipedia.org)
  • It’s thought that several ‘Abrupt climate change events’ also happened throughout Earth’s history and in and around these periods

*It’s worth noting, for various reasons, the further back we try to estimate or determine Earth’s climate or temperature (say 10’s of millions or 100’s of million of years ago, and further back), the more approximate these determinations or estimates might become, and they are perhaps best viewed as a qualitative indication only in some instances.

It’s also worth noting that these climate estimates are global, and not regional.

 

How Much Has Earth’s Climate & Temperature Warmed Recently (Since Around 1850)?

  • The change in global surface temperature [up to 2019], relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures, is 0.9 degrees celsius (climate.nasa.gov)
  • The rate of average surface warming has slowed since 2001 (because decadal variability in the ocean-atmosphere system has redistributed heat in the ocean, and several temporary global cooling influences have come into play including unusually weak solar activity, increased aerosol production, and volcanic activity), but globally averaged near-surface air temperature (global average temperature) rose by around 0.8°C between 1850 and 2012 (science.org.au)
  • Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade (earthobservatory.nasa.gov)
  • The 10 warmest years on record [since 1880] have all occurred since 1998, and 9 of the 10 have occurred since 2005 (climate.gov)

 

The sciencealert.com link in this guide shows on it’s infographic how temperature spikes in the 20th century and around 1950/60 when the industrial revolution hits. This coincides with a large increase of fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

 

What Is Significant About The Recent Warming Trend Since About 1850?

  • While there have been past periods in Earth’s history when temperatures were warmer than they are now, the rate of change that is currently taking place is faster than most of the climate shifts that have occurred in the past, and therefore it will likely be more difficult to adapt to. 

– climatecentral.org

 

Earth’s Climate Since 20,000 BC (Roughly The Last 22,000 Years)

Sciencealert.com has an infographic going back the last 22,000 years:

  • In 20,000 BCE, Earth was at the peak of the last ice age, and was 4.3 degrees Celsius colder than it was in the late 20th century.
  • Slight changes in Earth’s orbit at around 18500 BCE meant some of that polar ice could finally be reached by more sunlight, and the warming period began
  • There’s been a gradual and relatively predictable heating since that time, mixed in with some temporary periods of cooling. The climate has been remarkably stable for the past 12,000 years
  • Between 9000 and 8500 BCE … temperatures hit modern levels, and continued to rise
  • In the 21st century, and particularly around and after the industrial revolution, CO2 levels increased and the rate of temperature increase has been much quicker than at any time in the past 22,000 years

View the infographic here – https://www.sciencealert.com/why-4-5-million-years-of-fluctuating-global-temperatures-can-t-explain-climate-change-today

 

  • Over the last few thousand years [of the last 20,000 year period] during which civilisations developed, climate was unusually stable.
  • The last 8,000 years, which includes most recorded human history, have been relatively stable at the warmer end of this temperature range. 

– science.org.au

 

Earth’s Climate The Last 800,000 To 1 Million Years

This source has a graph showing the last 800,000 years of globally averaged surface temperature:

  • https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-climate-change/2-how-has-climate-changed

What we see is ‘Over the past million years, Earth’s globally averaged surface temperature has risen and fallen by about 5˚C in ice-age cycles, roughly every 100,000 years or so … [and] Most past changes in global temperature occurred slowly, over tens of thousands or millions of years’

 

  • The record of the distant past (millions of years) tells us that climate has varied greatly through Earth’s history. It has, for example, gone through ten major ice age cycles over approximately the past million years.

– science.org.au

 

  • The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. 

– climate.nasa.gov

 

Earth’s Climate Millions Of Years Ago & Beyond

These three sources have various images which attempt to reconstruct or estimate Earth’s temperatures and climate at various periods going up to hundreds of millions of years back:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_temperature_record
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png#Summary

 

  • Earth’s climate has changed dramatically many times since the planet was formed 4.5 billion years ago. 

– science.org.au

 

  • Prior to 5 million or 100 million years ago, we are making more of a qualitative, more approximate (and not as accurate) guess about climate patterns. Evidence of temperature changes and glaciation is usually too scattered and sporadic to draw firm conclusions – though it seems likely that temperature fluctuations were also substantial [and temperatures could have been much higher than today]

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Several million years ago … global average temperature was a few degrees higher than today and warm, tropical waters reached much farther from the equator, resulting in very different patterns of ocean and atmospheric circulation from today.
  • Most past changes in global temperature occurred slowly, over tens of thousands or millions of years. However, there is also evidence that some abrupt changes occurred, at least at regional scales. 

– science.org.au

 

  • … around 3 million years ago … Arctic temperatures were 11 to 16°C warmer (Csank 2011). Global temperatures over this period is estimated to be 3 to 4°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. 

– skepticalscience.com

 

  • The last time there was this much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere, modern humans didn’t exist. Megatoothed sharks prowled the oceans, the world’s seas were up to 100 feet higher than they are today, and the global average surface temperature was up to 11°F warmer than it is now.
  • [it is estimated that] 10 to 15 million years ago temperatures were substantially warmer than they are now [and, humans didn’t exist at this point in time]
  • While there have been past periods in Earth’s history when temperatures were warmer than they are now, the rate of change that is currently taking place is faster than most of the climate shifts that have occurred in the past, and therefore it will likely be more difficult to adapt to. 

– climatecentral.org

 

How Warm Did The Climate & Temperatures Get Throughout Earth’s History?

Some of the warmest periods in Earth’s history might have been:

  • About 65 million years ago – During the PETM [period], the global mean temperature seems to have risen by as much as 5-8 °C (9-14 °F) to an average temperature as high as 23 °C (73 °F), in contrast to the global average temperature of today at just under 15 °C (60 °F).

– wikipedia.org

 

  • About 66 to 100 million years ago – During the later portion of the Cretaceous … average global temperatures reached their highest level during the last ~200 million years.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • About 100 million to 542 million years ago – a period of fluctuating temperature between ice ages, such as the current age, and “climate optima”, similar to what occurred in the Cretaceous. Roughly 4 such cycles have occurred during this time with an approximately 140 million year separation between climate optima.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Quick/Rapid Warming – Changes recorded in the climate of Greenland at the end of the Younger Dryas, as measured by ice-cores, imply a sudden warming of +10 °C (+18 °F) within a timescale of a few years. Other abrupt changes are the +4 °C (+7.2 °F) on Greenland 11,270 years ago or the abrupt +6 °C (11 °F) warming 22,000 years ago on Antarctica.

– wikipedia.org

 

Abrupt Climate Change Events

Read more in this guide about Abrupt Climate Change Events.

 

How Do We Determine Or Estimate Earth’s Climate & Temperature From The Past?

The most detailed information about the global temperature exists since around 1850, when newer and more advanced thermometer, and satellite and balloon temperature measuring technology has since been used. These are direct measurements of the temperature and climate.

Prior to 1850, temperatures have either been estimated, or studied (with Paleoclimatology) i.e. direct measurements are not available, and we rely on proxies, ancient Earth material and these studies and reconstructions instead.

The methods or data used to get an idea of temperature at different times are:

  • 1950’s to now – Satellites and balloons
  • 1850 to now – Thermometers
  • 1000 to 2000 years ago – Tree rings and ice cores, and indirect historical proxies (records and reports from humans at that time)
  • 12,000 years ago – Paleoclimatology studies and estimates
  • 800,000 years ago – Ice cores [large scale signals are clear, but specific detail has interpretation issues]
  • Millions of years ago – Geologic evidence [such as deep sea sediment cores]

Read more about these time periods and methodologies and data used to understand global temperature record here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_temperature_record

 

The Reliability, Accuracy & Uncertainty Associated With Determining Earth’s Climate & Temperature History

Since 1850, more modern technology (thermometers, and then more recently satellites and balloons) has been used to measure and collect data on Earth’s global temperature and climate.

Going back further in time, we rely on Paleoclimatology studies, and analysis of ancient or very old Earth material like tree rings, ice cores, and deep sea sediments (geological records).

There’s a differences in detail between these two time periods:

  • ‘The most detailed information [on global temperatures] exists since 1850, when methodical thermometer-based records began [and older information on temperatures and climate relies on] numerous estimates of temperatures since the end of the Pleistocene glaciation, particularly during the current Holocene epoch. Older time periods are studied by paleoclimatology.’ (wikipedia.org)

There can be some other issues with interpreting Earth’s climate the further back in time we go. Some of those issues might include:

