Huntsman Flirts with Climate Craziness, then Returns to Scientific Reality

Former Governor Jon Huntsman is suffering from a case of always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride syndrome. He has watched as nearly every other GOP presidential candidate has taken a spin with frontrunner Mitt Romney.

First Tea Party darlings Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry had their chance to dance around the floor. Then Herman Cain was delivered into the spotlight with his economics-by-mnemonics plan. Now Newt Gingrich has stepped in for his match with Romney.

All the while, Huntsman has remained a wallflower. The man without an expense account at Tiffany’s or extramarital skeletons in his closet can’t get any love. Maybe that’s why he tried flirting with the Tea Party crowd this week.

For months, Huntsman has been the voice of reason in a chorus of denial. Back in August, he famously tweeted: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

But in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Huntsman started to hedge. When asked if he thought climate change was caused by human activity. He replied: “I don't know -- I'm not a scientist, nor am I a physicist. But I would defer to science in that discussion. And I would say that the scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description or explanation about what might lie beneath all of this. But there's not enough information right now to be able to formulate policies in terms of addressing it overall.”

The reaction was instant: the blogosphere lit up with reports of this apparent reversal on an issue that has become a conservative litmus test. The next day, Huntsman was out trying to set the record straight.

“Let me be very clear on this,” he said. “There is no change. I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”

Either Huntsman’s words were genuinely taken out of context or the response to those words made him realize he has more to lose than gain by toying with the Tea Party.

Huntsman knows the White House will be won with the help of independent voters, not the radical fringe. In August, Huntsman called Governor’s Perry’s climate denial a “serious problem” for the GOP. He told ABC news in August: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.”

Huntsman has built his brand on this reasoned approach. He is the experienced businessman, governor, and ambassador who projects an air of calm, assured leadership. The trouble is so does Romney, and in a race for the White House, you only need one business leader with moderate leanings. Romney staked out this ground first, and Huntsman will have a hard time pushing him aside.

With Huntsman standing in Romney’s shadow, the public hasn’t gotten a chance to learn as much about him as I would like. He hasn’t been put to the scrutiny that the other rivals for Romney’s spot have been given, and I think that’s shame.

I would like to find more about the single GOP candidate who respects climate science, for on this issue, Huntsman actually represents a majority of independent and Republican voters.

A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independent voters agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, up from 41 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 65 percent of all Americans agree that climate change is a very serious problem facing the nation.

Huntsman seems to understand this, and that’s why I hope he gets his chance to be a GOP bride.

Huntsman Flirts with Climate Craziness, then Returns to Scientific Reality

Former Governor Jon Huntsman is suffering from a case of always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride syndrome. He has watched as nearly every other GOP presidential candidate has taken a spin with frontrunner Mitt Romney.

First Tea Party darlings Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry had their chance to dance around the floor. Then Herman Cain was delivered into the spotlight with his economics-by-mnemonics plan. Now Newt Gingrich has stepped in for his match with Romney.

All the while, Huntsman has remained a wallflower. The man without an expense account at Tiffany’s or extramarital skeletons in his closet can’t get any love. Maybe that’s why he tried flirting with the Tea Party crowd this week.

For months, Huntsman has been the voice of reason in a chorus of denial. Back in August, he famously tweeted: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

But in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Huntsman started to hedge. When asked if he thought climate change was caused by human activity. He replied: “I don't know -- I'm not a scientist, nor am I a physicist. But I would defer to science in that discussion. And I would say that the scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description or explanation about what might lie beneath all of this. But there's not enough information right now to be able to formulate policies in terms of addressing it overall.”

The reaction was instant: the blogosphere lit up with reports of this apparent reversal on an issue that has become a conservative litmus test. The next day, Huntsman was out trying to set the record straight.

“Let me be very clear on this,” he said. “There is no change. I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”

Either Huntsman’s words were genuinely taken out of context or the response to those words made him realize he has more to lose than gain by toying with the Tea Party.

