Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Nature Study exposes NGO’s Climate Smart Agriculture as Fraudulent!

"Understanding how the South Asian monsoon will change in response to global warming and resolving the uncertainties in projected changes are ‘demanding tasks’ for climate science.”
The extract is from a study published in the 24th June issue of the journal, Nature Climate Change” - a sister journal of the world's  most cited scientific journal - Nature. The study had been authored by Andrew Turner, National Centre for Atmospheric Science-Climate, University of Reading and co-authored by Hari Subramaniam Annamalai, International Pacific Research Centre, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Hawaii.
If we were to go by Oxfam’s policy document - Growing Better Future or ActionAid’s -On the Brink  or the ICRIER-Gene Campaign Policy Paper 16: 'Impact of Climate Agriculture & Food Security', all based on the so called Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) paradigm, we can’t be faulted to be left with an impression that CSA is a magic wand wherein all solutions are known and further these NGOs have actually the in situ capability to translate these into action!
But wait a minute. What did this new Nature Climate Change” study actually find? Let’s read their opening sentence once again:
“Understanding how the South Asian monsoon will change in response to global warming and resolving the uncertainties in projected changes are ‘demanding tasks’ for climate science.”
Translated:  Present “climate science” have  no clue of monsoon behaviour” because uncertainties are so huge that makes its prediction highly challenging!
If this being the case, how climate smart can these NGO agricultural solutions be?

So on what basis has the Nature Climate Change study made such a conclusion? This is what is given as an explanation:
Current state-of-the-art general circulation models have difficulty simulating the regional distribution of monsoon rainfall...

But, variations within each season, over timescales of a few days or weeks, often have large impacts on agriculture or water supply...

"Perhaps the single biggest scientific challenge is in understanding monsoon variability at intra-seasonal timescales (several weeks), the so-called active and break events in the monsoon, and how they will change in the future"...”

A few days ago, IndiaToday interviewed my Facebook pal, G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of Hyderabad, based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) on the issue of the monsoon playing truant. And this is what  Ramanjaneyulu expressed as the problem during this interview: 
"There are areas which are hit by drought every year, but still there is no contingency plan...The plan should be, say, if rain is delayed for 15 days, what is the plan B? If it is delayed for 30 days, what is plan C?"
I wrote back cheekily perhaps he should target his ire at NGOs like Oxfam, ActionAid or Gene Campaign, as only they could audaciously claim they were climate smarties and not government agencies like the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). I added that in the past farmers used to give specific names to weekly rainfall according to which they took decisions what crop and variety to plant. Thus in the past these decisions were made on the basis of soil fertility; irrigation potential and monsoon behaviour. Now the same decisions are driven by market or profit maximization impulses which makes monsoon forecasting, as difficult as it is, a prerequisite for climate smart agriculture.

But NGOs instead of developing monsoon forecasting skills choose to belittle the IMD’s chequered forecasting track record. Take for example Devinder Sharma who pompously projects himself as an International  Food Security Analyst in an article a couple of days in the Deccan Herald wrote:
In 2009 when India was faced with one of its worst droughts, the monsoon forecast was for an 'almost normal' rainfall season.

You must have heard of the meteorological department’s monsoon forecast. It promises to be a near normal monsoon season from June-September with rains expected to be 98 per cent of the long period average with a 5 per cent variation.

Sounds good.

But if you are a farmer, keep your fingers crossed. Instead of depending on the first monsoon forecast that was given out in April, I suggest you keep on praying before rain gods to be kind to you. Pray with folded hands that the rains do not deceive you once again as it did two years back in 2009. You haven’t yet recovered from the economic distress that the 2009 drought had inflicted, and if the monsoon fails again you will be in dire straits.”
By the same logic we can ask votaries of CSA such as Devinder Sharma, how then can they claim that their agriculture practices are climate smart even when they are unable to forecast monsoon behaviour. This trait cuts across all foreign funded NGOs. All pretend climate smartness even when they have no clue on how the monsoon will behave. If the IMD’s wrong monsoon forecasts can hurt farmers bad, even more so agricultural practices that are not aligned with monsoon behaviour, even if they are foolishly assumed as being so.