  • With Geologic temperature records (such as deep sea sediments), sometimes scientists can only classify temperature fluctuations from certain time periods as ‘likely’, because ‘evidence of temperature changes and glaciation is usually too scattered and sporadic to draw firm conclusions’ (wikipedia.org).
  • When determining global temperature records from 800,000 years ago with ice cores –  ‘large-scale signals from the cores are clear, [but] there are problems interpreting the detail, and connecting the isotopic variation to the temperature signal’ (wikipedia.org). 
  • There can be a ‘discrepancy between the reconstructed geologic temperature record and the reconstructed amount of incoming solar radiation, or insolation over the past 800,000 years’ (wikipedia.org)
  • The ‘Direct combination of [some] interpreted geological temperature records [are] not necessarily valid, nor is their combination with other more recent temperature records, which may use different definitions … [Instead, they may be used for] an overall perspective … even when imprecise’ (wikipedia.org)
  • Temperatures on Earth going back 10’s or 100’s of million of years back and more may be ‘very approximate, and best viewed as a qualitative indication only’ (wikipedia.org)
  • Determining Earth’s climate or temperatures 1000’s of millions of years ago or billions of years ago may have ‘proposals [that] are poorly constrained by existing experimental evidence’ (wikipedia.org)
  • Proxy vs observational records of Earth’s climate history – ‘Even the best proxy records contain far fewer observations than the worst periods of the observational record, and the spatial and temporal resolution of the resulting reconstructions is correspondingly coarse’ (wikipedia.org)
  • Natural, Numerical Data vs Human Temperature Data – ‘[human] records can be used to infer historical temperatures, but generally in a more qualitative manner than natural proxies’ (wikipedia.org)
  • ‘A substantial achievement of the last 30 years of climate science has been the production of a large set of actual measurements of temperature history (from physical proxies), replacing much of the earlier geological induction (i.e. informed guesses) … Because many proxy temperature reconstructions indicate local, not global, temperature — or ocean, not air, temperature — substantial approximation may be involved in deriving these global temperature estimates’ (wikipedia.org)
  • ‘Temperature estimates from oxygen isotope measurements on the north Greenland ice core … [can yield slightly different interpretations of temperatures depending on if simple procedures or more modern and complex procedures are used]’ (wikipedia.org)
  • With Paleoclimatology – ‘the deep marine record, the source of most isotopic data, exists only on oceanic plates, which are eventually subducted: the oldest remaining material is 200 million years old. Older sediments are also more prone to corruption by diagenesis. Resolution and confidence in the data decrease over time.’ (wikipedia.org)
  • Scientific understanding of abrupt climate change is generally poor (wikipedia.org)

 

Factors That Impact & Drive Earth’s Climate At Any One Time

You can read more in this guide about the factors that influence a change in the Earth’s climate.

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_temperature_record

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png#Summary

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoclimatology

5. https://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-last-time-co2-was-this-high-humans-didnt-exist-15938

6. https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

7. https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-climate-change/2-how-has-climate-changed

8. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/DecadalTemp

9. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature

10. https://www.sciencealert.com/why-4-5-million-years-of-fluctuating-global-temperatures-can-t-explain-climate-change-today

11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrupt_climate_change

12. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-fast-did-earths-climate-change-in-the-past-abrupt-climate-change-events/

13. https://skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period-intermediate.htm

14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100,000-year_problem

15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth%27s_atmosphere#Measuring_ancient-Earth_carbon_dioxide_concentration

16. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/our-most-complete-updated-guide-on-climate-change-global-warming/

17. https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

18. https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-booklets/science-climate-change/summary

19. https://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=77

20. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-fast-did-earths-climate-change-in-the-past-abrupt-climate-change-events/

Agreeing With The Current Consensus On Climate Change (Potential Arguments Of A Supporter)

Agreeing With The Current Consensus On Climate Change (Potential Arguments Of A Supporter)

There’s currently a scientific consensus that humans are the primary cause of the recent warming trend (over the last century or so).

Although there are climate change skeptics, there’s many climate change supporters.

In this short guide, we’ve summarised some points that a climate change supporter might make in regards to the consensus.

*Note – this is an exploratory impartial guide only.

 

Summary – Does Supporting The Consensus Make Sense?

Overall, from our analysis, it does seem like supporting the consensus holds more credibility right now with the information available.

Are there certain aspects about the consensus and climate change science and research that should still be questioned? … yes. After all, there are parts of climate change that researchers and scientists freely admit they are uncertain about, or that involve approximations or inconclusive interpretations.

But, the basis of the consensus seems to hold weight when you look at both sides.

At the very least, it seems like the potential risk of not doing anything to mitigate or adapt to recent climate change seems to be significant in some ways.

Skeptical Science goes into great detail breaking down a lot of the myths and misunderstandings put forward by skeptics and those that don’t support the consensus.

You can read a breakdown of potential points a skeptic or someone who doesn’t agree with the climate change consensus might make here.

 

*Note – something we have not looked at is where exactly where the funding or approval of all the listed/cited studies, surveys etc. have come from. If they are completely independent or mostly independent – the consensus might carry even more significance. If it can be proved studies are funded or approved by organisations with ties to one political side or one part of the energy sector, the consensus might carry far less weight. One other thing to mention, is that, we are assuming the consensus is ‘Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities [as the primary cause]’ (climate.nasa.gov). This consensus may not be specific enough for some people – they want to know a break down of what each phrase in that sentence means e.g. what are climate warming trends exactly? The definition of this phrase in particular can completely change the issue being debated because it impacts the solutions or actions we pursue on a global and country based level, as well as for individuals.

 

Agreeing With The Current Consensus On Climate Change (Potential Arguments Of A Supporter)

You can read the full Skeptical Science articles by following the web addresses we have provided in the sources section below. The following is simply what we think are the important points made in the articles are regarding supporting the consensus.

 

– https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm 

  • Authors of 7 climate change consensus studies made two clear conclusions:
  • 1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.
  • 2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.
  • Skeptical Science goes into deep detail about how much evidence and how many different studies support the consensus
  • It’s not as simple as picking one or two key surveys or papers – there’s much more supporting it than that

 

– https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002 

  • The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies by co-authors of this paper.
  • Those results are consistent with the 97% consensus reported by Cook et al (Environ. Res. Lett. 8024024) based on 11,944 abstracts of research papers, of which 4014 took a position on the cause of recent global warming. A survey of authors of those papers (N = 2412 papers) also supported a 97% consensus.
  • Tol (2016 Environ. Res. Lett. 11 048001) comes to a different conclusion using results from surveys of non-experts such as economic geologists and a self-selected group of those who reject the consensus.
  • … this outcome is not unexpected because the level of consensus correlates with expertise in climate science. At one point, Tol also reduces the apparent consensus by assuming that abstracts that do not explicitly state the cause of global warming (‘no position’) represent non-endorsement, an approach that if applied elsewhere would reject consensus on well-established theories such as plate tectonics.
  • … the available studies [are examined] and [it’s concluded] that the finding of 97% consensus in published climate research is robust and consistent with other surveys of climate scientists and peer-reviewed studies.

 

– https://www.skepticalscience.com/OISM-Petition-Project-intermediate.htm 

  • Rebutting the Petition Project which generally rejects the idea we need to reduce or eliminate human caused greenhouse gases …
  • The 30,000 scientists and science graduates listed on the OISM petition represent a tiny fraction (0.3%) of all science graduates. More importantly, the OISM list only contains 39 scientists who specialise in climate science.
  • So, it has limited credibility if this is the case

 

– https://skepticalscience.com/97-percent-consensus-robust.htm

  • [In addition to https://skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm] there are National Academies of Science from 33 different countries all endorsing the consensus. Dozens of scientific organizations have endorsed the consensus on human-caused global warming. Only one has ever rejected the consensus – the American Association of Petroleum Geologists – and even they shifted to a neutral position when members threatened to not renew their memberships due to its position of climate denial.
  • In short, the 97% consensus on human-caused global warming is a robust result, found using several different methods in various studies over the past decade.  It really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point, 
  • There have also been various studies quantifying the human contribution to global warming
  • … there’s very little controversy here. The scientific literature is quite clear that humans have caused most of the global surface warming over the past half century
  • The 97% consensus is made up only by experts

 

– https://www.skepticalscience.com/klaus-martin-schulte-consensus.htm

  • The fact that so many studies on climate change don’t bother to endorse the consensus position is significant because scientists have largely moved from what’s causing global warming onto discussing [more specific] details of the problem (eg – how fast, how soon, impacts, etc).

 

– https://skepticalscience.com/5-characteristics-consensus-denial.html

  • Common tactics used by those who are skeptics to deny climate change – cherry picking, using the fake expert strategy, misrepresentation and logical fallacy, impossible expectations of what research can deliver, proposing conspiracy theories 

 

– https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php?f=taxonomy 

  • A list of answered climate change myths and false statements by climate change skeptics

 

Sources

1. https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm

2. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002

3. https://www.skepticalscience.com/OISM-Petition-Project-intermediate.htm

4. https://skepticalscience.com/97-percent-consensus-robust.htm

5. https://www.skepticalscience.com/klaus-martin-schulte-consensus.htm

6. https://skepticalscience.com/5-characteristics-consensus-denial.html 

7. https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php?f=taxonomy

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/challenging-the-current-consensus-on-climate-change-potential-arguments-of-a-skeptic/ 

9. https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

Challenging The Current Consensus On Climate Change (Potential Arguments Of A Skeptic)

Challenging The Current Consensus On Climate Change (Potential Arguments Of A Skeptic)

There’s currently a scientific consensus that humans are the primary cause of the recent climate warming trend (over the last century or so)

However, there are those that are still skeptical of that consensus.

In this short guide, we’ve summarised some points that a climate change skeptic might put forward.

*Note – this is an exploratory impartial guide only.

 

Summary – Does Challenging The Climate Change Consensus Make Sense?

Overall, based just on the sources below, it seems like supporting the consensus makes more sense and holds more weight right now than not supporting it.

The breakdown of the consensus provided by Skeptical Science and others seems to go into much more detail and answer/rebuttal (indirectly and directly – they directly rebutted the Petition Project for example) a lot of the points Fraser Institute and the Petition Project make.

You can read about the points about the consensus a climate change consensus supporter might make in this guide.

