1 Degree

My last two posts have been somewhat doom and gloom, but I found this quite interesting so I had to talk about it.

You may or may not know that at certain temperatures weird things happen with various substances. Let’s take water for example. We all know what happens to water at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns into ice. What is another mystery is that is also expands as it freezes. Scientists are not really sure why this happens and it is one of the few, if the only, liquid substances that expands as it freezes. Which makes it quite unique. Something also interesting happens at 212 degrees Fahrenheit with water, it boils. While I am sure this is certainly interesting it is mostly common knowledge.

What else is quite interesting is that at 33 degrees Fahrenheit water does not freeze, it is certainly cold, but will not form ice crystals. Same on the flip side when it comes to boiling water. At 211 the water is very hot, but it will not boil until it reaches 212. A single degree is very important as you can see. Another crazy thing is what is called super fluidity, which is pretty cool. If you take Helium down to 2 degrees above absolute 0 it becomes a super fluid which basically means it has zero viscosity. This gives the liquid some very interesting qualities.

Pretty strange. But again that one degree can have some very strange effects when it comes to cooling or heating certain substances.

Recently I came across this article that talks about global warming and or climate change, whatever you want to call it. It is pretty interesting and does create some fascinating talking points. This article discusses that even a single drop in temperature can drastically change both our behavior as well as crop yields. From the article: What they found was that a single degree of temperature change came along with drops of 9-13% in crop yields of both soybeans and corn. That may not come from as a surprise to anyone who is reading this, but that is quite a big difference for a single degree. A single degree can change crop yields about 10%, that is pretty amazing in terms of the impact it could have on our species ability to cultivate food.

What is also interesting is the behavioral aspect of this. The article also states that this single degree can affect how we react to the temperature in terms of planting. The article is very brief so it does not go into much detail but basically, from what I can gather, says that the psychological impact of this one degree resulting in a 10% less yield could cause farmers to plant less crops or none at all the following year. I guess the idea is that it may not be worth it if the yield, and or the money, is not going to be there in the end.

From the article: People sometimes scoff at the meaning of a one-degree temperature rise, saying that no one will really feel the difference between a 30-degree day and a 29-degree day. And that’s true in the moment—they do, from a weather-standpoint feel about the same. But it’s not about weather, it’s about what that rise in temperature does to the world around us, and—especially on farms where a single degree is enough to change how things grow—it’s enough to radically change how we live.

While this is somewhat interesting, I think there is a level of common sense and basic economics that also needs to be introduced into the study. If I pay X for something hoping that in a few months I can sell it for X+1, but instead it sells for X-1, then I obviously will not do that same deal again. Farmers plant these crops in hopes of making money, plain and simple. However, if the crop yields 10% less than they expected, when the farmer goes to market they will probably make 10% less in profit. That is a pretty big hit. So again I doubt they will be eager to jump back in to planting the same thing again. But this could have been a one off season, which happens sometimes in the unpredictable world of farming. I see that they are trying to make the connection of the one degree and the reduction of crop yields, but as I stated I am not sure that there is a strong correlation there. Obviously more research needs to be done.

I would think that it would take multiple consecutive bad yields and or years for famers to abandon planting all together. The study seems to claim otherwise, but it is also an extremely small sample size, which the study admits. I also think that there are too many variables at play to specifically say that that is what is happening. I do not disagree that a single degree of temperature can affect the crop yield, however I think that farming in general is changing and that will play a part as well. This study was done in Brazil, but here in the US farming which use to be one of the staple professions is slowly being phased out. All the little farms are being bought out and the big players end up owning these massive farms of hundreds of thousands of acres. It is farming on a whole other level where everything is more efficient and yields are the highest possible, which in turn creates the greatest profit. Sadly I think this is probably the only way to sustain farming for the future. I am not saying this is ideal by any means, but from a strictly economic stand point I think it is the only way. The problem is that then you get into the food itself and the quality of what the consumer is eating, these important aspects are being left behind, but that is a whole other blog post.

I am not saying that this study is wrong, and I certainly do not want to get lumped into those in the global warming debate. All I am saying is that I think there are more variables at play here than to say that this one degree of temperature is totally to blame. My takeaway that is the most interesting is that the one degree as a 10% drop in yields. But what I am not sure about is if that 10% is the result of the yield itself or are those that did not even plant anything included in that statistic. I think that would certainly skew that percentage. Regardless the article also states that by the year 2050 temperatures in this area of Brazil are projected to rise by 2 degrees. That could result in a yield reduction of near 20% or more! That is truly scary.

Manik

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