Huntsman knows the White House will be won with the help of independent voters, not the radical fringe. In August, Huntsman called Governor’s Perry’s climate denial a “serious problem” for the GOP. He told ABC news in August: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.”

Huntsman has built his brand on this reasoned approach. He is the experienced businessman, governor, and ambassador who projects an air of calm, assured leadership. The trouble is so does Romney, and in a race for the White House, you only need one business leader with moderate leanings. Romney staked out this ground first, and Huntsman will have a hard time pushing him aside.

With Huntsman standing in Romney’s shadow, the public hasn’t gotten a chance to learn as much about him as I would like. He hasn’t been put to the scrutiny that the other rivals for Romney’s spot have been given, and I think that’s shame.

I would like to find more about the single GOP candidate who respects climate science, for on this issue, Huntsman actually represents a majority of independent and Republican voters.

A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independent voters agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, up from 41 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 65 percent of all Americans agree that climate change is a very serious problem facing the nation.

Huntsman seems to understand this, and that’s why I hope he gets his chance to be a GOP bride.

World Grain Production Down in 2010, But Recovering

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

World grain production fell in 2010, exacerbating a global food situation already plagued by rising prices, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. Despite record rice and maize yields around the world, global wheat production dropped substantially enough to bring total grain output to just below 2008 levels.

Maize, wheat, and rice provide nearly two-thirds of the global human diet and serve as critical inputs for both animal feed and industrial products. The significance of these crops guarantees that a decline in production will produce ripple effects throughout the global economy, particularly as increased food prices continue to take a toll on the world’s neediest populations. Overall, rice and wheat production have tripled since the 1960s, and maize production has quadrupled, despite global acreage of these crops increasing by only 35 percent.

Production increased worldwide, but there was greater reliance on irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides—all of which take resources, can be costly, and may cause substantial environmental degradation. As farmers have begun to witness these impacts, many have been forced to abandon their fields because of infertile soil.

Nevertheless, preliminary data for 2011 indicate that grain production is recovering from the 2010 slump. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently forecast that cereal output in 2011–12 will be 3 percent higher than in 2010–11.

Grain remains the foundation of the world’s diet, and the failure of harvests in recent years to keep pace with growth in meat consumption and population is worrisome. It’s important that we identify and implement more inventive and sustainable strategies in grain production. Reducing the proportion of grain harvests lost to weather disasters and waste or diverted for corn ethanol production and animal feed is among such strategies. It’s also important that we prioritize grain availability for those who need it most.

Recent growth in agricultural production has been uneven. In many regions, climate change has brought irregular weather patterns such as rising temperatures, violent storms, and flash flooding. In Russia, where severe drought has plagued large farming regions, overall wheat yields plunged 40 percent in 2010, compared to a decline of only 5 percent worldwide. Subsequently, Russia—the fourth largest wheat exporter in 2009—banned all wheat exports, severely disrupting world grain markets. Poor weather took its toll elsewhere as well: El Niño in the west Pacific, for example, brought rice production down significantly in the Philippines, already the world’s largest food importer.

Rising demand for ethanol fuel, which in the United States is produced almost exclusively from corn feedstock, is having an impact on grain prices as well. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 20 percent of the increase in maize prices between 2007 and 2008 was due to domestic ethanol demand. Demand for grains is also rising in countries such as China and India, where growing middle classes are adopting more diverse diets.

Farming has always been an uncertain business that depends in large part on the weather, and it could be entering an even more difficult phase. As the global climate changes, the warmer, less stable atmospheric conditions could be detrimental for food production. In an already fragile economy, continued volatile prices and unpredictable weather-induced shortages are sure to negatively affect both producers and consumers in developing countries.