 

Having said that, here is our breakdown of both the points that seem more credible and less credible from Fraser Institute in challenging the climate change consensus (this is simply our opinion based on what we’ve read about climate change on both sides):

More Credible Points

  • Questions & conclusions (including the consensus) about climate change should be expressed very specifically and not in a general or broad way – The exact question about climate change, and the consensus answer needs to be spelled out word for word, instead of just saying ‘the consensus agrees climate change is caused by man made emissions’. There are literally thousands of questions and sub questions that can get very specific that you can ask about climate change, and we need to know the precise answer the consensus is agreeing to along with the precise question that is being asked. The same thing applies to any survey that is sent out, answered and interpreted about climate change
  • The time period over which someone is asking a question matters – is it just since 1950? Since 1900? The last thousand years? Or the last millions of years? How far back are you asking the question about? [note that the technology and data we have available in the last 100 years is far more advanced and reliable than ice cores and rock sediment samples we have available from thousands and hundreds of thousands of years ago for example when interpreting or approximating Earth’s climate history]
  • Reducing and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from humans will take some work and restructuring of economies and parts of society [this is not an easy or cheap task, and should not just be assumed to happen … it has real risks and trade offs]
  • People should know how final numbers from surveys and studies are developed – what numbers are used [there needs to be very detailed transparency instead of generalisation and avoidance of the process that led to a conclusion from a survey or study]. For example, the 97% consensus might only make up the % of supporting and dissenting votes, and not those who are unsure. Very detailed transparency is key to all surveys and studies, and this transparency needs to be get across to the general public and all key decision makers
  • The qualifications and level of expertise of survey participants should be transparent and clear – what exactly are the participants an expert in … on what core climate change issues? Or, are they just working in a connected field? Obviously vague experts in a related field are not as credible in some ways for a consensus vote as experts in a specific specialization of climate science or a climate change area
  • Surveys might be an imprecise (or flawed) method of coming up with a precise scientific truth
  • Climate change is a complex issue is many ways that might not produce a clear cut answer in some aspects, and therefore, black and white answers can be harmful in this instance
  • Some experts and scientists or researchers may answer ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m split on a decision’, instead of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ about agreeing with or disagreeing with a question. These uncertainties should be reflected in any consensus conclusion (instead of making a consensus seem like we are certain one way or the other)
  • Overall, climate change requires a factual debate and careful consideration of all facets of the issue – scientifically and politically. A simple and limited survey may not be enough
  • It can’t be ignored there may be commercial/financial and political conflicts of interest in developing certain outcomes in climate change debates (read more in this guide about the potential of bias and conflict of interests in climate change funding, research and reporting)

 

Points That Might Not Be As Credible

  • Fraser Institute cites the IPCC, the ‘most highly cited paper’ [about the consensus], the AMS, and the NEA – to make their point about how the consensus is fabricated. This could be a case of cherry picking – whether it’s intentional or not. There are many more researchers and organisations from many more countries that have provided feedback on the consensus than this – refer to the Skeptical Science website for the most comprehensive breakdown of the consensus.
  • It’s may not be accurate to say the benefits of pursuing fossil fuels in the future outweigh the climate related costs in the future – fossil fuels are a finite resource, and they are the main cause of human related greenhouse gas emissions. The potential impact of climate related events in the future if we do not mitigate emissions and adapt to the climate could be catastrophic in worst case scenarios, compared to the benefits of using fossil fuel right now. Barring a new technology development, we will likely have to switch to renewable energy or another low carbon energy source other than fossil fuels at some point anyway [so this point doesn’t seem to hold a lot of depth]

 

Also note that there are those that have raised questions about the way climate change is funded, researched/studied and reported (which is probably a separate issue to being in the dissent). Read more about that here.

 

Challenging The Current Consensus On Climate Change (Arguments Of A Skeptic)

You can read the full Fraser Institute article by following the web address we have provided in the sources section below. The following is simply what we think are the important points made in the article are regarding questioning the consensus.

 

According to fraserinstitute.org (what is in brackets is paraphrased and not a direct quote):

  • … the 97 per cent claim is a fabrication
  • … it’s difficult to know exactly what the 97% are supposed to agree on
  • [the climate change] crisis [would require] massive restructuring of the worldwide economy.
  • An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change … conclusion [asserts] that most (more than 50 per cent) of the post-1950 global warming is due to human activity, chiefly greenhouse gas emissions and land use change … [this conclusion is] consistent with the view that the benefits of fossil fuel use greatly outweigh the climate-related costs
  • The most highly cited paper supposedly found 97 per cent of published scientific studies support man-made global warming. But in addition to poor survey methodology, that tabulation is often misrepresented. Most papers (66 per cent) actually took no position. Of the remaining 34 per cent, 33 per cent supported at least a weak human contribution to global warming. So divide 33 by 34 and you get 97 per cent, but this is unremarkable since the 33 per cent includes many papers that critique key elements of the IPCC position.
  • In 2012 the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its 7,000 members, receiving 1,862 responses. Of those, only 52% said they think global warming over the 20th century has happened and is mostly man-made (the IPCC position). The remaining 48% either think it happened but natural causes explain at least half of it, or it didn’t happen, or they don’t know. Furthermore, 53% agree that there is conflict among AMS members on the question…Not only do about half reject the IPCC conclusion, more than half acknowledge that their profession is split on the issue.
  • The Netherlands Environmental Agency recently published a survey of international climate experts. 6550 questionnaires were sent out, and 1868 responses were received, a similar sample and response rate to the AMS survey. In this case the questions referred only to the post-1950 period. 66% agreed with the IPCC that global warming has happened and humans are mostly responsible. The rest either don’t know or think human influence was not dominant. So again, no 97% consensus behind the IPCC….But the Dutch survey is even more interesting because of the questions it raises about the level of knowledge of the respondents. Although all were described as “climate experts,” a large fraction only work in connected fields such as policy analysis, health and engineering, and may not follow the primary physical science literature.
  • [Regarding a recent slowdown in warming … IPCC and Dutch survey respondents have differed in what they reported they believed has happened]
  • [Surveys are not a precise way to coming to a consensus or a conclusion on a scientific truth]
  • [The time period over which you are focussing on for warming is a variable, and matters … is it just since 1950/60, the whole 21st century, or much longer than that?]
  • [How much of an expert are the people being surveyed? Do they just work in related fields to climate change topics, or are they specialist scientists on the core issues of the question/s being asked?]
  • The underlying issues [of climate change] are so complex it is ludicrous to expect unanimity. The near 50/50 split among AMS members on the role of greenhouse gases is a much more accurate picture of the situation. The phoney claim of 97% consensus is mere political rhetoric aimed at stifling debate and intimidating people into silence.
  • [The interests of current energy producers and consumers are competing interests against those who want to change systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions]
  • [climate change requires a] factual debate and careful consideration of all facets of the most complex scientific and policy issue of our time

 

Sources

1. https://www.fraserinstitute.org/article/putting-con-consensus-not-only-there-no-97-cent-consensus-among-climate-scientists-many 

2. http://www.petitionproject.org/index.php 

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/agreeing-with-the-consensus-on-climate-change-potential-arguments-of-a-supporter/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/can-we-trust-climate-change-funding-research-study-reporting/

Can Climate Change Funding, Research/Study, & Reporting Be Trusted? (Examining Bias, Conflict Of Interest, Etc.)

Can We Trust Climate Change Funding, Research/Study, & Reporting?

How is climate change funded, researched, studied, and reported … and, how much trust and credibility can be put in that process?

With an issue as important as climate change, it’s a fair question to ask.

In this guide, we’ve decided to play devil’s advocate to outline some potential issues with the process.

*Note – this guide is an exploratory impartial guide only.

 

Summary – Can We Trust Climate Change Funding, Research/Study, & Reporting? 

Looking at both sides of the question:

  • There are thousands of studies on climate change, from various sources and organisations, across many countries, that support a consensus that human emissions are the primary cause of the recent climate warming trend
  • However, there are questions skeptics ask about bias and conflicts of interest in funding. Is there an ideological, political or financial conflict of interest or agenda for example? Bias or conflict of interest should not be assumed – but rather used as a starting point for discussion or further investigation. There can probably be better systems in this regard. Although climate science might be more complex in some ways than research in other areas, it’s still possible for anyone to say that any type of study or research on any controversial topic like GMOs, vaccines etc. is questionable or has external agendas]

 

Some other summary notes:

Conflict of interest in funding …

  • There might be undisclosed conflict of interests of parties providing funding – particularly fossil fuel (and energy) companies, political parties from the government, etc.
  • Potential conflicts of interest should be made clear to the public and decision makers, and should be disclosed in journals they are submitted to
  • Conflicts of interest can subjective – only some interests may be provable as objectively a conflict to the outcome of the research findings
  • Even if it can be proved a researcher is funded by a company or a federal government with clear financial, political or other interests, it doesn’t prove that the study or research is definitely bias or serving an agenda. It’s simply a starting point for discussion
  • Climate science is easily replicable using publicly available data sets and models (unlike food, drug safety and environmental contaminant research)
  • There’s potential individual researchers may feel alienated, be criticized and even have career prospects damaged for findings that go against the consensus
  • Funding should not push research in the direction one ideology or political agenda (or financial interest), but should fund a broad spectrum of research that challenges the politically preferred outcomes (i.e. greater intellectual and political diversity)

 

