Anthony Watts' current stand-in at WUWT, Eric Worrall, has written an article (archived here) about how know-nothing Eric just knows the scientists are wrong, and even if they are right it will all go away - by magic. He's talking about something reported as a "world first" discovery by scientists at an agricultural research station in Horsham, Victoria (Australia).
Even though by now I can probably be considered a slightly jaded denier watcher, the illogic of deniers can still surprise. Every now and again a particularly silly article like that one from Eric, reminds me that if deniers are bad at one thing, it's clear thinking.
Barley yellow dwarf virus increases in a wheat cultivar as CO2 increases
Eric picked up on an agricultural study, in which Dr Piotr Trêbicki reported that increased levels of atmospheric CO2 were associated with an increase incidence of barley yellow dwarf virus in a wheat cultivar. The cultivar they tested was the one most commonly planted in one of the main wheat-growing regions in Victoria - the Wimmera. The result was that the disease increased by 30%. This would translate to a not insignificant decrease in productivity - with consequent impacts on the local and national economy as well as the world supply of wheat.
A 30% increase in the disease is not to be confused with a 30% drop in productivity. The loss from barley yellow dwarf virus varies. Locally, in Victoria, it's reported that losses average around 2% of the crop. Victoria usually produces somewhere between 1m and 3m tonnes of wheat a year, with an occasional bumper year and the slightly more occasional low year. Let's take 2 million tonnes. A 30% increased loss would mean the loss from the virus would increase from around 40,000 tonnes to around 56,000 tonnes a year. At, say, $250/tonne that means the annual loss would increase from around $10m a year to $13m a year for the state. That's not counting losses outside Victoria. (This is back of the envelope to illustrate the scale of the problem. Don't use these numbers as fact.)
Nor are losses spread evenly across producers. If a crop gets infected, a farmer can lose anything up to 80% of her crop. Not just a year's income, but all the costs involved in planting and growing the crop go down the gurgler.
As you can see, for the cost of some plant breeding, wheat growers could save around $30 million in lost production every decade. It seems like a good trade to me.
The disease isn't limited to Victoria or to wheat. Yellow dwarf viruses are said to be the common virus diseases of cereals world-wide. Therefore finding a solution to the problem would be important for world food production.
It will go away by magic - or let someone else deal with the problem
Of course I'm not criticising Eric's arithmetic skills. He didn't show any for me to criticise. It's his confused magical thinking that I noticed.
Compare and contrast what the lead scientist, Dr Piotr Trêbicki said about the finding, with what dumb denier Eric Worrall said.
Piotr Trêbicki, senior scientistDr Trêbicki said he hoped the new findings would help develop crop varieties better suited to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Eric Worrall, denierDr Trêbicki’s suggestion that we might be able to infer the problems people will face in 2050, based on his study, seems implausible. History is littered with embarrassing mistakes, made by people who tried to predict the problems which would be faced by future generations.
Piotr is the one taking a realistic, positive approach to the problem he discovered. As he said, this discovery will help plan future research to overcome the problem. For example, there are researchers developing ways to trigger resistance to viruses in wheat, through genetic engineering.
Eric, by contrast, seems to take the view that past problems that were seen were avoided by magic. He doesn't understand that many potential problems are foreseen, action is taken so as to minimise and sometimes completely prevent what would have happened if no action were taken.
Imagine for a moment if there were no family planning programs. Imagine if there were no schools. Imagine if no-one had bothered about the Y2k bug. Or at the local level, if no-one had anticipated that south western WA and Perth would run out of water, and no desal plants were built. Imagine if no-one had planned for waste disposal - waste management and disposal is a huge problem world-wide, but it could have been much, much worse.
Now imagine if the world at large took heed of the Eric's and no-one bothered to follow up on these findings. Imagine that this didn't just happen with barley yellow dwarf virus and wheat. Imagine if the research had never been done, and wheat production started falling as the world's population grew. Think about other cereals, too. Think about the price of food, famine, poverty, civil wars, international wars - and the rest.
Then breathe a sigh of relief that there are many, many scientists working away quietly in universities and other research centres, planning ahead and determining what problems and benefits will arise in a new high CO2 world. And working on solutions.
This head-in-the-sand approach to ignore real warnings is one of the characteristics of deniers. It led to cartoons of ostriches - though I think the ostrich is much smarter than the average climate science denier.
From the WUWT comments
Kamikazedave should stop reading WUWT if he doesn't want to read articles about CO2.
April 24, 2015 at 4:57 am
Why don’t these clowns make it easy on themselves and us by just telling us what carbon dioxide will NOT do.
johnmarshall makes an illogical jump, assuming that because many plants will survive with less water it means that all the wheat growing areas will be drier. After reading WUWT for a while you get used to the way some people's brains (don't) work.
April 24, 2015 at 5:06 am
Increased CO2 in the atmosphere gives plants a reduced water need. I would have thought that dryer conditions would reduce fungus and other infections.
Perhaps Dr. Idso will know through his extensive experiments on plants.
higley7 has fallen for the "CO2 readings are wrong" trick put about by some denialati several years ago. You'd think by now that such myths would have died, wouldn't you.
April 24, 2015 at 5:07 am
” atmospheric CO2 levels, from 250 – 280ppm in the 1800s, ”
DO not forget that the 80,000 direct chemical bottle CO2 readings from over 200 years, assembled by Ernst Beck, clearly showed that CO2 has gone up and down over the last two centuries, being higher than now during three periods, the latest being in the 1940s when it was as high as 550 ppm CO2. The other two period were in the early and mid 1800s. 400 ppm was not unusual.
It was a case of cherry-picked data when Calendar took this wide-ranging data and chose only certain low values, as “he knew” CO2 has been low and the vast majority of the data, some collected by Nobel Laureate chemists, were discounted on no basis. From this false set of data, he published his false graph and essentially claimed, dishonestly, that CO2 had been historically low for hundreds of years, until humans started adding it to the atmosphere in 1950.Does he really and truly think that somehow, over a couple of years, atmospheric CO2 could possibly have risen and fallen by more than 200 ppm? By what mechanism could he try to explain that magical feat?
sciguy54 goes for wacky alarmist, talking about "wide-spread panic" setting in and an "apocalypse". He's not familiar with agricultural science - or probably any science at all. He's also a conspiracy theorist with his "fill in your own ideas".
April 24, 2015 at 5:39 am
The good news is that these tests require verification before wide-spread panic sets in, the researchers need to get a “grasp on the mechanism”, and science has overcome many crop issues in the past and will likely do so in the future.
The report was as vague as it could possibly be and neglected to include a link to the actual study. Fill in your own ideas for possible motivation behind those failures.
The phrase ” aphid-spread disease common in plants” would cause me to guess that the virus vector would be aphids. Did the “test conditions” simulate normal insecticide application? This looks like normal ag-school stuff, not a sign of the coming apocalypse.
Western Victorian scientists make world-first climate change finding - report on ABC Rural by Brett Worthington , 24 April 2015 - with a recorded interview worth listening to.
Helping wheat defend itself against damaging viruses - Science Daily article about genetic engineering against viruses, 18 November, 2014