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Extreme Weather Often Isn’t

September 17, 2016

Regarding Geoffrey Johnston’s article, Extreme weather hits women hard… I wanted to point out some errors and assumptions that are not well supported by evidence or logic.

Subsistence farming has never been easy. That is the point of the term… subsistence is to survive but not thrive. Does drought or flooding make things worse? Of course! But the term “extreme” to describe these weather events is overused and inaccurate. There is no smooth average climate, and many parts of the world are prone to cyclical drought and/or flooding. That is the norm. Humans initially settled to farm in flood plains specifically because the silt and moisture made for fertile land and productive farming. And we’ve persisted in building dense settlements in flood plains and low coastal regions prone to flooding. Water is a blessing and a curse.

Citing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, CARE Canada’s Pierre Kadet predicts that as the planet gets hotter, the frequency of extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, will increase.

In fact the IPCC SREX report on extreme weather points out that incidences of extreme weather have not increased as predicted by models. srex

Further, recent years have seen much lower numbers and strengths of Atlantic hurricanes than “normal”, and a marked decrease in the number of tornadoes.

According to the CARE Canada expert, “by 2020, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.” And this could have devastating consequences for women farmers in developing countries…

This is a stunning claim that I can only assume was conjured purely from imagination. Global yields of staple crops are increasing rapidly. Farming technology, from tilling, to drought resistant crop selection, to pest resistance, and on and on… We are producing far more food than ever before. And we do it on less land. Yields per acre are so high, marginal fields are being allowed to return to nature. There is no shortage of food globally. Areas where famine is a problem are almost without exception areas subject to political unrest, military action, or plain old incompetence and corruption (see Venezuela and much of Africa).

Lambert contends that Sub-Saharan Africa’s geography makes it more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including desertification. “I think the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly affected,” she said in a telephone interview.

“If the global temperatures continue to rise, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to be severely affected,” UNICEF’s Hevey wrote in an email. “A worsening drought is currently ravaging Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe — the worst in 50 years in some cases.

As mentioned, these are areas plagued by unrest and government incompetence and corruption. Satellite images show that the Sahara and Sahel regions are greening compared to the recent past. This may be due to increased overall precipitation, higher co2 levels, or both. Whatever the cause, it would appear hunger is not the result of conditions inhospitable to farming.

Women must work longer days to compensate for declining food production, Lambert said. Meanwhile, they must also continue to perform all of the household labour. For example, women are responsible for collecting wood to burn as well as water for cooking, drinking and cleaning. However, as their climate gets hotter and desertification worsens, wood and water are becoming scare, forcing them to walk longer distances in search of these precious resources.

The solution to these problems is not climate hysteria that results in energy deprivation for fear of demon co2 emissions. It is MORE energy access. With pumps for clean water and gas or electric stoves, the poor woman’s lot in life gets a lot better. This kind of energy can’t be provided by a 20W solar panel. In addition, energy allows them to adapt to conditions, and to prepare for and withstand weather events that could otherwise be catastrophic.

As bad as hurricane Katrina was, the death toll of 1800 or so, mostly seniors, from a category 5 storm that was a direct hit on a major population center and flooded much of 2 states was kept from being much higher because of energy… both in the shelters it helped construct, and in the infrastructure and transportation that allowed for evacuation. If Bangladesh had the same access to abundant and affordable energy, they’d have similar resistance to disaster during flooding.

In short, yes women have it bad in much of the world. But to frame this as due to climate change is not just inaccurate, it does them a disservice by sacrificing them to the elements through restricted energy access due to carbon paranoia.

Both aid and climate hysteria are industries. There are many billions of dollars at stake. In both cases it is wise to be skeptical about claims, especially where evidence is weak, or not offered at all. One column on aid by Rory Leishman from a few years back stuck with me… compassion must be effective. And climate activists that suggest that the poor must be sacrificed to the elements to appease the co2 gods place dogma before compassion. That is neither humane, nor necessary. We can help, but it must be the right way to allow the poor to progress. And we absolutely must NOT hinder the advancement of the poor to assuage some weird form of guilt over our good fortune.

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