Bias in federal funding …

  • There’s 15 potential practices of funding induced bias that can be systemically applied to most types of research and funding (and could be applied to climate research)
  • There can be a conflict of interest for researchers and research organizations to get research dollars

 

Industry funding and bias …

  • There’s no fully independent source of funding in climate science
  • It’s hard to prove one funding source is objectively more bias than another
  • Funding is probably a smaller source of bias than peer pressure to follow a consensus and to defend your own hypothesis
  • Independent scientists with independent funding may be the answer for more trustworthy independent research
  • We can learn from the history of research in other fields like health/nutrition research
  • Sources of funding are only one source of potential bias
  • Overall, bias in sciences is something that probably needs far more discussion and investigation

 

Confluence vs conflict of interest …

  • There should be a distinction between source of funding and conflict of interest

 

Manufacturing consensus …

  • There’s common practices and themes in regards to manufacturing consensus in any research field that can be systematically be analyzed with climate science
  • If you are going to argue manufacturing of consensus in climate science, then, you need to look at medical research for the same thing (and other fields)
  • A consensus can be wrong (as was the case with cholesterol and heart disease) – it needs to be continually be challenged to avoid bias and conflicts of interest in research

 

Overconfidence in climate change …

  • We need to do a better job in dealing with uncertainty, confidence and ignorance in regards to the arguments and assessments made in climate change

 

More Information On Questioning Climate Change Funding, Research/Study, & Reporting

(Note – the following is a number of summaries (with added or edited modifications or comments, direct quotes, and paraphrasing of work done by Judith Curry. You can find links to the full and complete work below, or in the sources section. Do not take anything below as what is being implied or said directly by Judith. It’s simply a summary of what we think is some of the more relevant or important information)

 

– https://judithcurry.com/2015/02/25/conflicts-of-interest-in-climate-science/

Conflicts of interest in climate science …

  • There can be undisclosed financial interests in parties providing funding – which are usually the government (federal government in the US), or industry/commercial companies (such as fossil fuel companies)
  • [Direct quote…] “Companies with a direct financial interest in climate and air quality standards are funding environmental research that influences state and federal regulations and shapes public understanding of climate science. These conflicts should be clear to stakeholders, including policymakers who use scientific information to make decisions.”
  • [It could be said] researchers should be impartial, and not have any ties (financial or otherwise) to any party or company, and must not have a conflict of interest
  • … truth in testimony rules require witnesses to disclose government funding sources, but not private or corporate funding. Under Republican control, the rules are unevenly implemented, with not-for-profit witnesses required to submit pages of additional disclosures, while corporate-sector witnesses are not
  • Apart from expecting scientists to describe funding sources in the Acknowledgements [section], many journals don’t even have any conflict of interest disclosure requirements.
  • [what constitutes a ] Conflict [of interest] is often in the eye of the beholder … and researchers often accept all kinds of funding that doesn’t necessarily skew their peer-reviewed publications. 
  • How do you properly address and police conflicts of interest [or non conflicts of interest]? – this is a relevant question to consider
  • The intense politicization of climate science [might make] bias more likely to be coming from political and ideological perspectives than from funding sources. Unlike research related to food and drug safety and environmental contaminants, most climate science is easily replicable using publicly available data sets and models.  So [it’s all likely] a red herring in the field of climate science research.
  • Scientists [should] pay attention to conflict of interest guidelines for journals [they are submitting papers to] … [they should] select journals that have COI disclosure requirements that are consistent with [their] comfort level.
  • … [it might be said that] biases in testimony related to climate change are more likely to be ideological and political than related to funding.
  • Witch hunts could exist to smear people’s names and to hurt their careers/means of making money in studies on climate science
  • The reality is that fossil fuel money is all over climate research, whether pro or con AGW.  Gifts of $100M+ have been made by oil companies to Stanford and Princeton.  Anthony Watts notes the prominence of oil companies in funding the American Geophysical Union … The Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy take fossil fuel money … The UKMetOffice has stated that energy companies are major customers.
  • In truth, the overwhelming majority of climate-research funding comes from the federal government and left-wing foundations. And while the energy industry funds both sides of the climate debate, the government/foundation monies go only toward research that advances the warming regulatory agenda. With a clear public-policy outcome in mind, the government/foundation gravy train is a much greater threat to scientific integrity.
  • With federal research funding declining in many areas, academics at universities are being encouraged to obtain funding from industry
  • It can be much easier for a scientist just to ‘go along’ with the consensus on climate change considering what might be the effects they experience if they don’t
  • The collapse of the consensus regarding cholesterol and heart disease reminds us that for scientific progress to occur, scientists need to continually challenge and reassess the evidence and the conclusions drawn from the evidence.
  • There’s a possible emotional toll on being in the minority/not in the consensus with climate change findings … as well as a reputation, and possibly career toll

 

– https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/is-federal-funding-biasing-climate-research/ 

Is federal funding biasing climate research? …

  • Federal funding in climate science has potential for bias
  • “the fact remains that the Federal Government funds a lot of research, most of it directly related to agency missions, programs and paradigms. In some areas, especially regulatory science, Federal funding is by far the dominant source. Clearly the potential for funding-induced bias exists in these cases.”
  • “In the climate change debate there have been allegations of bias at each of the stages described above. Taken together this suggests the possibility that just such a large scale amplifying cascade has occurred or is occurring. Systematic research is needed to determine if this is actually the case.”
  • “The notion of cascading systemic bias, induced by government funding, does not appear to have been studied much. This may be a big gap in research on science. Moreover, if this sort of bias is indeed widespread then there are serious implications for new policies, both at the Federal level and within the scientific community itself.”
  • There’s about 15 Potential Practices of Funding-Induced Bias – Funding agency programs that have a biased focus, Agency Strategic Plans, RFPs, etc., with an agenda, not asking the right questions, Biased peer review of research proposals, Biased selection of research proposals by the agency program, Preference for modeling using biased assumptions, Biased peer review of journal articles and conference presentations, Biased meta-analysis of the scientific literature, Failure to report negative results, Manipulation of data to bias results, Refusing to share data with potential critics, Asserting conjectures as facts, False confidence in tentative findings, Exaggeration of the importance of findings by researchers and agencies, Amplification of exaggeration by the press, More funding with an agenda, building on the above, so the cycle repeats and builds – go to the full link above to read all the descriptions for the 15 practices
  • The challenge for the federal funding agencies is this – how to fund mission relevant  ‘use inspired research’ (e.g. Pasteur’s quadrant) without biasing the research outcomes.
  • Here is how $$ motivates what is going on …  ‘Success’ to individual researchers, particularly at the large state universities, pretty much equates to research dollars – big lab spaces, high salaries, institutional prestige, and career advancement (note, this is not so true at the most prestigious universities, where peer recognition is the biggest deal).  At the Program Manager level within a funding agency, ‘success’ is reflected in growing the size of your program (e.g. more $$) and having some high profile results (e.g. press releases).  At the agency level, ‘success’ is reflected in growing, or at least preserving, your budget.  Aligning yourself, your program, your agency with the political imperatives du jour is a key to ‘success’.
  • Perhaps the Republican distrust of the geosciences and social sciences can be repaired if the agencies, programs and scientists work to demonstrate that they are NOT biased, by funding a broader spectrum of research that challenges the politically preferred outcomes.

 

– https://judithcurry.com/2015/08/16/industry-funding-and-bias/ 

Industry funding and bias …

  • In climate change research, there is no righteous/fully independent source of funding, and it can be direct or indirect bias
  • … government funding can be a source of bias just as much as industry funding can, and there is A LOT more government funding out there.  The need for greater intellectual (and political) diversity in climate change research is needed
  • That said, funding is probably a smaller source of bias than peer pressure to follow a consensus and to defend your own hypothesis, not to mention political preferences, environmental proclivities and career pressures.
  • If independent scientists obtain funding from power and oil companies, would this help support needed intellectual diversity into climate science to avoid the massive groupthink we now see?
  • There is a lot we can learn by the extensive experiences and track record of the health/nutrition research interaction with industry funding.
  • We need to have a serious discussion about bias in scientific research, and sources of funding is only one part of this discussion.
  • But witch hunts related to funding, even if unrelated to research, is a very disturbing trend [there are parallels to the GMO world of research] 

 

– https://judithcurry.com/2015/09/30/confluence-not-conflict-of-interest/ 

‘Confluence’, not conflict of interest in general research … 

  • [there should be a distinction between the] source of funding, and the conflict of interests.  
  • A scientist serving on the advisory board of a green advocacy group, or a libertarian think tank [for example], reflects a confluence of interest with that group.  Which is the chicken and which is the egg in causing a ‘conflict’ is not clear.  By the same token, a scientist who is offered research funding from an industrial source is viewed as having a confluence of interest with that source.
  • So, do [disclosures in research] eliminate bias? [it’s doubtful] but it can help identify bias. If you are going to enforce disclosure … the manner of disclosure reflected in the JAMA article – separating conflicts of interest and funding disclosures [is strongly supported as the best approach]

 

– https://judithcurry.com/2013/07/10/manufacturing-consensus-clinical-guidelines/ 

‘Manufacturing consensus [with regards to clinical guidelines and parlaying that into climate science]’

  • Common themes of developing a consensus [in research] are cherry picking of data, stacking of committees, conflicts of interest and other sources of bias.
  • While the medical community has been grappling with these issues for decades (arguably with mixed success), the climate community has only begun grappling with these issues in the wake of climategate.  Conflict of interest recommendations made by the InterAcademy Council are being addressed by the IPCC in a minimal way.
  • The lesson for climate scientists is that the consensus can be wrong, and many scientists will go along with it to avoid censure by their peers. The conflict of interest issues for climate science are far more complex and less easily identified than the financial conflicts existing in the medical field.  Regardless of the presence or not of formally defined conflicts of interest, scientists need to continually challenge their assumptions to avoid bias.

