Adapting Works! Mitigating Fails.


Two schools of thought regarding future climates:
Adaptation: As changes occur, adapt our methods and practices to survive and prosper in new conditions.
Mitigation: Cut down on use of fossil fuels to mitigate or prevent future global warming.

The Paris Agreement and various cap-and-trade schemes intend to Mitigate future warming. Lots of gloom and doom is projected (forecast) by activists claiming mitigation is the only way. But the facts of our experience say otherwise.

What has been human experience with Adapting to climate change?

Feeding ourselves is the most fundamental social need, so we should look at the history of Agriculture and climate change. Here is a data-rich study:
Adapting North American wheat production to climatic challenges, 1839–2009, by Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhodes Accessed at PNAS (here).

Numerous researchers have speculated about how farmers might change cultivars, cropping patterns, and farming methods to mitigate some of the costs of abrupt climatic changes (8). Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) anticipate that North American wheat farmers may extend the margin of wheat production roughly 1,000 km north into northern Canada and Alaska, whereas heat and drought will make cultivation untenable in many areas of the southern Great Plains (9). To provide perspective on these and other predictions, this paper asks how farmers responded to past climatic challenges.

The spread of wheat cultivation across North America required that farmers repeatedly adapt to unfamiliar and hostile climatic conditions. The variations in climatic conditions that settlers encountered rivaled the magnitude of the predicted changes at given locations over the next century. We quantify the extent of the geographic variations and decipher how wheat growers learned to produce in new environments. Because of the paucity of Mexican data before 1929, most of our analysis of “North America” refers to Canada and the United States. Inclusion of Mexico in the later part of the 20th century highlights the role of the Green Revolution in pushing production into hotter and drier zones. (my bolds)

Because of climate change, some areas presumably will decrease or cease wheat production, whereas other areas, particularly in northern Canada and Alaska, are expected to enter production. Although the anticipated movement in the wheat frontier is substantial, it is unlikely to be as great as the past geographic shifts in production. The difficulties in extending the transportation infrastructure to facilitate future shifts also appear less imposing than those overcome to open the Plains and Prairies. The challenging problems deal with adapting growing practices and creating improved cultivars. (my bold)


Shift in the North American spring–winter wheat frontier, 1869–1929.

The last two columns of the table, which show the differences between the Columbus baseline and the other four locations, illustrate the wide array of climatic conditions to which wheat has been adapted in North America during the past 170 y. Even with the predicted annual mean temperature by 2100, farmers near Edmonton, AB, and Dickerson, ND, will confront substantially colder conditions than eastern wheat growers faced circa 1839. Even with the anticipated increase in precipitation, the northern farmers will have to make do with about half the precipitation that the earlier generation of eastern farmers received. The predicted changes in Dodge City, KS, and Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico, suggest both hotter and drier conditions than were common at the center of North American production in 1839 (again, a climate akin to that in Columbus, OH, in the baseline period). Note, however, that the difference in temperature between Columbus and Ciudad Obregón was roughly six times the increase predicted in the latter city by 2100. Wheat production is sensitive to seasonal fluctuations in weather conditions, which probably will become more variable in the future and which are not captured by annual mean data (29). Nevertheless, the historical record of adapting wheat cultivation to areas with widely varying climates is impressive. (my bold)

For the most part, the settlement process required adapting cultivation to colder and more arid regions, not to hotter climates as predicted in the future. Farming with less water is more of a problem if the temperature also is hotter. However, biological innovations also were crucial to the expansion of production in hot-arid areas such as Texas, Oklahoma, central California, and northern Mexico. The currently predicted changes during the next century will, in a sense, reverse the predominant historical path of the past two centuries by creating a warmer and wetter environment in the Plains and Prairies that will partially approach the conditions that existed in the Middle Atlantic region when it constituted the North American wheat belt. (my bold)

The historical record offers insight into the capability of agriculture to adapt to climatic challenges. Using a new county-level dataset on wheat production and climate norms, we show that during the 19th and 20th centuries North American grain farmers pushed wheat production into environments once considered too arid, too variable, and too harsh to cultivate. As summary measures, the median annual precipitation norm of the 2007 distribution of North American wheat production was one-half that of the 1839 distribution, and the median annual temperature norm was 3.7 °C lower. This shift, which occurred mostly before 1929, required new biological technologies. The Green Revolution associated with the pioneering work of Norman Borlaug represented an important advance in this longer process of biological innovation. However, well before the Green Revolution, generations of North American farmers overcame significant climatic challenges. (my bold)

How successful has mitigation been?

A recent report of California’s cap-and-trade concluded:

The problem is that the permits are selling at a slower and slower rate. The surplus of allowances is becoming so large in systems run by Europe, California and Quebec — which together account for more than 90 percent of global trading — that by 2022 it could cover the emissions spewing from every car on Earth for a full year, according to estimates by the London environmental group Sandbag Climate Campaign CIC and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In California’s market, all 23 million allowances sold in an auction in 2014. In May 2016, 7.3 million permits found buyers, only 11 percent of what was put up for sale.

ReGGI, the carbon market joined by Northeastern US states is also ineffective but has the potential to threaten affordable electricity there. See my post: Cap and Trade Hype

Even more telling is the recent revolt by Democrat politicians against the way California distributes proceeds from auctions of carbon credits. From the LA Times: A big question complicating the climate debate: Where’s the money for poor people?

Unless more money gets directed to poor communities, lawmakers whose votes may be needed to continue the climate change efforts say they’re wary. Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a leader in the business-aligned bloc of his party, said he hasn’t made up his mind, in part, because he’s outraged that people living in a handful of wealthy Bay Area and West Los Angeles communities have received by far the largest shares of state rebates to purchase electric cars.

“It’s welfare for the rich,” Cooper said. “It’s dead wrong in my book. It should be wrong in anybody’s book.”

Inadvertently, they are scraping the lipstick off the Mitigation Pig. They know (but don’t say out loud) this scheme does little to lower fossil fuels, and has even less impact on future climates. But it does create a pot of money, and they want the poor to have their share. If you are going to redistribute wealth, at least transfer it from the rich to the poor, as Robin Hood did. Mitigation is failing in every imaginable way.


Farmers have successfully grown and harvested crops in places formerly deemed too cold or too arid, and most of the new fields were in the North. Remarkably, today’s average climate where wheat is produced is both drier and colder:
“The median annual precipitation norm of the 2007 distribution of North American wheat production was one-half that of the 1839 distribution, and the median annual temperature norm was 3.7 °C lower.”

Agriculture has demonstrated our massive capacity to adapt to changing conditions, whether it becomes warmer or cooler, wetter or drier.

The rational climate change policy has been proven successful: Don’t Fight It, Adapt.


Bumper crops expected
Grain companies predict near-record western harvest
Source: The Western Producer

The 2016 harvest is shaping up to be a whopper, according to Western Canada’s largest elevator companies.

One comment

  1. Hifast · September 5, 2016

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


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