We're All Going to Starve to Death...Again

According to the draft of a new United Nations IPCC report, "Climate Change and Land," the world's land and water resources are in dire shape.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report was produced by 108 experts from 52 countries, nominated by governments, observer organizations, and IPCC bureau members.  (I don't recall getting an invitation, despite my extensive interest in energy use and food economics —  wonder why!)  The "experts" insist that deserts are expanding, extreme weather is destroying crops, and 10 percent of the Earth's people are already going without food.  Soon mankind as a whole will be short of food, millions will starve, and nations will be plunged into chaos as populations engage in warfare and mass migration in search of food.

Ho...hum.  It's Thomas Malthus all over again.

The U.N. climate experts have played this record so often now that it's grating — like having to listen to "Blowin' in the Wind" another 40 times.

Unlike Malthus, who felt that mass starvation was inevitable (and that it would "solve" the problem of overpopulation, albeit at a tremendous cost), the IPCC experts appear to have a kinder, gentler solution: put all the Earth's resources and industries under the control of the world climate commissars.  Call in the experts to regulate land use, food distribution, and energy production.  Give up our freedom to live as we wish, travel as we wish, and dine as we wish, and the experts will save us.

One can feed ten times more people on grain alone than on grain-fed beef, so going vegan makes sense to the experts.  But who's going to enforce such measures and by what means?  And what about the liberty of those who'll be made to eat broccoli instead of beef?

The real problem, I believe, is the IPCC, which is an unelected panel consisting of theoreticians who seem out of touch with ordinary citizens.  A panel consisting of ordinary Joes would do a better job of representing the interests of mankind at large.  The experts may think mankind can simply forego meat consumption and the problem will be solved, but that's not the way most persons look at it.  Meat consumption in the developing countries, in particular, is expanding at a rapid rate because these populations look upon meat as a luxury.  Chinese per capita meat consumption has risen from 5 kilograms in 1961 to something like 55 kilograms today.  It's one thing for the experts to deny themselves pork chops, but do they have the right to tell billions of others to forgo meat before they've ever had the privilege of consuming it?

The IPCC summary report, released July 8, states that global food shortages may cause mass migration from poorer nations to rich ones.  A New York Times story on the report suggests that recent migration from Central America to the USA may have been spurred by food shortages resulting from drought linked to global warming.  Certainly, poverty is behind much illegal migration to the USA, but it seems a stretch to think global warming is behind it.  The cause is actually America's antiquated immigration laws, laws that Democrats refuse to fix since mass migration suits their plans for political control based on increasing the Hispanic vote.  Illegals are rushing our borders because Democrats are encouraging them to do so.

The U.N. report links the purported food crisis to global warming, which, it is claimed, causes damage to topsoil, water supplies, and crop yields.  The reality may be quite the opposite.  Warmer temperatures, should they arise, will expand the crop line in temperate regions.  Vast regions of Canada, Alaska, and Russia may be opened up for agriculture.  Even Greenland may once again be "green," as it was during a warm spell when the island was colonized by Norsemen in the 10th century.  Higher levels of carbon dioxide will also spur plant growth, leading to greater crop production.

The IPCC claim that global warming undermines crop production is not supported by the current facts.  According to the British Geographer, world agricultural production since 1961 has increased by 240 percent and at a rate far faster than world population growth, and it shows no sign of slowing.  Reliable data collected from other sources also show a steady uptick in global food production since 1960.  During the period in which global warming was supposedly decimating cropland via drought, flood, and storms, total global cropland has risen from 4.38 billion hectares (1960) to 4.87 billion hectares, with no decade showing decline.  The IPCC claims that global warming, underway since before 1990, is decimating cropland.  It isn't.  So where's the beef?

The underlying theme of all previous IPCC reports seems to be that a global system must be put in place to regulate fossil fuel usage so as to mitigate warming.  Now the IPCC has added agriculture to the list of human activities that must be regulated so as to avert disaster.  In the end, every human activity, including the existence of human beings themselves — a major source of carbon and methane emissions — will have to be restricted in order to achieve the experts' goals.  If it is necessary to ban burgers in order to save the Earth, what else does the IPCC have in store for us?  We'll see, since the IPCC is planning further reports, including one on the condition of the world's oceans.  One can expert more headlines of environmental catastrophe and more ideas on expanding global government.

The crucial fact that the experts leave out of this year's global catastrophe update is that mankind craves liberty even more than it does rich food.  It's not for the IPCC to say that you and I must be limited in what we choose to eat or drink.  I will eat and drink what I choose.  If doing so "stresses the land" or releases more methane into the air, so be it.  If farmland is indeed becoming "stressed," as the IPCC claims, meat prices will rise to levels that place meat beyond the means of most of the Earth's population.  So it's back to rice and beans, in any event, long before we arrive at mass starvation, global conflict, or planetary demise.  The best way to discover this rational price for meat and other luxury items is via the free market — not through the rantings of a panel of experts.        

As for solutions, eat what you like, and be merry.  I myself am a vegan, if only for health reasons.  I wonder how many of the climate "experts" meeting at their costly confab in Geneva have joined me.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).