 

– https://judithcurry.com/2019/01/02/national-climate-assessment-a-crisis-of-epistemic-overconfidence/

  • About ‘overconfidence [in the national climate assessment]
  • … overconfidence seems to ‘pay’ in terms of influence of an individual in political debates about science.  There doesn’t seem to be much downside for the individuals/groups to eventually being proven wrong. So scientific overconfidence seems to be a victimless crime, with the only ‘victim’ being science itself and then the public who has to live with inappropriate decisions based on this overconfident information
  • Cognitive biases in the context of an institutionalized consensus building process have arguably resulted in the consensus becoming increasingly confirmed in a self-reinforcing way, with ever growing confidence. 
  • There are numerous strategies that have been studied and employed to help avoid overconfidence in scientific judgments. However, the IPCC and particularly the NCA introduces systemic bias through the assessment process, including consensus seeking.
  • As a community, we need to do better — a LOT better.  The IPCC actually reflects on these issues in terms of carefully considering uncertainty guidance and selection of a relatively diverse group of authors, although the core problems still remain.  The NCA appears not to reflect on any of this, resulting in a document with poorly justified and overconfident conclusions.
  • Climate change is a very serious issue — depending on your perspective, there will be much future loss and damage from either climate change itself or from the policies designed to prevent climate change. Not only do we need to think harder and more carefully about this, but we need to think better, with better ways justifying our arguments and assessing uncertainty, confidence and ignorance.
  • Sub-personal biases are unavoidable, although as scientists we should work hard to be aware and try to overcome these biases.  Multiple scientists with different perspectives can be a big help, but it doesn’t help if you assign a group of ‘pals’ to do the assessment.  The issue of systemic bias introduced by institutional constraints and guidelines is of greatest concern.
  • The task of synthesis and assessment is an important one, and it requires some different skills than a researcher pursuing a narrow research problem.  First and foremost, the assessors need to do their homework and read tons of papers, consider multiple perspectives, understand sources of and reasons for disagreement, play ‘devils advocate’, and ask ‘how could we be wrong?’
  • Instead, what we see in at least some of the sections of the NCA4 is bootstrapping on previous assessments and then inflating the confidence without  justification.

 

Potential Points Made By Both Climate Change Supporters & Skeptics

Read more about the potential points made by climate change supporters and skeptics in these guide:

 

Sources

1. https://judithcurry.com/2015/02/25/conflicts-of-interest-in-climate-science/ 

2. https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/is-federal-funding-biasing-climate-research/

3. https://judithcurry.com/2015/08/16/industry-funding-and-bias/

4. https://judithcurry.com/2015/09/30/confluence-not-conflict-of-interest/

5. https://judithcurry.com/2013/07/10/manufacturing-consensus-clinical-guidelines/

6. https://judithcurry.com/2019/01/02/national-climate-assessment-a-crisis-of-epistemic-overconfidence/

The Different Factors To Consider When Determining How Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Different Foods & Diets Are

The Different Factors To Consider When Determining How Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Different Foods & Diets Are

We’ve already outlined what might be the most sustainable, eco friendly and ethical foods and food diet type 

(summary…generally, diets with mainly plant based diets with some/minimal animal products are better compared to diets with mainly refined carbohydrates, added sugar, sodium, added preservatives and sweeteners, and lots of animal products like meat and dairy)

But, what are the different factors that you might consider if you want to do your own individual or in-depth assessment?

In this guide, we list some of those factors, and link you to some other guides which might provide you with more information and factors you might find useful.

 

The Different Factors To Consider When Determining How Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Different Foods & Diets Are

A very simple few factors to consider might be carbon, land and water footprints, along with whether the food is an animal product or not.

But, you can go in much more depth with the factors below (note that some factors fit into or impact several of the below areas event though they are listed in only one):

 

Sustainability

  • How much irrigated water is used – irrigated water is worse from a sustainability perspective than having rainfed food production
  • How much land is used
  • What types of land are used (cropland vs grazing and pasture land)
  • Yield and production efficiency – high efficiency makes better use of the same amount of resources
  • What is the maximum carrying capacity for the population from producing a particular type of food
  • What is the wastage rate of the food at consumer level 
  • What is the level of wastage of resources at production level (cropland, pesticides, fertilizer, irrigated water) 

Eco Friendly

  • How much carbon or other greenhouse gases (such as methane produced by livestock) does the food production emit
  • Use of harmful pesticides – total amount, and pesticide application rates (consider run off and leaching, pesticide drift etc.)
  • Use of harmful fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus etc) – total amount, and pesticide application rates consider run off and leaching)
  • Use of other harmful agricultural chemicals and substances – release of chemicals, bacteria, pathogens, heavy metals, antibiotics etc.
  • Impact on water scarcity, drinking water supplies and freshwater sources
  • Impact on the ocean (via eutrophication from chemical run off, contamination etc.)
  • Impact on overall environmental biodiversity
  • Impact on deforestation and land clearing/land conversion for farming land
  • Impact on land degradation and erosion (and loss of fertile topsoil, desertification etc.)
  • How much pollution and contamination does the food production involve – air, water and soil pollution and contamination
  • Does food production involve GMOs and genetic engineering – what is the level of risk involved
  • How much general waste does the food production involve

Animal Friendly & Ethical

  • Animal cruelty and animal welfare/rights issues during production – especially invasive procedures and how the animals are housed, fed and treated
  • Whether there is risk of development and spread of animal diseases and sicknesses – such as swine influenza
  • Impact on biodiversity on wild animal species’
  • Impact on animal species extinction and decline (e.g. bees as pollinators)
  • Impact on loss of animal habitats
  • Impact on ecosystem and food chain as a whole

Impact On Humans & Society

  • How affordable and easy to supply is the food
  • What level of nutrition does the food offer people
  • What level of short term and long term health risks does the food present 
  • How safe is the food – does it contain pesticide residue or expose people to animal antibiotics or certain bacteria and pathogens (directly or indirectly)
  • What is the impact on the producers/farmers who produce the food 
  • Does the food production have a higher level of occupational health and safety risk for farm workers – from organic matter, animal manure, pesticides, farm machinery, farm conditions etc.
  • Are farm workers paid fairly and do they work in fair conditions
  • Does the food production negatively impact a country or specific countries in any way – for example, avocado production in Mexico can have negative consequences.
  • Impact on the economy

Other

  • Is the food produced locally
  • Is the food produced as naturally as possible
  • Is the farm more of an organic and sustainable farm, or a large intensive commercial farm that uses a lot of synthetic chemicals and animal welfare issues
  • How sustainable or eco friendly are the food practices used by the farm e.g. crop rotation, use of organic fertilzers, using farm waste for biogas, using renewable energy on the farm or renewable fuel sources etc.
  • Consider the whole lifecycle of the food product and the results/impact at each stage – growing/farm, processing, transport, stocking/storefront for purchase, eating, and disposal or waste

 

Other Resources About Food & Food Diet Sustainability, Eco Friendliness & Ethics

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-that-waste-the-most-resources-during-production-cropland-irrigated-water-pesticides-fertilizer/ 

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-type-of-food-diet-can-support-feed-the-most-people-in-society-how-many-people-food-carrying-capacity/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/types-of-food-diets-that-use-the-most-least-amount-of-land/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-crops-that-use-the-most-pesticides-fertilisers-to-produce/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-that-take-the-most-land-to-produce-make/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-that-take-the-most-water-to-produce-make/ 

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-with-the-highest-carbon-footprint-impact-on-climate-change/ 

8. https://www.feedipedia.org/content/world-cereal-use-animal-feeding 

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-potential-negative-effects-of-agriculture-on-the-environment/ 

10. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-potential-negative-effects-of-agriculture-on-humans-health-society-economy/

11. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-potential-negative-effects-of-agriculture-on-animals-welfare-cruelty-wildlife-biodiversity/

The Competing Factors (& Challenges) To Eating A Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Food Diet

The Competing Factors (& Challenges) To Eating A Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Food Diet

Eating a sustainable, eco friendly and ethical food diet sounds great right?

In theory, yes, but in practice, there are several factors that compete with that objective.

In this guide, we’ve listed some of these factors to consider. There are most likely others, but this is a good start.

