How Global Rice Farming Is Being Transformed by Climate Change – The New York Times

May 20, 2023

“Rice is in trouble as the Earth heats up, threatening the food and livelihood of billions of people. Sometimes there’s not enough rain when seedlings need water, or too much when the plants need to keep their heads above water. As the sea intrudes, salt ruins the crop. As nights warm, yields go down.

These hazards are forcing the world to find new ways to grow one of its most important crops. Rice farmers are shifting their planting calendars. Plant breeders are working on seeds to withstand high temperatures or salty soils. Hardy heirloom varieties are being resurrected.

And where water is running low, as it is in so many parts of the world, farmers are letting their fields dry out on purpose, a strategy that also reduces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that rises from paddy fields.”

David Lindsay: Excellent piece, and good comments, like this one:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC   May 20

If we develop a rice for the climate of 2030, how about that of 2040 or 2060 or 2100? The only normal we will see for a while will be continual change as temperature and sea level take their time to equilibrate with CO2 levels not seen for millions of years. The paper linked to below raises an interesting question regarding adaptation to long-term climate change. From the abstract: “Adaptation is the process of adjusting to climate change in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities associated with it. Most adaptation strategies are designed to adjust to a new climate state. However, despite our best efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, climate is likely to continue changing far into the future.” The paper uses the example of sea level rise, recently around 4-5mm per year, to show one example of long-term, continuous change in climate. “Over the next 1000 years, sea-level is projected to rise at an average rate of 3.44 cm yr−1, if all available fossil fuel resources are combusted and the CO2 released to the atmosphere.” Where would we rebuild our coastal cities, naval facilities and sea ports? There’d be no stable shoreline in any time scale of interest to humans. And regarding many other subjects like agriculture and infrastructure, a moving target is difficult to hit. 

21 Recommended

Nicholas Kristof | When One Almond Gulps 3.2 Gallons of Water – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist


“When interviewing people in their homes here, I didn’t have the heart to ask them if I could use the bathroom. There’s no water to spare, so some families flush only once a day.

As for showers, they’re rationed and timed: “You get in, you soap up, you turn the water off, and then when you’re done, you turn the water on and wash it off, and then you’re out,” said Cody Reim, who works in construction.

All this is because water has become scarce here this year, after the city of Scottsdale cut off this area from water it had supplied; it said it needed to conserve water for its own residents. The resulting crisis in these foothills outside Phoenix offers a glimpse of what more Americans may face unless we reconfigure how we manage water.

This is a crisis across the West, for the West was built on cheap water that is now running out from underpricing and overuse just as climate change is amplifying droughts.

Arizona lures retirees with lush golf courses, sometimes requiring as much as 200 million gallons of water per 18-hole golf course over a year. But the big user of water isn’t households, sprawling lawns, fountains, industry or golf courses. It’s farming.

One study found that 88 percent of water in 17 Western states was used by agriculture. Only 7 percent was consumed by homes. Alfalfa fields single-handedly drank up almost three times as much as all households.


An orchard stretching into the distance, with the trees surrounded by shallow water.
Almond trees in California’s San Joaquin Valley reflected in irrigation water.Credit…David Gomez/E+, via Getty Images

California produces a bounty of almonds, which gulp about 3.2 gallons of water for each almond, according to a 2019 study.

Researchers say that the Southwest is experiencing a megadrought that is the worst in at least 1,200 years. Wells have been drying up as far north as Oregon, and the Great Salt Lake in Utah has shrunk by two-thirds.”

” . . . . The Biden administration has proposed saving what’s left of the river by evenly cutting allotments to California, Arizona and Nevada, by as much as one-quarter.

A central problem is that water isn’t allocated by market price but inefficiently through a muddle of irrigation rights that were mostly awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis. This water is so cheap that there is little attempt to conserve or develop technical innovations to use less water.

Many of the shortages would disappear if water were rationed the way goods normally are in a market economy, by price: Farmers would not irrigate almond orchards if they had to buy 3.2 gallons of water at market rates to produce each almond.

Mostly we’re a market economy, but water allocation resembles a 1970s Soviet system, with the same lack of price signals and consequently the same inefficiency. Any rationalization of the system and raising of irrigation costs would be wrenching — consider a farm family that has gone into debt to plant a large almond orchard — but there is no other sensible path forward.”

Tulare Lake Returned in the Central Valley After California Storms – The New York Times


“CORCORAN, Calif. — It is no secret to locals that the heart of California’s Central Valley was once the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi River, dammed and drained into an empire of farms by the mid-20th century.

Still, even longtime residents have been staggered this year by the brute swiftness with which Tulare Lake has resurfaced: In less than three weeks, a parched expanse of 30 square miles has been transformed by furious storms into a vast and rising sea.

The lake’s rebirth has become a slow-motion disaster for farmers and residents in Kings County, home to 152,000 residents and a $2 billion agricultural industry that sends cotton, tomatoes, safflower, pistachios, milk and more around the planet. The wider and deeper Tulare Lake gets, the greater the risk that entire harvests will be lost, homes will be submerged and businesses will go under.

Across the region, the surprise barrage of atmospheric rivers that swept through California over the past three months already has saturated the ground, overflowed canals and burst through levees. The fear now is that record walls of snow in the southern Sierra Nevada will liquefy in the intensifying spring heat into a downhill torrent that will inundate the Central Valley.”

Opinion | The Colorado River Is Running Dry, but Nobody Wants to Talk About the Mud – The New York Times

Mr. Maharidge is a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


“It’s difficult to fathom how the Colorado River could possibly carve the mile-deep chasm that is the Grand Canyon. But if one thinks of the river as a flume of liquid sandpaper rubbing the land over millions of years, it begins to make sense. “The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools,” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.”

