Showing posts from July, 2012

A New Normal?

Over at G-FEED , short for Global Food, Environment and Economics Dynamics,  a new site and blog by an interdisciplinary group of scholars, David Lobell has offered his first post in which he considers whether this summer's heat wave is "the new normal." I've done rough back-of-the-envelope extrapolations from earlier work that suggest, with respect to temperatures, this summer will be the new normal (average or expected outcome) in about 10-15 years.  Rainfall is a different story, but check out G-FEED...

David Lobell on World News with Diane Sawyer

Last night my colleague David Lobell was on World News with Diane Sawyer. video platform video management video solutions video player

Tracking the Heat and Drought

Most commentators attribute this year's bad crop progress with drought--a lack of rainfall.  The problem with traditional drought measures is that they don't predict crop outcomes especially well.  Our measure of extreme heat--degree days above 29C--predicts crop outcomes a lot better. Extreme heat is correlated with traditional drought measures, but only very roughly.  But it probably has a stronger association with water stress in plants, since there tends to more evaporation and evapotransporation when it's very hot ( vapor pressure deficit increases).  Also, heat can have its own direct damaging effects on plants. So, here's the current situation for extreme heat and precipitation the US relative to history since 1960.  We obtain a single nationwide index by weighting counties by trend production.  County level measures are derived from our own daily fine-scale (4km grid) weather data, which combines PRISM monthly data with daily weather station data.

Actually, it's not Obamacare for Our Corn

It was a great line by Steven Colbert and Bruce Babcock.  But it's not true.  Federal crop insurance has way more Big Government and a lot less efficiency than Obamacare. A few differences: 1. Obamacare has subsidies for low-income households; crop insurance has huge subsidies for all the farmers, regardless of farm size or farm household wealth. 2. Obamacare lets the private market determine premiums and pay indemnities; crop insurance policies and premiums are all set by the government, and the government pays most indemnities, with private insurance companies basically getting fat commissions for marketing government policies. 3. Obamacare requires everyone be insured, which forces pooling; crop insurance isn't mandatory, so they have to just crank up the subsidies.  In 1995 they tried to require enrollment in the insurance program in order to qualify for other kinds of subsidies, but farmers complained and so they rolled back this requirement.  They've also thr

Heat, Drought and the Cattle Cycle

News coverage of crop losses has actually has been pretty good. It has emphasized losses for consumers and gains for farmers, who are insured and get higher prices. But why do they always call it drought?  I know rainfall is well below normal, but it's the heat too. One interesting thing that I think I've brought up before on this blog:  In the short run meat prices can actually fall, as livestock farmers cull herds and some of their breeding stock.  Of course that blip in extra supply means less future supply and higher prices next year.  The resulting "cattle cycle" was historically emphasized by freshwater macro types looking for fundamental causes for business cycles.  I'll leave it to you to decide whether cattle cycles bear any resemblance to the macroeconomic business cycle we're currently experiencing. Since the lifecycle is shorter, chicken prices will rise sooner, as will eggs and dairy products.  Retail price increases won't be huge, thou

Obamacare for Our Corn

This has to be the funnest thing an agricultural economist could ever do... Great job Bruce!   The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c U.S. Agriculture & Drought Disaster - Bruce Babcock Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Fingerprinting Climate Change

I'd like to think I helped inspire Krugman to write his column today , since he linked here the other day from his blog.  Hardly anyone reads this thing, but if the right people read it, maybe it can have some second-hand impact?  This and my slightly easing schedule inspires me to try getting back to it. Hansen's climate dice paper shows how much the relative frequency of extremely warm temperatures has increased.  But how is it that scientists know warming is due to greenhouse gas concentrations (primarily CO2)? Earlier this summer I got to attend a workshop in Banff on climate change detection and attribution, a research area dedicated to precisely this question.  Besides a few token impacts guys like myself, the workshop was attended mainly by top people in detection and attribution.  It was interesting for me to see the technical side of this, which basically involves some sophisticated statistical modelling. The basic idea is to look at how the "fingerprint&quo

The Heat: Is it Weather or is it Climate Change?

Update 2: Even more kudos to Krugman for linking here and expanding on my first point.  It's amazing what a link from him does to visit numbers on this little ol' blog. Update: Kudos to Paul Krugman to drawing attention to the issue. So, the Midwest is getting crushed by heat and drought, and crop prices are reaching new record highs. I'm a little depressed but not at all surprised by this.  But that sentiment kind of matches everything in our economic, political and environmental world.  Aside from some major life changes and general busyness, it's probably a reason I haven't been blogging much---there's really not much to say that hasn't already been said many times. Anyhow, to reiterate a few basic points: 1. The usual politically-correct line is that we cannot tell whether its weather or climate change.  The weather fluctuates and heat waves happen. But the data show that the relative frequency of extreme events like this has increased treme