 

Competing Factors To Eating A Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Food Diet

For The Buyer/Consumer

  • Price of the food for consumers – affordable vs expensive
  • What is practical/convenient to purchase from a time and location perspective for the consumer – can they go to the local supermarket, or do they have to make trips to specialty stores and markets further from their homes
  • Knowledge of how, or ease of preparing the food – can the food be eaten as it is, or does it take time and certain knowledge to cook and prepare it
  • Buying for several people in the same house – families and purchasing for families will have different food purchasing consideration to people who are single for example
  • What is going to last, or what is going to waste – vegetables and fruits tend to waste quicker than processed and canned foods
  • What is healthy – Foods with saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar might present more of a long term health risk in developing certain health conditions than healthier non processed foods
  • What is nutritious – nutrients can be macro or micro nutrients. Some people may be concerned whether they are getting enough of the nutrients they want or need with a change in foods/diet
  • What fits in with allergies, intolerances and any individual dietary requirements – some people may not be able to eat certain foods due to certain dietary requirements or medical conditions. Some people may have intolerances to plant based foods, and may need animal meat in their diet for example
  • What has enough calories – some vegetables for example you my have to purchase and eat a lot more of than processed foods (which are usually loaded with calories) to get the same amount of calories
  • Taste – some people may really not like the taste of some plant based foods compared to processed foods for example. It’s hard to stick to foods long term that you don’t enjoy the taste of
  • The person themselves – some people may be more willing than other to do what is required to change their diet and the foods they eat. Also, what an individual thinks is morally right and not right will be an influence (some people might have differing views on using animals in different ways for food production)
  • Information available – measuring sustainability, eco friendliness and ethics can get very detailed and complex. Some factors haven’t been studied or reported on yet. Also, there’s no real way of guaranteeing how some foods you buy were produced unless you buy direct from the supplier. These things can make it hard to buy truly sustainable, eco friendly and ethical. It’s logical to say most people probably don’t have the time to research the information and find out where foods are sourced from (and know how exactly they are made) either.

 

For Farmers & Producers

  • What is profitable – making money, having low financial risk and ultimately being able to operate a sustainable business is a huge priority for farmers and food producers
  • What is practical – how easy the food is to produce, available resources (water, land and types of land, soil, nutrients, seeds, animals, machinery etc.), growing conditions and seasons (different geographic locations can differ with what can and can’t be produced in a particular place), what can be transported, and other factors, are all things farmers have to consider from a practicality standpoint in deciding what they can produce

 

Government, Policy Makers & Others

  • There are other bodies and organisations that can have an impact on the food supply and food production within countries, and between countries. This can happen through laws, regulations, guidelines, policies, systems, relations, economics and more

 

What Are The Most Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Foods & Types Of Food Diets

You can read more here about sustainable, eco friendly and ethical foods and food diets.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-foods-diet-types-are-the-most-sustainable-eco-friendly-ethical/

Which Foods & Food Diet Types Are The Most Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical?

Which Foods & Food Diets Are The Most Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical?

In this guide, we’ve outlined the foods and food diets that might be the most sustainable, eco friendly and ethical.

There are simple approaches to this, and more detailed considerations to make.

We’ve detailed both.

 

Firstly, What Does Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Mean?

Everyone will have their own definitions and meanings, but in general, they might mean:

  • Sustainable – makes efficient use of resources and agricultural practices are conducted in a way that serves the needs of present and future generations
  • Eco Friendly – keeps air, water, land and external environment pollution, degradation and harm to a minimum
  • Ethical – ideally no animal cruelty, minimises the use of animals for agricultural products, and minimises negative impact of agriculture on wildlife and plant life

 

How Can You Measure Or Assess How Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Different Foods & Diets Are?

The simple way might be to look at:

  • Land footprint to produce
  • Carbon footprint to produce
  • Water footprint to produce
  • Whether it involves the use of animals/livestock to produce

Going a level deeper, you might look at the above factors plus these factors:

  • Pesticide footprint to produce
  • Fertilizer footprint to produce
  • Level of food wastage at the consumer level
  • Level of resource wastage at the producer level
  • How efficiently the food or diet type uses land, and the different types of land (cropland, and grazing/pasture land)
  • The maximum carrying capacity for the population of the foods and diet type

Going a level deeper than that, you might look at the above factors plus these factors (and these factors have not really had studies done on them yet):

This is not a comprehensive list of factors – there’s probably more you could add. But, it’s a good start of things to consider.

 

So, What Foods & Diets Are The Most Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical Based On This Criteria?

Mostly, plant based food diets with some/minimal animal based products tend to be most sustainable, eco friendly and ethical.

So, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains tend to be better – as opposed to diets with mainly refined carbohydrates, added sugar, sodium, added preservatives and sweeteners, and animal products like meat and dairy (although some meats such as chicken might be better than beef for example).

This is for a number of reasons including:

  • A lower land footprint generally
  • A lower water footprint generally
  • A lower carbon footprint generally
  • In terms of pesticide use – animal feed crops are responsible for around 37% of all applied pesticides in the US
  • In terms of fertilizer use – worldwide, it’s mostly cereal type crops (wheat, barley, oat, grain, corn, rye etc.) that use the most fertilizers, at 64% of total usage. Cereal crops can be used for both livestock/animal and human feed (see https://www.feedipedia.org/content/world-cereal-use-animal-feeding)
  • A more plant based diet wastes less cropland and fertilizer (but wasted more irrigated water and pesticides at the production level, and more food waste at the consumer level)
  • A mainly plant based diet can also feed more people/has a higher carrying capacity and make better use of land than the current Western diet of many developed countries

Some animal based products likely have to be used purely because of the types of land available (not all land is suitable/fertile enough for growing plant based food), because of growing conditions available (not all conditions are suitable to grow vegetables and fruits), because of how quickly plant based foods can spoil after purchase, because of the dietary and nutritional needs of some people, because of cost and practicality reasons with how developed country systems are currently set up, and likely other reasons too.

It’s ideal if animals are raised on cruelty free and sustainable farms where they live a mostly natural life (this way they get protection, food and shelter, and humans get animal products in return). This is really only an ideal situation though, because many animals (especially in the US) are raised on intensive agriculture type farms where profit and productivity are probably higher priorities.

 

How Food Is Produced Matters As Much As The Foods & Diet Types Themselves

What should be noted is that individual foods, AND the individual farms and agricultural production processes that these foods are produced from are both big variables

Some individual foods and individual farms are more sustainable, eco friendly and ethical than other foods and farms. 

So, it matters not only about the individual foods, but how those individual foods are produced and delivered to you.

Here’s an example:

  • Fruit and vegetables grown on a commercial level on an intensive agriculture type farm are going to have a different footprint in most instances to produce compared to someone growing a fruit and vegetables in their backyard, or on a small natural/organic farm (this is of course assuming the land and conditions are suitable for growing bananas). The same thing might be said for someone who eats eggs from chickens who get to free roam on their property, as opposed to someone who eats eggs from a large commercial intensive caged battery chicken farm. These are of course just general examples
  • However, you have to consider practicality and scale to produce for a large population. Not everyone can grow their own food (due to a number of reasons and constraints), and commercial farms are often needed to produce enough of a practical food supply for people in urban locations and cities.

There’s always variables and trade offs to consider with all foods and food production methods and practices – each situation has to be assessed separately on it’s own variables and trade offs/pros and cons.

The food production and agriculture systems in place in developed countries certainly have room for improvement in many areas.

Developed countries also work very differently to developing countries with their agriculture and food production systems, and face very different challenges and issues.

 

More Resources On Foods & Diets That Are More Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Ethical

 

*NOTE: this is a general information guide only. It does not take into account your individual dietary and health needs. See a suitably qualified health professional for advice or a recommendation on your health and diet if required.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-that-waste-the-most-resources-during-production-cropland-irrigated-water-pesticides-fertilizer/ 

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-type-of-food-diet-can-support-feed-the-most-people-in-society-how-many-people-food-carrying-capacity/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/types-of-food-diets-that-use-the-most-least-amount-of-land/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-crops-that-use-the-most-pesticides-fertilisers-to-produce/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-that-take-the-most-land-to-produce-make/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-that-take-the-most-water-to-produce-make/ 

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/foods-with-the-highest-carbon-footprint-impact-on-climate-change/ 

8. https://www.feedipedia.org/content/world-cereal-use-animal-feeding 

The Potential Negative Effects Of Agriculture On Animals (Welfare & Cruelty), Wildlife & Biodiversity

The Potential Negative Effects Of Agriculture On Animals (Welfare & Cruelty), Wildlife & Biodiversity

In this guide, we outline the potential negative effects of the agriculture industry on animal welfare and cruelty, wildlife and biodiversity.

We’ve briefly touched upon on the main or surface level issues, rather than go into depth on each one.

There are also issues other than the ones we’ve touched upon here – so we will look to add to and update this guide in the future.

 

General Issues Related To Agriculture

Agriculture is such a key industry in society. Not only does it create issues on the external environment, but issues in the external environment can impact agriculture as well.

 

  • The environmental impact of agriculture involves a variety of factors from the soil, to water, the air, animal and soil variety, people, plants, and the food itself.

– wikipedia.org

 

Potential Negative Effects Of Agriculture On Animals  (Welfare & Cruelty), Wildlife & Biodiversity

The impact of agriculture on animals, wildlife and biodiversity mainly centres around three things:

  • Animal cruelty, welfare, and the rights of animals used for animal based products (and whether we should use animals at all)
  • impact on wild animals
  • impact on overall animal, plant and organism biodiversity

 

There’s many ways in which animals can be affected by agriculture such as livestock production, agricultural chemicals and substances that get into the external environment animals live in, pesticides that can kill off beneficial bacteria and non target species, reduction of overall biodiversity (especially in soil), and more.

 

Livestock & Animal Based Agricultural Production

There can be many issues with animals used as livestock and for animal based products in agriculture.

With animals used in industrial animal farming, cruelty to animals can occur during invasive procedures, during the livestock housing period, and during slaughter or when extracting goods from the animal.