In 1963, humans stopped time, when the brand-new Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border cut off the reddish sediment that naturally eroded the Grand Canyon. Today the river runs vodka clear from the base of the dam.”

Earth to Hit Critical Warming Threshold by Early 2030s, Climate Panel ReportSays – by Brad Plumer – The New York Times


“Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday.

The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing. It says that global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels sometime around “the first half of the 2030s,” as humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas.

That number holds a special significance in global climate politics: Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, virtually every nation agreed to “pursue efforts” to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that point, scientists say, the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.

But Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age, and, with global fossil-fuel emissions setting records last year, that goal is quickly slipping out of reach.” . . . . .

David Lindsay: Excellent, but tragic report, thank you Brad Plumer. Here is a great comment, from one of my favorite commentors:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC  5h ago

Many people are simply unaware of the scale of the threat which climate change poses to humanity. The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. (graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level ) One amplifying feedback alone out of dozens, loss of albedo or heat reflectivity from Arctic summer sea ice melt, over the last several decades has been equivalent to 25 percent of the climate forcing of anthropogenic CO2. And that will continue to increase as that ice largely disappears by mid century. The Titanic sank because by the time the lookout called the warning the ship had too much momentum to turn. The Earth has a lot more momentum, e.g. we’ve already likely locked in at least 6 meters of sea level rise from the marine sectors of Greenland and West Antarctica’s ice sheets, and decade to decade warming in the near term is also virtually locked in. That momentum is building and the higher we let global temperatures rise the greater the risk of them going really high as amplifying feedbacks strengthen.

3 Replies259 Recommended

Margaret Renkl | The Beautiful and Terrifying Arrival of an Early Spring – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

NASHVILLE — At first I thought this winter’s strange weather was merely part of the boomerang pattern we contend with more and more frequently in these climate-troubled days — warm spells that might rightly be called hot spells, hard freezes that descend so quickly the plants don’t have time to adjust. On one January day, the temperature fell so far so fast here that many nonnative evergreen trees and shrubs froze to death. On one February day the high hit 85 degrees, destroying records and causing my woolly-haired dog to stretch out on the hardwood floor, panting. I hadn’t thought to schedule the groomer so early in the year.

But the uncommonly warm days of winter turned out not to be a warm spell, or even a hot spell. The uncommonly warm days of winter turned out to be spring.

Great Barrier Reef – National

The Great Barrier Reef, which extends for over 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) along the northeastern coast of Australia, is home to over 9,000 known species. There are likely many more—new discoveries are frequently being made, including a new species of branching coral discovered in 2017. This richness and uniqueness make the reef crucial for tourism and the Australian economy—it attracts at least 1.6 million visitors every year. Yet the reef’s true value, its biodiversity, extends far beyond dollars and cents.

The Great Barrier Reef consists of about 3,000 individual reefs of coral, and the biodiversity they contain is remarkable. There are animals you would probably recognize, such as dolphins, turtles, crocodiles, and sharks. There are also venomous sea snakes, brightly colored worms, and large algae. These species interact to form a complex and delicate ecosystem dependent on the coral reef for survival. Yet today the coral—and therefore all the organisms that depend on it—is gravely at risk.

Source: Great Barrier Reef

How Climate Change Is Making Tampons (and Lots of Other Stuff) More Expensive – Coral Davenport – The New York Times


“When the Agriculture Department finished its calculations last month, the findings were startling: 2022 was a disaster for upland cotton in Texas, the state where the coarse fiber is primarily grown and then sold around the globe in the form of tampons, cloth diapers, gauze pads and other products.

In the biggest loss on record, Texas farmers abandoned 74 percent of their planted crops — nearly six million acres — because of heat and parched soil, hallmarks of a megadrought made worse by climate change.

That crash has helped to push up the price of tampons in the United States 13 percent over the past year. The price of cloth diapers spiked 21 percent. Cotton balls climbed 9 percent and gauze bandages increased by 8 percent. All of that was well above the country’s overall inflation rate of 6.5 percent in 2022, according to data provided by the market research firms NielsonIQ and The NPD Group.

It’s an example of how climate change is reshaping the cost of daily life in ways that consumers might not realize.”

Opinion | This Winter, More Than Ever, We’re Skiing Straight to Hell – The New York Times

Mr. Hockenos is a Berlin-based writer.

“BERLIN — When I saw news photos of the bare slopes of the Alps’ storied ski resorts a few weeks ago, I felt relief. The green and brown mountains of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, where my family has skied at the Garmisch Classic ski resort for years, were a dismal sight, yes. But the snowless scene also warmed my heart: I had an excuse not to take my 12-year-old son downhill skiing during his school break.

This winter, as accelerating climate breakdown collides with inflation and Europe’s worst energy crisis since the 1970s, a downhill skiing trip presents an acute moral quandary for parents. Patronizing a dying industry that contributes so much to environmental collapse right at the moment we are finally beginning to turn away from fossil fuels feels absurd. But do I have the will to deny my child the pleasure of a winter sport in what could be its final seasons?”

Skipped Showers, Paper Plates: An Arizona Suburb’s Water Is Cut Off – The New York Times


RIO VERDE, Ariz. — Joe McCue thought he had found a desert paradise when he bought one of the new stucco houses sprouting in the granite foothills of Rio Verde, Ariz. There were good schools, mountain views and cactus-spangled hiking trails out the back door.

Then the water got cut off.