No, not that one, the olive oil industry. Evidently the Italian crop has collapsed because of… climate change. Never mind the infestation of “olive flies” or the invasive Xylella fastidiosa bacterium laying orchards waste. As usual on this issue there’s only ever one explanation.
As with the question of how much recent warming might be natural, a remarkable tunnel vision sets in around CO2. There are all kinds of factors affecting the olive crop and indeed the stories in question say things like, from the Daily Telegraph, “Italy faces the indignity of importing large quantities of olive oil after a combination of climate change, insect pests and disease has led to a dramatic drop in production.” But the headlines scream “climate change”, for instance the Guardian’s “Italy sees 57% drop in olive harvest as result of climate change, scientist says”.
The syllogism here seems to be: 1) We know Earth is warming 2) this bad thing happened 3) therefore humans caused it. It is difficult to disentangle this reasoning because of the remarkable number of interlocking errors, many of them involving circularity.
First, if the Earth is warming we do not know how much of it is induced by humans. Second, even if the Earth is warming and humans bear considerable responsibility we do not know that this particular bad thing is a result of it. Or rather, we only know it because of the disquietingly circular dogma that if something is bad warming caused it and if it’s good it happened in spite of warming and probably won’t last. Which is a dogma not a theory because it defies testing especially when causal mechanisms are not put forward for examination.
For the same reason it’s hard to test the proposition that if Earth is warming it will be catastrophic when the “evidence” we are confronted with is to attribute everything bad to warming by definition. You’d think even if warming were catastrophic, in a system as complex as the biosphere something good would come of it somewhere at least in the short run. But it’s very hard to find examples. (An article in the Swindon Advertiser did credit a summer heatwave with a bumper crop of British wine… but the word “climate” was nowhere to be found in it.)
It’s not even obvious how we’re meant to know what “warming” means when snowstorms and paralyzing cold spells are now cited as proof of it, and objections that such incidents sound like the sort of cold weather we were told is a thing of the past are dismissed with a patronizing sneer about weather not being the same as climate.
For instance, the Telegraph said “Spring frosts, extreme summer drought and a rainy autumn — all phenomena blamed on climate change by scientists — played havoc with last year’s olive harvest.” But are droughts and rain “blamed on climate change by scientists”? No, not even by those associated with the UN’s IPCC, a leading international alarmist body whose mandate is to find that warming is human-driven. The IPCC undertook a major study in 2012 that said, for instance (p. 241), “There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but it is not possible to attribute trends in the human impact of drought directly or just to these climatic trends because of the simultaneous change in the other drivers of drought impact.”
Despite which the Guardian threw in everything but the kitchen sink, saying “Olive trees across the Mediterranean have been hit by freak events that mirror climate change predictions – erratic rainfalls, early spring frosts, strong winds and summer droughts.” So rain and drought, cold and heat, even wind are all warming. (By the way, since people get very huffy about skeptics’ credentials, even when the skeptic is a distinguished atmospheric physicist in the case of Will Happer, the author of that Guardian piece is a sociologist by training.)
The Guardian went on to quote “Prof Riccardo Valentini, a director of the Euro-Mediterranean Center for climate change” that “’Freezing temperatures in the Mediterranean are anomalous for us. In any direction the extremes are important and indeed, they are predicted by climate change scenarios.’” Which again makes the theory hard to test since any outcome can serve as proof.
So, about those flies. The Telegraph’s relatively calm story continued “The 57 per cent reduction in production was the worst for 25 years…” which indicates that it’s not unprecedented. And “Olive trees have also been hit hard by infestations of a species of fly that burrows into olives and lays its eggs, rendering the fruit useless. The third major factor to have hammered the sector is a bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, which broke out in the southern region of Puglia and has killed hundreds of thousands of olive trees there. It is believed to have been accidentally introduced in exotic plants imported from Costa Rica several years ago. The bacterium is spread by an insect called the meadow spittlebug. Efforts to contain it have proved unsuccessful and the bacterium is spreading “inexorably” north, the [“Coldiretti, the national farmers’ association”] agricultural association said.”
Well that’s interesting. We have a decline in production that, while harmful, is far from unheard-of, and is being driven by a major bacterial pest plus a massive fly infestation. And alien species are increasingly known to be dangerous. Nature even warned back in November that “A vicious bacterium that is devastating southern Italy’s valuable olive groves is still spreading years after it was identified, because of opposition to measures meant to contain the pathogen.”
Opposition? The only thing that would make a fake climate change angle more amusing would be to discover that the underlying problem is exacerbated by environmental activists. And as if on cue, Nature reports: “Italy declared a state of emergency over the crisis in 2015. But quarantine efforts — which can involve uprooting beloved, ancient trees — have been opposed by environmentalists and some farmers, and stopped again most recently in May.”
After taking the actual causes into account you’d think there wasn’t much left for man-made climate change to explain even if we grant that it explains every kind of bad weather you can name including frost. Instead it’s all about climate change because, well, everything always is.
The National Post (link not available) reports that consumers might be duped by fake olive oil diluted with sunflower, palm or even peanut oil. It didn’t warn about fake science diluted with panic.