Animals that may experience this cruelty might include (read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals):

  • Cattle 
  • Dairy Cows
  • Pigs
  • Egg Laying Hens
  • Broiler Chickens
  • Domestic Turkey
  • Goats and Sheep
  • Ducks
  • Horses
  • + other animals

Other animals may also experience animal cruelty, such as animals used for fibres and clothing like fur, silk (silkworms), angora, down, wool and leather.

 

Loss Of Biodiversity, Species Decline & Extinction

  • [modern agriculture] has also been responsible for considerable damage to biodiversity, primarily through land-use conversion which is expected to remain the largest driver of biodiversity loss beyond 2010 and at least to 2050, but also through overexploitation, intensification of agricultural production systems, excessive chemical and water use, nutrient loading, pollution and introduction of alien species.
  • Homogenization of agricultural production systems, mainly due to intensification of agricultural systems coupled with specialization by plant and animals breeders and the harmonizing effects of globalization, is one of the greatest causes of agricultural biodiversity loss, through genetic erosion and the increasing levels of genetic vulnerability of specialized crops and livestock.
  • According to the FAO, it is estimated that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity found in agricultural crops has been lost over the last century, and this genetic erosion continues. For example, today, 90% of our food energy and protein comes from only 15 plant and 8 animal species, with disturbing consequences for nutrition and food security. Wheat, rice and maize alone provide more than 50% of the global plant-based energy intake.
  • In addition to agricultural biodiversity, modern agricultural practices can also impact biodiversity in other ecosystems through several ways such as unsustainable demands on water (for irrigation for example), overgrazing, as well as excessive use of nutrients and chemical inputs to control weeds, pests and diseases that result in problems of pollution and eutrophication.
  • Furthermore, land and habitat conversion (in particular forests, wetlands, and marginal lands) to large-scale agricultural production also cause significant loss of biodiversity.
  • Farmers are requested to both preserve biodiversity and contribute to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population. However, they do not control all factors involved including those related to agricultural policies, incentives , markets or consumption patterns, and therefore need support from government policy.

– cbd.int

 

  • Agriculture and the overexploitation of plants and animal species are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change …
  • Joint research published in the journal Nature … found nearly three-quarters of the world’s threatened species faced these threats, compared to just 19% affected by climate change.
  • Some 5,407 species (62%) were threatened by agriculture alone

– theguardian.com

 

Read about species decline in the UK due to agricultural practices at http://www.ecifm.rdg.ac.uk/species_decline.htm 

 

Loss Of Habitat (Land Clearing) & Deforestation

Forests hold much of the earth’s biodiversity along with soil. Clearing of forests greatly impacts animal and plant species.

Clearing of the Amazon rainforest in South America, and clearing of bamboo forests in China are two examples of this.

General land clearing also clears wild animal habitats.

 

  • Deforestation due to clearing land for crop and pasture land causes the loss of habitat for millions of species

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Habitat loss caused by animal agriculture is a serious threat to wild animals, including many endangered species. A 2010 report by the United Nations found that more than one-third of the world’s landmass was used for animal agriculture. The World Bank estimates that deforestation each year amounts to about 5.6 hectares, an area larger than all of Costa Rica. And animal agriculture is considered responsible for more than 90 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction.
  • In addition to the billions of fish the fishing industry kills for the seafood market, it kills millions of animals unintentionally—victims of the industry’s deadly gear. 

– mercyforanimals.org

 

Pesticides

Pesticides not only get exposed to wildlife, but enter their environment and contaminate it – especially marine and aquatic environments.

Pesticide chemicals can leach through soil and water, and get in the air.

With soil, pesticide can eliminate beneficial bacteria and non pest target species – which will also eventually impact soil health.

 

  • Tillage, fertilization, and pesticide application also releases ammonia, nitrate, phosphorus, and many other pesticides that affect … biodiversity
  • Atrazine is a herbicide used to control weeds that grow among crops. This herbicide can disrupt endocrine production which can cause reproductive problems in mammals, amphibians and fish that have been exposed.
  • Pesticides and herbicides can cause toxicity to non target species like bees and other non target species

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Pesticides have been linked to public health effects, development of pesticide resistance in pests, crop losses, bird mortality, groundwater contamination, and more.

– journals.plos.org

 

  • The impacts of pesticides on wildlife are extensive, and expose animals in urban, suburban, and rural areas to unnecessary risks. Beyond Pesticides defines “wildlife” as any organism that is not domesticated or used in a lab. This includes, but is not limited to, bees, birds, small mammals, fish, other aquatic organisms, and the biota within soil.
  • Wildlife can be impacted by pesticides through their direct or indirect application, such as pesticide drift, secondary poisoning, runoff into local water bodies, or groundwater contamination. It is possible that some animals could be sprayed directly; others consume plants or prey that have been exposed to pesticides.
  • Pesticide exposure can be linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney and liver damage, birth defects, and developmental changes in a wide range of species.
  • The economic impact of pesticides’ impact on wildlife and biodiversity is estimated to run into the billions

– beyondpesticides.org

 

Fertilizers

Fertilizers are similar to pesticides, in that they can get in the air, water and soil through both the gases emitted, and through leaching.

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer run off in particular can cause eutrophication in aquatic environments.

 

  • Nitrogen fertilizer represents the single largest investment of energy in the production of many crops, and circulation of reactive nitrogen can have negative effects on atmospheric conditions, in terrestrial ecosystems, in freshwater and marine systems, and on human health.
  • Phosphorus fertilizers are produced by mining finite resources of phosphate rock, and can fuel harmful algal blooms when lost to the aquatic environment.

– journals.plos.org

 

Other Agricultural Chemicals & Substances

Other agricultural chemicals and substances have the ability to harm and impact animals and wildlife in a similar way that pesticides and fertilizers do (through direct contact, ingestion, run off, leaching etc.)

 

  • Other agricultural chemicals and substances can include pollutants like sediments, nutrients, pathogens, metals, and salts.

– wikipedia.org

 

Development & Spread Of Animal Disease, Sickness & Pathogens

Swine flu is an example of disease spread between livestock animals.

Pathogens and sickness can spread from one animal to another on farms, especially between animals with weakened immune systems.

Animal waste and manure can also contribute to the spread of pathogens and bacteria.

 

Indirect Environmental Issues Made Worse By Agriculture, Which Impacts Animals

Agriculture is responsible for contributing to other environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation, water scarcity, land degradation, pollution and more.

These issues can all impact the habitats that animals live in, and access to resources like water, land and food for wild animals.

Climate change in particular is expected to change rainfall patterns, freshwater levels, seasonal patterns, temperature and more – which can all impact the environment wildlife live in.

We are already seeing a negative impact for polar bears and other animals that live in the arctic regions.

 

How Wild Animals Help Farmers, & How Farmers Help Wild Animals

Read more in this Canadian study about how wildlife benefits farmers, and how farmers can help wildlife – https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/16-002-x/2015002/article/14133-eng.htm 

 

A Few Notes On Agriculture

  • There are different types of agriculture – intensive agriculture, and more sustainable agriculture
  • There’s different types of agricultural/farming practices and methods – conventional agriculture, and organic agriculture
  • There can be large differences in the way developed and developing world countries carry out agriculture. There can also be differences within countries – state by state, or province by province
  • Each farm or ranch is also different with their production approach. So, each agricultural product really needs to be analysed separately, instead of being generalised
  • Not only does what happens on the farm (the actions of the farmer) impact the external environment, but there’s the external conditions that impact the farm e.g. natural rainfall, amount of freshwater supplies available, temperature, quality of land etc.
  • Agriculture is a circular/connected activity – livestock and fertilizer for example can produce greenhouse gas emissions which speeds up climate change, but then climate change can impact things like temperature, rainfall, growing seasons etc. that impact farming

Overall, there’s many factors that can impact agriculture, and that can change the impact  agriculture has on humans, animals/wildlife, biodiversity and the external environment. It’s a matter of assessing things on a case by case basis, and not generalising when trying to assess impact.

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_agriculture

2. Conrad, Z., Niles, M.T., Neher, D.A., Roy, E.D., Tichenor, N.E. and Jahns, L., 2018. Relationship between food waste, diet quality, and environmental sustainability. PloS one13(4), p.e0195405. – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195405

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals 

4. http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/home/en/news_archive/2012_Impacts_of_farming_intensification_on_wildlife.html

5. https://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/wildlife

6. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study

7. https://mercyforanimals.org/humankind-has-killed-off-60-percent-of-wildlife

8. https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/threats/

9. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/farming

10. http://www.ecifm.rdg.ac.uk/species_decline.htm 

11. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/16-002-x/2015002/article/14133-eng.htm 

12. https://www.cbd.int/agro/Whatstheproblem.shtml  

The Potential Negative Effects Of Agriculture On Humans (Health), Society & The Economy

The Potential Negative Effects Of Agriculture On Humans, Society & The Economy

In this guide, we outline the potential negative effects of the agriculture industry on humans, society and the economy.

We’ve briefly touched upon on the main or surface level issues, rather than go into depth on each one.

There are also issues other than the ones we’ve touched upon here – so we will look to add to and update this guide in the future.

 

General Issues Related To Agriculture

Agriculture is such a key industry in society. Not only does it create issues on the external environment, but issues in the external environment can impact agriculture as well.

 

  • The environmental impact of agriculture involves a variety of factors from the soil, to water, the air, animal and soil variety, people, plants, and the food itself.

– wikipedia.org

 

Potential Negative Effects Of Agriculture On Humans, Society & The Economy

The effects of the agriculture industry on humans are mainly to do with health, safety and economics/financial well being. They can be on an individual level, or a society based level.