The Nature Climate Change” study goes further to  observe:
Current state-of-the-art general circulation models have difficulty simulating the regional distribution of monsoon rainfall”.
But it is the same GCM models that predict that global temperatures will increase 4-8 deg C by 2100, the primary problem that CSA bases itself to address.  If the GCM model is unreliable for seasonal forecasts, how then is it considered reliable for a 100 year forecast? The Nature Climate Change” study concludes:
“Models linking monsoon responses to global warming suggest a rise in monsoon rainfall, but there is a high degree of uncertainty in these projections. Observations from data sets from most areas indicate a declining trend or no change in monsoons, contrary to the projected rise.”
Climate is average weather for a period now taken as 30 years. Now if a model cannot predict this season’s monsoon, how climate smart can be the solutions based on such models? Rather than finding appropriate solutions to a changing climate, all these NGOs have to offer are standardized solutions which are assumed as being appropriate for whatever directions the climate shifts! And they call this illogical outlook - “Sustainable Development”!

So next time you hear a foreign funded NGO staff waxing eloquent of CSA, you should now be able to recognize them for what they really are - either imbecile idiots parroting lines that they have no clue about or just sleek PR artists aiming to con you!

To read more details of the Nature Climate Change” study, click here


  1. Yep the Anna Hazare movement, which Devinder Sharma champions, suffers from a similar unscientific approach to the problem of corruption. And the media gives the movement a free pass. Slogans are arguments in our 24 hour news culture. No one in the media demands that the anti-corruption movement present an analysis of corruption, quantify its impact, discuss the proposed remedial measures. Shouting on TV is enough.

    Good post. I consider myself an environmentalist. But you're right the real impact of climate change has yet to be studied. Before we discuss remedies, we should be spending more time and more money on research.

    1. Thnx Vivek. It seems we have alot in common.

  2. The article “New Nature study exposes NGO’s Climate Smart Agriculture as Fraudulent!” paints an extremely distorted picture of our Nature Climate Change review article (Climate Change and the South Asian Monsoon, Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate1495), blatantly misrepresents the science and implies a viewpoint that we have not presented and do not support.

    The article states that “climate science has no clue of monsoon behaviour”- this is patently untrue. The scientific evidence (from basic theory and from a large number of climate modelling experiments) clearly suggests that as a whole monsoon rainfall will increase somewhat in the future and due to the expected increase in atmospheric moisture there is some evidence that rain will fall in heavier bursts. Such changes point to increased risk of flooding.

    However, there is a considerable range in the magnitude of the projected increase in rainfall and climate models do not agree on the local detail of how rainfall might change within South Asia. It is often such local detail that is most relevant when planning how to adapt to climate change, e.g., in the agriculture and infrastructure sectors. These disagreements between climate models are due to inaccuracies in the way current models represent some of the small scale physical processes, in part related to a lack of quality observations to constrain the models. As we argue in the Nature Climate Change paper, more reliable predictions of the future will be made when models can better simulate the local features of the monsoon and its variability on a range of timescales – from days to weeks and more. Such improvements are the focus of current monsoon research.

    Your article also perpetuates the old fallacy that one cannot predict the future climate many years ahead while there are still difficulties at making weather forecasts in the next days and weeks. The science of climate change is about “expected changes in the probability of occurrences of certain weather events” such as monsoon droughts and floods; as models improve in conjunction with our better understanding of the physical system, we are in the right direction to reduce the uncertainties in future projections – this is doable as climate community has demonstrated the tremendous accomplishment in the few decades in understanding and predicting, for example, El Niño events.

    On the issue of Climate Smart Agriculture, of which we do not comment in our review, a cornerstone seems to be to enhance resilience and improve adaptation strategies. In our opinion, what better way to do this than improve the way that farmers adapt to variability in the current climate? The sort of floods or breaks in the monsoon that occur in recent and indeed all monsoon seasons have much larger impacts than the projected signals of future mean climate. The key to dealing with the changing climate will be to make sure that the adaptation strategies are themselves adaptable. In other words being able to adapt to current variations allows farmers and others to be able to make decisions even in the face of uncertainty in the climate models.

