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Warming boosted food production during the Little Ice Age

27 Apr 2022 | Science Notes

In our recent video on the Little Ice Age we discussed evidence that cooling was bad for society and warming was good, in terms both of food production and of the frequency of natural disasters. This connection may sound like common sense. But the climate alarmists are convinced that warming over the next century will be devastating for world agriculture, among other things. At some point you’d have thought the steady rise in agricultural output over the past 60 years would convince them that warming is beneficial, but if not, maybe a new study from a team led by Fredrik Ljungvist of Stockholm University will. The researchers put together the largest collection ever assembled of grain price data from 1500 to 1800 from all over Europe, and they looked at how food prices related to temperature records over the same period. They found a significant correlation, in that food prices fell when the weather warmed as supply expanded, and prices rose when it got cold and crops did less well. So unless you like scarce expensive food, warming wins.

The authors of the study pointed out that people have long suspected climate affects grain production enough to change market prices. But the link hasn’t always been observable in historical data. And since climate can be quite variable on short time scales and other factors like wars and disease can dominate over short periods or in specific places, they decided to assemble a data set covering a vast amount of land over a three-hundred-year interval.

They report finding a very significant correlation: “A highly significant negative grain price–temperature relationship (i.e. colder = high prices and vice versa) is found across Europe.” Interestingly, however, they did not find a role for rainfall. They also found no link between sunspot cycles and grain prices, although they did find some evidence that the sun correlates with climate, meaning the sun does have an indirect effect on agriculture through temperature.

So warming was good for European agriculture from 1500-1800, and to the extent there’s been warming since 1960 it has also corresponded with increasing global agricultural output. But starting next year that process will go into reverse and warming will henceforth be bad. Computers say.

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