These effects can occur through a number of ways such as nutrition of the food produced, risks presented by pesticides, risks presented by fertilizers, risks presented by other agricultural chemicals and substances, risks presented by bacteria and anti biotics, occupational health and safety risks + more

 

  • Agriculture … can affect a range of health issues including undernutrition, chronic diseases, infectious diseases, food safety, and environmental and occupational health.

– greenfacts.org

 

Nutrition

Nutrition is wide ranging, and can mean macro and micro nutrition, or even eating a more plant based diet vs a diet composed more of animal products (meat, dairy etc.) and processed foods (bad sugars, bad fats, preservatives, artificial sweeteners etc.).

Nutrition can be subjective and also different for each individual, or even a country based variable (where different foods and ranges of nutrition are available country to country)

But, what several sources point out is that a Western diet (high is salts, animal products, sugar, and processed ingredients) has features that present prominent risk factors linked to higher rates of morbidity and mortality (journals.plos.org) when compared to other worldwide diets or higher quality plant based diets. 

With animal products and meat in particular, you’ve got to consider things like hormones and the quality of the meat, and how dairy and other animal products are processed – when considering how nutritious or healthy these foods might be.

In developing countries, it might be the case that certain nutrients aren’t available at all due to a number of factors – leading to malnutrition and other nutrition based problems.

Good nutrition is not a main aim of agriculture, so this might need to be something looked at in the future.

 

  • undernutrition causes over 15% of the global disease burden. Protein energy and micronutrient malnutrition remain challenges, with high variability between and within countries. Food security can be improved through policies and programs to increase dietary diversity and through development and deployment of existing and new technologies for production, processing, preservation, and distribution of food.

– greenfacts.org

 

  • Reduced dietary quality and diversity and inexpensive foods with low nutrient density have been associated with increasing rates of worldwide obesity and chronic disease. Poor diet throughout the life course is a major risk factor for chronic diseases, which are the leading cause of global deaths.

– greenfacts.org

 

Pesticides

Pesticides are usually used heavily in conventional and intensive agriculture.

They present a number of individual and public health risks to humans such as:

  • health risks to farm workers exposed to them
  • they can get into or on the foods we eat (pesticide residue is especially relevant to fruits and vegetables)
  • they can even drift into the air, or leach into and contaminate soil, and freshwater sources (that we might end up drinking, using for irrigation, or other things)

 

  • Pesticides have been linked to public health effects, development of pesticide resistance in pests, crop losses, bird mortality, groundwater contamination, and more.

– journals.plos.org

 

Fertilizers

Nitrogen fertilizers in particular can impact human health … 

  • Nitrogen fertilizer represents the single largest investment of energy in the production of many crops, and circulation of reactive nitrogen can have negative effects on atmospheric conditions, in terrestrial ecosystems, in freshwater and marine systems, and on human health

– journals.plos.org

 

Fertilizers are like pesticides in that they can leach through soil and water sources.

 

Other Agricultural Chemicals & Substances

  • Other agricultural chemicals and substances can include pollutants like sediments, nutrients, pathogens, metals, and salts.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • [health concerns where it comes to substances in food include the] presence of pesticide residues, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics and various additives in the food system as well as those related to large-scale livestock farming.

– greenfacts.org

 

Like pesticides and fertilizers, these pollutants can get into the things we eat, drink and come into contact with, and can cause health issues.

 

Antibiotic Resistance, & Spread Of Bacteria

Antibiotic issues in agriculture can cause human health issues.

Antibiotic issues can arise in two ways:

  • Humans are becoming less able to be treated by antibiotics because we are building a resistance to them through the foods we eat
  • Humans can be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria when antibiotics end up in the water, soil and air around us through excess use on livestock

– research.msu.edu

 

Bacteria can also be a problem:

  • Bacteria and pathogens in manure can make their way into streams and groundwater if grazing, storing manure in lagoons and applying manure to fields is not properly managed.

– wikipedia.org

 

Agricultural Disease, & Development Of Diseases

Certain diseases and sicknesses can develop through agriculture, or as a result of agricultural practices.

Livestock based diseases are examples of how diseases can be given conditions that might encourage them develop and spread. These diseases like swine flu can have immense social consequences, as well as individual.

 

  • Also, agricultural practices have been responsible for development of malaria in some African countries

– research.msu.edu

 

  • More than 60 percent of the emerging diseases affecting humans have an animal origin, and of these, 75 percent come from wildlife.

– fao.org

 

Indirect Effects Through Other Environmental Issues That Develop (on the economy, individual income, health, society etc.)

Agriculture is responsible for contributing to other environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation, water scarcity, land degradation, pollution and more.

These issues can all impact humans’ ability to farm and make money for themselves – particularly in lesser developed countries.

Climate change with changing temperatures and precipitation levels are factors that can contribute to this as well, and even have the ability to impact the economy when farming yields and outputs aren’t as high as they could be otherwise.

Environmental issues can also lead to health issues if for example water supplies are contaminated or drinking water supplies get low/scarce.

 

One example is that water scarcity and contamination can be brought about by excessive or inefficient irrigation practices:

  • irrigation practices can lead to groundwater depletion, water quality degradation, and competition for drinking water, among other impacts.

– wikipedia.org

 

Agricultural Occupational (Work Based) Health And Safety Issues

Working in agriculture can open workers to a number of occupational health and safety issues.

These can include:

  • Exposure to organic matter, hay, dust and other substances that can be inhaled
  • Exposure to pesticides and other toxic or harmful chemicals that can come into contact with the skin, eyes or be inhaled
  • Exposure to bacteria, antibiotics, human diseases or animal/livestock based diseases
  • High levels of noise exposure
  • Injury or death risk due to exposure to heavy farming machinery
  • Overall – respiratory hazards, noise hazards, skin disorders and allergies, cancers, chemical hazards and heat stress (all caused by different factors) are all risks farm workers have to look out for – nasdonline.org

 

  • Worldwide, agriculture accounts for at least 170,000 occupational deaths each year: half of all fatal accidents. Machinery and equipment, such as tractors and harvesters, account for the highest rates of injury and death, particularly among rural laborers. Other important health hazards include agrochemical poisoning, transmissible animal diseases, toxic or allergenic agents, and noise, vibration and ergonomic hazards. 

– greenfacts.org

 

  • Farmers and farm workers suffer from increased rates of respiratory diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin disorders, certain cancers, chemical toxicity, and heat-related illnesses. There are precautions that can be taken to minimize or eliminate these potential hazards.

– nasdonline.org

 

Food Affordability, Security & Availability Worldwide

Developing countries’ economies and agricultural industries can be sensitive to the activity of developed countries.

Developing countries can suffer when developed countries increase demand substantially of certain foods, which can push the price up and make food unaffordable in poorer countries.

Fluctuations in the world market can also make food supply, and farming as a business volatile and go up and down in poorer countries.

Food supply and food security are also issues in poorer countries where food may not be as readily available.

 

Food Carrying Capacity For The Population

Food carrying capacity for the human population is determined largely by agriculture and agricultural practices. The more efficient agriculture is, the more food that can be provided to society.

Society relies on farmers to make good use of land, grow the right foods, be efficient with their resources etc. to increase food carrying capacity.

The population is expected to get up to between 9 to 10 billion between 2050 and 2100 – so carrying capacity is important to consider.

 

A Few Notes On Agriculture

  • Agriculture as a whole uses a lot of resources including freshwater supplies, land, fertilizer, pesticides, and emits a significant amount of greenhouse gases – so has a significant environmental footprint, and footprint on other areas of society and individual humans
  • Agriculture has had significant animal welfare issues – particularly with the production of livestock for different animal products
  • There are different types of agriculture – intensive agriculture, and more sustainable agriculture
  • There’s different types of agricultural/farming practices and methods – conventional agriculture, and organic agriculture
  • There can be large differences in the way developed and developing world countries carry out agriculture. There can also be differences within countries – state by state, or province by province
  • Each farm or ranch is also different with their production approach. So, each agricultural product and agricultural systems really needs to be analysed separately, instead of being generalised
  • Not only does what happens on the farm (the actions of the farmer) impact the external environment and humans, but there’s the external conditions that impact the farm’s output and practices e.g. natural rainfall, amount of freshwater supplies available, temperature, quality of land etc.
  • Agriculture is a circular/connected activity – livestock and fertilizer for example can produce greenhouse gas emissions which speeds up climate change, but then climate change can impact things like temperature, rainfall, growing seasons etc. that impact farming

Overall, there’s many factors that can impact agriculture, and that can change the impact agriculture has on humans, animals, and the external environment. It’s a matter of assessing things on a case by case basis, and trying not to generalise when trying to assess impact.

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_agriculture

2. Conrad, Z., Niles, M.T., Neher, D.A., Roy, E.D., Tichenor, N.E. and Jahns, L., 2018. Relationship between food waste, diet quality, and environmental sustainability. PloS one13(4), p.e0195405. – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195405 

3. https://research.msu.edu/effects-of-farming-on-global-human-health/

4. https://www.greenfacts.org/en/agriculture-iaastd/l-2/5-health-and-agriculture.htm 

5. http://nasdonline.org/1246/d001050/health-hazards-in-agriculture-an-emerging-issue.html 

6. http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/home/en/news_archive/2012_Impacts_of_farming_intensification_on_wildlife.html 

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