    Dr Andy Turner.

    1. Hi Andy!

      Thank you very much for taking the time to make a detailed rejoinder. But let me react.

      1. "The scientific evidence (from basic theory and from a large number of climate modelling experiments) clearly suggests that as a whole monsoon rainfall will increase somewhat in the future and due to the expected increase in atmospheric moisture there is some evidence that rain will fall in heavier bursts. Such changes point to increased risk of flooding."

      The AGW theory states that global warming induces an increase in global precipitation through the augmentation of water evaporation. Warmer seas should heat up the monsoon winds that carry moisture from the ocean to the land. In turn, warmer winds should carry more moisture, so warmer oceans should lead to more rain. This should in turn imply that global relative humidity and evaporation levels should increase. Unfortunately relative humidity and evaporation rates remain lower than normal. This is amazing as they offer themselves as perfect proxy for global temperatures.

      In 2005, NASA boss James Hansen stated in an article in the journal ‘Science’ that confirmation of the planetary energy imbalance can be obtained by measuring the heat content of the oceans which are the principal reservoir for excess energy.

      A problem for the AGW hypothesis now is that the oceans have been cooling as measurements from thousands of Argo sensors floating on the sea indicate. So the lame explanation that:

      “Overall, the missing heat doesn't change expectations for future climate change, because the heat won't stay missing forever. Eventually it will resurface and impact the climate system, and the recent and deceptive reprieve from rapid warming we've enjoyed will come to an expected end.”

      Indeed there is no known mechanism to account for what some describe as vast amounts of missing heat, suggesting that contrary to the AGW hypothesis, heat is not accumulating in the climate system and there is no longer any radiative imbalance from all the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

      The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)'s statistical model skill level is 22% and their new dynamic model (modified CPC-NCEP-US) is 26%. This means their odds of success is one out of 4 or 5. This is after nearly 200 years of existence. Now if the "climate smart" community has anything to offer to fill this vacuum, then this is the time they should demonstrate. No one dares to even to attempt to provide an alternate forecast. The proof in the pudding as they say is eating it.

      For all your other comments please visit my previous post: Critique: ICRIER-GC Policy Paper on Climate, Agriculture & Food Security: Climate, Agriculture & Food Security

      Thank you Andy once again

    2. Like to add Andy, a couple of years ago, Indian Inst of Science Bangalore, India's premier science institution, fed all monsoon data for 20th century and tried to hindcast using the IPCC GCM models. They were no where near the mark. A detailed discuss on models can be found in the link I previously provided

  3. My response to this posting would be that it's harsh towards NGO's that have taken it upon themselves to champion Climate Smart Agriculture. I wouldn't call reacting to an uncertain situation that obviously needs further research as 'fraudulent'. One of the pillars of environmental management is the principle of precaution. Are we to wait until we know exactly how climate science can fully predict what is going to happen before we take action, or are we to act on the general notion that climate change is a reality to assist farmers in most vulnerable areas to adapt to changes in precipitation, weather variability, increased occurence of drought, shifts of agroecosystems, etc., that even their own reports to the UNFCCC (INC, SNC, TNC) and their vulnerability studies under the NAPA indicate. Furthermore, the INGO's react to policy briefs and documents by organisations such as the CGIAR, FAO, etc. that clearly indicate the need for CSA. So why bash the INGO's?

  4. Hi Peter!

    This absolutely correct - "one of the pillars of environmental management is the principle of precaution." The principle was meant to provide for the need for policymakers to practice foresight in order to prevent long-range environmental problems. The concept was included in the Amsterdam Treaty--an important step toward establishment of the European Union--but the concept was left undefined and was applied only to environmental policy. Accordingly it was no surprised that this pillar ended up highly misused and abused as it may be easily manipulated by commercial interests for rent-seeking purposes so much so that today its practice is termed "precaution without principle."!!

    The argument that INGOs "react to policy briefs and documents by organisations such as the CGIAR, FAO" is totally specious. INGO advocacy have taken on these organizations on several issues that clearly establishes they do not like sheep docilely accept everything the policy briefs of multi-lateral agencies tells them to do.