Climate change forces corn production north

Earlier we talked about the consequences of global warming — first-order changes, second-order changes, and so on. (For one example, see here.)

The first-order change, of course, is the temperature itself — as various regions either warm or cool depending on location, then finally, after all the ice that’s going to melt has melted and all the ocean and air currents that are going to change have changed, a universal global warming to whatever point the system settles at.

Second-order changes are those caused by that warming — droughts, floods, famines, epidemics, changes in coastlines, disappearance of islands, and so on. From these spring the next level of changes — to regional economies and government systems (or the lack of them).

Inevitably, populations will move — large numbers of people will migrate; whole regions or nations will be emptied as they become unlivable, or swollen with refugees as they become more attractive. (At that level of chaos, stopping carbon-production will be the last thing on people’s minds — the need to survive, both by individuals and by governments, will drown out every other thought — and the carbon-pumping system will run to conclusion. The reason global warming tops out at 6–7°C — about 12°F or so — in the “do nothing” scenario is too obvious to be stated again.)

Consider just one aspect, regional changes that spur mass migration of peoples. Here’s what one such period looked like in one region, Europe, across a 400-year time span.

Mass migration, Europe, 100-500 AD

Imagine this, worldwide, across a 50–100 year time span. This is what we get for letting Daddy Koch, Rex Tillerson and all the other make-me-rich carbon criminals have their way.

And now the news — it’s started. Thanks to Twitter friend Natasha Chart, we find this item about corn production. (Psst; it’s moving north.) Bloomberg, my emphasis and some reparagraphing:

Corn Belt Shifts North With Climate as Kansas Crop Dies

Joe Waldman is saying goodbye to corn after yet another hot and dry summer convinced the Kansas farmer that rainfall won’t be there when he needs it anymore. “I finally just said uncle,” said Waldman, 52, surveying his stunted crop about 100 miles north of Dodge City. Instead, he will expand sorghum, which requires less rain, let some fields remain fallow and restrict corn to irrigated fields.

While farmers nationwide planted the most corn this year since 1937, growers in Kansas sowed the fewest acres in three years, instead turning to less-thirsty crops such as wheat, sorghum and even triticale, a wheat-rye mix popular in Poland. Meanwhile, corn acreage in Manitoba, a Canadian province about 700 miles north of Kansas, has nearly doubled over the past decade due to weather changes and higher prices.

The article goes on about the “northern shift” of agricultural production and infrastructure:

Agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. is investing in northern U.S. facilities, anticipating increased grain production in that part of the country, said Greg Page, the chief executive officer of the Minneapolis-based company. …

Losses in some areas will mean gains in others, Page said. A native of Bottineau, a small town on North Dakota’s border with Canada, Page said that when he was in high school in the 1960s, “you could grow wheat — or wheat. That was it,” he said. “You go to that very same place today — they can grow soybeans, they can grow canola, they can grow corn, they can grow field peas and export them to India,” he said. “A lot of that has been to do with the fact that they have six, eight days more of frost-free weather.”

Apparently, eight more days of frost-free weather is a big deal. Imagine what will happen when the California central valley has 4–5 months per year over 100°F. All it will take is 1000 ppm carbon in the air, and we have more than enough proven reserves to get us there.

The article notes other consequences as well, for example, increased crop insurance payouts. It’s a nice piece, well worth a complete read.

Your takeaway: so far the change is orderly. But it has started. With ruined southern economies in the U.S. and expanding northern economies in Canada will come population migrations. Accelerated regional warming will accelerate the process. People from Kansas, many of them impoverished, will flow to Minnesota and the Dakotas. Think they’ll be greeted warmly? Eventually, many will attempt border crossings. Think the Canadians will let us in?

Now think of the money the federal government will need to spend on that safety net. Of course, most of the needy will be white, so they’ll certainly be counted among the “deserving” — but where will the money come from? (I have a thought about that last one — Daddy Koch and his friends have lots of money, which they earned from … causing this mess in the first place. Hmm. Maybe all those Kansas Republicans, who love their big strong daddy-types, could get him to help them out; after all, they’ve been helping him out. A lot.)

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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