Further highlights from the research:

  • Between 1960 and 2010, annual global grain production increased from 643 million tons to 2.2 billion tons.
  • U.S. maize (corn) production was down 5 percent in 2010 due to drought in the east and excessive rain in the west. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of maize, accounting for 56 percent of global exports from 2006 to 2010.
  • According to the FAO’s Cereal Price Index (CPI), which uses 2002–04 prices for wheat, rice and maize as its baseline (100), food prices increased to an index level of 185 in August 2010 and set a record at 265 in April 2011.
  • Forty percent of the global increase in maize prices in 2000–07 was due to worldwide demand for ethanol, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Additional reasons for the jump in food prices include the weakening of the U.S. dollar, speculation on grain prices, and possible climate change impacts.
  • Stanford University researchers who created a model to determine how changing weather patterns affect crop yields found a 2.9 percent increase in global rice production as a result of greater precipitation, but losses of 3.8 percent for wheat and 2.5 percent for maize.

World Grain Production Down in 2010, But Recovering

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

World grain production fell in 2010, exacerbating a global food situation already plagued by rising prices, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. Despite record rice and maize yields around the world, global wheat production dropped substantially enough to bring total grain output to just below 2008 levels.

Maize, wheat, and rice provide nearly two-thirds of the global human diet and serve as critical inputs for both animal feed and industrial products. The significance of these crops guarantees that a decline in production will produce ripple effects throughout the global economy, particularly as increased food prices continue to take a toll on the world’s neediest populations. Overall, rice and wheat production have tripled since the 1960s, and maize production has quadrupled, despite global acreage of these crops increasing by only 35 percent.

Production increased worldwide, but there was greater reliance on irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides—all of which take resources, can be costly, and may cause substantial environmental degradation. As farmers have begun to witness these impacts, many have been forced to abandon their fields because of infertile soil.

Nevertheless, preliminary data for 2011 indicate that grain production is recovering from the 2010 slump. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently forecast that cereal output in 2011–12 will be 3 percent higher than in 2010–11.

Grain remains the foundation of the world’s diet, and the failure of harvests in recent years to keep pace with growth in meat consumption and population is worrisome. It’s important that we identify and implement more inventive and sustainable strategies in grain production. Reducing the proportion of grain harvests lost to weather disasters and waste or diverted for corn ethanol production and animal feed is among such strategies. It’s also important that we prioritize grain availability for those who need it most.

Recent growth in agricultural production has been uneven. In many regions, climate change has brought irregular weather patterns such as rising temperatures, violent storms, and flash flooding. In Russia, where severe drought has plagued large farming regions, overall wheat yields plunged 40 percent in 2010, compared to a decline of only 5 percent worldwide. Subsequently, Russia—the fourth largest wheat exporter in 2009—banned all wheat exports, severely disrupting world grain markets. Poor weather took its toll elsewhere as well: El Niño in the west Pacific, for example, brought rice production down significantly in the Philippines, already the world’s largest food importer.

Rising demand for ethanol fuel, which in the United States is produced almost exclusively from corn feedstock, is having an impact on grain prices as well. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 20 percent of the increase in maize prices between 2007 and 2008 was due to domestic ethanol demand. Demand for grains is also rising in countries such as China and India, where growing middle classes are adopting more diverse diets.

Farming has always been an uncertain business that depends in large part on the weather, and it could be entering an even more difficult phase. As the global climate changes, the warmer, less stable atmospheric conditions could be detrimental for food production. In an already fragile economy, continued volatile prices and unpredictable weather-induced shortages are sure to negatively affect both producers and consumers in developing countries.

Further highlights from the research:

  • Between 1960 and 2010, annual global grain production increased from 643 million tons to 2.2 billion tons.
  • U.S. maize (corn) production was down 5 percent in 2010 due to drought in the east and excessive rain in the west. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of maize, accounting for 56 percent of global exports from 2006 to 2010.
  • According to the FAO’s Cereal Price Index (CPI), which uses 2002–04 prices for wheat, rice and maize as its baseline (100), food prices increased to an index level of 185 in August 2010 and set a record at 265 in April 2011.
  • Forty percent of the global increase in maize prices in 2000–07 was due to worldwide demand for ethanol, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Additional reasons for the jump in food prices include the weakening of the U.S. dollar, speculation on grain prices, and possible climate change impacts.
  • Stanford University researchers who created a model to determine how changing weather patterns affect crop yields found a 2.9 percent increase in global rice production as a result of greater precipitation, but losses of 3.8 percent for wheat and 2.5 percent for maize.

