BREAKING: Late this evening (8 pm EST, or tomorrow, March 31, at 9 am in Tokyo), something large and unpleasant will hit the fan about climate change. At a press conference in Yokohama, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Fifth Assessment Report on impacts of human activities on current and [&hellip
Well, March is turning out to be a fine month for apocalyptica of seemingly every sort….So, as your faithful reporter of all things cataclysmic and eschatological (well, I try), I give you this friendly round-up of end-full news items for your reading pleasure, with brief commentary. To wit:
Maize Can’t Take the Blaze
We love our corn and corn products (chips, bread, cereal , syrup)…And so, a drastic decline in maize (the taxonomic name for corn) yields could trigger a drastic decline in this major sector of the consumer economy…But there’s plenty of corn in the world, right?
Well, the newest and slickest climate model indicates that certain key staple crops like wheat, soybeans, and especially maize, are very vulnerable to increases in temperature. The scientists developing the model sought to gauge “global scale, impacts of extreme heat stress on maize, spring wheat and soybean yields resulting from 72 climate change scenarios for the 21st century.” The simulation study (published last week in Environmental Research Letters) predicts a doubling of maize crop losses by the end of the century. Wheat and soy also take significant losses, but recover for awhile in the northern latitudes (up to 2080) due to transient CO2 fertilization (note: the model was run under the RCP 8.5 scenario) .
This spells trouble for global food security, research on which by the UN FAO estimates food production must increase by 70% just to feed the world’s population by 2050.
Ok, so maybe mass food shortages just don’t’ do it for you (maybe “too long-term”)…Ok, how about some potential doom of the contagious variety?
Seems a new and pneumonia-inducing virion has been found in a cave somewhere in southwestern China (where it should have stayed). Apparently, the new virus — called Mojiangparamyxovirus (MojV), named after the Hunnan province of its origin – resembles (genetically) a genus of viral pathogens known as henipaviruses (a combination of henta and nipah viruses), two of which are deadly to humans. But, intriguingly, it’s not being transmitted by the cave bats…but probably another troglodytic denizen.
Currently viewed as a “curiosity”, virologist Qi Jin, director of the State Key Laboratory for Molecular Virology and Genetic Engineering in Beijing, was cautious: “we have not established a direct relationship between human infection and MojV,” Jin is the lead researcher of the study, reported in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Photo (right): Courtesy of Qi Jin (via Sciencemag.org) Chinese disease sleuths at work in the cave in Mojiang.
The Rise & Fall of Civilization…Apo-collapse Soon, Says NASA
Well, this certainly has gotten some decent Web coverage; nothing like doom-and-gloom from our usually grounded thinkers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Some skeptical folks have suggested the direness of the prediction reflects the recent decline it the Space Agency’s budget, due to “austerity” and sequestration type stuff. But that’s just as likely to be ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand reactionism, as it is to be true. NASA, after all, got us to the moon and back; they are, in fact, rocket scientists.
Using a new multi-disciplinary computer model called ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY), the GSFC scientist take a look at the historical data showing that, far from being fringe speculation, ”the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history” and that “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.” According to the HANDY model’s findings, this holds true even for complex modern civilizations. The study was conducted by a team of natural and social scientists led by mathematician Safa Motesharri of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (supported by the NSF), and is to be published in the journal Ecological Economics.
Things to Wear During the Apocalypse When You’re (faced with the) UnDead…#1 – Wear ‘Death Cologne’
Zombies, according to urban rumor, are attracted to the smell of fresh flesh — the kind found on living humans — which presumably keeps their revenant forms animated. Thus it would seem logical that the opposite of living flesh smell — a corpuscular one — would have a repellant effect on the walking dead.
Developed by chemist Rychelle Burkes, Ph. D, the noxious body sent is a combination of two well-named chemical compounds (types of polyamines): putrescine and cadaverine which are responsible for the repellant odor we give off when we die. According to Dr. Burkes, adding a dash of methanethiol (which smells like rotten eggs) give the cologne it’s final kick. It’s the only thing sure to ward off the undead. And where will these putrescent amines come from? E. Coli bacteria, of course, the bacterial bugs commonly found in our colons will be put to work as microbial chemical factories. Ahh, yes, tiny, living beings serving a higher purpose…No word when the scent will hit a drug store near you.
Every year on this day since 1993, the community of nations has focused on the importance of fresh water and advocated for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Severe droughts experienced recently in places like the American West, the Horn of Africa, Russia, China, and Australia have highlighted the fact that humans are rapidly using
I can’t tell for sure if the guys in this video are making fun of Elon Musk or just having fun with him, but they are definitely making fun of almost everyone else famous in the video (barring Copernicus), so I have a feeling they are. Odd, considering he offers two of the best solutions [&hellip
The tremendous drought in Texas and the Southwest that I wrote about in early April continues on (almost 50% of Texas is experience “exceptional” drought now, the highest level of drought — “unprecedented” according to experts). Furthermore, it has expanded and is affecting even more important U.S. farming areas.
One of the biggest weapons in GMO companies’ arsenal is the claim they make repeatedly that genetically modified (GM) crops are needed to help feed to world in the face of global climate change. There’s one problem with this claim, though — it’s total greenwashing and untrue.
In January, February, and March, I discussed the link between climate change and rising food prices. Well, there was big news out of Texas recently bringing us back to that topic yet again. Texas is experiencing its worst drought in 44 years and it is damaging the state’s wheat crop. This is driving up the price of wheat and meat (ranchers have had to reduce the size of their herds).
These days, living in a global village of sorts, we can easily take for granted the wide variety of foods we have access to and relatively low food prices. However, as the United States Agricultural & Food Law and Policy Blog (USAFLPB) notes, global food supply may be approaching its limit, we are currently seeing considerable price increases, and we could see much more in the future.