World Grain Production Down in 2010, But Recovering

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

World grain production fell in 2010, exacerbating a global food situation already plagued by rising prices, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. Despite record rice and maize yields around the world, global wheat production dropped substantially enough to bring total grain output to just below 2008 levels.

Maize, wheat, and rice provide nearly two-thirds of the global human diet and serve as critical inputs for both animal feed and industrial products. The significance of these crops guarantees that a decline in production will produce ripple effects throughout the global economy, particularly as increased food prices continue to take a toll on the world’s neediest populations. Overall, rice and wheat production have tripled since the 1960s, and maize production has quadrupled, despite global acreage of these crops increasing by only 35 percent.

Production increased worldwide, but there was greater reliance on irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides—all of which take resources, can be costly, and may cause substantial environmental degradation. As farmers have begun to witness these impacts, many have been forced to abandon their fields because of infertile soil.

Nevertheless, preliminary data for 2011 indicate that grain production is recovering from the 2010 slump. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently forecast that cereal output in 2011–12 will be 3 percent higher than in 2010–11.

Grain remains the foundation of the world’s diet, and the failure of harvests in recent years to keep pace with growth in meat consumption and population is worrisome. It’s important that we identify and implement more inventive and sustainable strategies in grain production. Reducing the proportion of grain harvests lost to weather disasters and waste or diverted for corn ethanol production and animal feed is among such strategies. It’s also important that we prioritize grain availability for those who need it most.

Recent growth in agricultural production has been uneven. In many regions, climate change has brought irregular weather patterns such as rising temperatures, violent storms, and flash flooding. In Russia, where severe drought has plagued large farming regions, overall wheat yields plunged 40 percent in 2010, compared to a decline of only 5 percent worldwide. Subsequently, Russia—the fourth largest wheat exporter in 2009—banned all wheat exports, severely disrupting world grain markets. Poor weather took its toll elsewhere as well: El Niño in the west Pacific, for example, brought rice production down significantly in the Philippines, already the world’s largest food importer.

Rising demand for ethanol fuel, which in the United States is produced almost exclusively from corn feedstock, is having an impact on grain prices as well. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 20 percent of the increase in maize prices between 2007 and 2008 was due to domestic ethanol demand. Demand for grains is also rising in countries such as China and India, where growing middle classes are adopting more diverse diets.

Farming has always been an uncertain business that depends in large part on the weather, and it could be entering an even more difficult phase. As the global climate changes, the warmer, less stable atmospheric conditions could be detrimental for food production. In an already fragile economy, continued volatile prices and unpredictable weather-induced shortages are sure to negatively affect both producers and consumers in developing countries.

Further highlights from the research:

  • Between 1960 and 2010, annual global grain production increased from 643 million tons to 2.2 billion tons.
  • U.S. maize (corn) production was down 5 percent in 2010 due to drought in the east and excessive rain in the west. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of maize, accounting for 56 percent of global exports from 2006 to 2010.
  • According to the FAO’s Cereal Price Index (CPI), which uses 2002–04 prices for wheat, rice and maize as its baseline (100), food prices increased to an index level of 185 in August 2010 and set a record at 265 in April 2011.
  • Forty percent of the global increase in maize prices in 2000–07 was due to worldwide demand for ethanol, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Additional reasons for the jump in food prices include the weakening of the U.S. dollar, speculation on grain prices, and possible climate change impacts.
  • Stanford University researchers who created a model to determine how changing weather patterns affect crop yields found a 2.9 percent increase in global rice production as a result of greater precipitation, but losses of 3.8 percent for wheat and 2.5 percent for maize.

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