Archive for February, 2011

Climate Change Story–Most Likely the USA Didn’t Publish It

16 February 2011

For quite a while now, I’ve ignored most MSM “news” sources in the United States. I’ve found filtering by topic using Google news much more useful. Instead of having to look at “news” about Lindsay Lohan, I now quickly find stories like this one from the Philippine Star:

“Food Security, Climate Change and the Tibetan Plateau”

Here’s the article in its entirety:

Food security, climate change and the Tibetan Plateau

By Rolando T. DY, Executive Director Center for Food and Agri-Business UA&P (The Philippine Star) Updated February 13, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

MANILA, Philippines – Is there a relationship between the distant Himalayas and Philippine food security?

If so, what are the implications on climate change? Let us find out.

First, we review what is being said about the Himalaya-Tibetan plateau as the Third Pole. Second, we will analyze the amount of rice production and surplus from the countries fed by the rivers originating from the Plateau. Third, we will derive implications on ASEAN and Philippine food security.

The Third Pole. The Himalayas, especially the Tibetan Plateau, has vast stores of fresh water in the glaciers. It is of global importance to food security. The Plateau is the source of the several world’s largest rivers and also plays a key role in the Asian weather system.

Changes on the Plateau are crucial for the water resources (irrigation, drinking and hydro-electric power) of most of the Asian continent. Half the world’s population, or three billion people, is dependent upon water from the Plateau.

Consider this: the rivers originating from the Plateau include the Yangtze and Yellow (China), the Mekong (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam), Irrawaddy and Salween (Myanmar), Brahmaputra, Indus, and Sutlej (India), Indus and Sutlej (Pakistan), and Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna (Bangladesh). There are also the Karnali and Arun rivers in Nepal. Karnali feeds the Ganges river. These rivers feed 11 large deltas that have formed along Asia’s coastal zones. The water supply of these rivers would affect millions of Asians.

Climate change is one factor contributing to the shrinking of wetlands at the source of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, reducing the amount of water that flows down the rivers. The Chinese Academy of Science’s Cold and Arid Regions Research Institute studied the Tibetan plateau’s wetlands over a 40-year period and found that they have shrunk by more than 10 percent. The wetlands feeding into the Yangtze River alone have been reduced by 29 percent. Despite increased rainfall in the region, the water level in the wetlands has dropped due to increased evaporation caused by global warming.

Impact on Southeast Asia

Key Southeast Asian rivers which provide water to the world’s rice providers (Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) will be affected by the changes in the Plateau.

Mekong. The 5,000-kilometer river begins at the Plateau and meanders through China’s Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is called the Lancang in China. Together with the Yangtze and Salween Rivers, it originates from the Plateau.

Salween. The 2,800-km river flows from the Plateau to Myanmar. It drains a narrow and mountainous watershed that extends into the countries of China, Myanmar and Thailand.

Irrawaddy. It starts at the confluence of the N’mai and Mali Rivers that are fed by the Himalayan glaciers. It is Myanmar’s largest river and most important commercial waterway. It flows relatively straight North-South before emptying through the Irrawaddy Delta.

Chao Phraya. Thailand’s major river begins at the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers in Nakhon Sawan province. It flows south for 370 km from the central plains to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. Ping river begins in northern Thailand. Nan river originates from Nan province. This river has no direct link to the Plateau but it could be indirectly affected by the weather system.

The Plateau and Global Rice Supply

The Asian rivers feed the rice lands of Asia. These countries account for about 72 percent of world output. They supply three fourths of world rice export. The rest are mainly supplied from the US, China, Brazil and Argentina, and Uruguay, in that order. Export is currently only seven percent of world production (not four percent as claim by some Philippine sources).

Thailand and Vietnam alone contribute half of the rice surplus of about 30 million tons. Cambodia and Myanmar another 1 million tons each. Cambodia and Myanmar have the potential, if and when developed, for easily 5 million tons.

Implications to Global Food Security

The melting of the Tibetan glaciers will have global repercussions. River flows could eventually decline and cut rice production. These could even spur conflicts among countries regarding water rights. The major rice exporters such as Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Cambodia and Myanmar will have less rice surpluses. China could become a major rice importer. Thailand could have lower surplus, too, as the upper reaches of Chao Phraya will be affected. World rice prices will skyrocket.

Is there a cause for concern due to long term rice shortage following the melting of the Tibetan glaciers? Yes. In this interconnected world (climate and trade-wise), this has already happened in 2008 and seems to be happening in 2010-2011. No, because the human genius has responded to challenges across the centuries.

Specifically for the Philippines, there is a compelling need for a national food security plan. The plan could cover the following:

• Push for an ASEAN food security plan that gives rice-deficit countries (Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, etc.) the right of first refusal for the rice exports of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

• Launch productivity drive for all food staples, coupled with marketing information campaign that other food staples (white corn, potato, cassava, banana, and gabi) are as nutritious as rice. Remote communities must attain a high level of food sufficiency due to distance, transport cost and carbon footprint.

• Craft an agenda that combine food security and nutrition security. Energy source from food staples is inadequate and create a false sense of nutrition security.

• Craft watershed management-water supply framework in the context of supply chain of water from source to sea.

• Invest in research and development for rice and diversification of food supply. A key to this is support to the International Rice Research Institute and the Philippines’ Rice Research Institute for drought tolerant and flood-resistant varieties. Access technologies and best practices for crops from the international Center for Research into Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India, the International Center for Potatoes (CIP) in Peru, and (Brazilian Agriculture Research Corp.

The proposed food security plan may also be applicable to other ASEAN countries. This is where ASEAN food security cooperation could take root.

I found credentials for Dy here and put them below:

Rolando T. Dy has been Dean of the School of Management at University of Asia and the Pacific since 2004 and Executive Director of Center for Food and Agri Business since 1995. Dr. Dy was a Visiting Lecturer at PAD Business School in Lima, Peru since 2008. From 2006 to 2008, he was at Monash University � Australia APEC Study Centre for courses on Policy Reforms and Structural Adjustments. He served as Consultant for various organizations: ADB, AusAid, FAO, GTZ, Growth … with Equity in Mindanao Program/USAID, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the World Bank, Congressional Oversight Committee for Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization, industry associations, private corporations, and government agencies. He was Senior Consultant for the Strategic Framework of ASEAN Cooperation in Agriculture and Fisheries since 2004 for the ASEAN Secretariat. He serves as Independent Director of A Brown Co. Inc. He was Resource Person to the National Competitiveness Council. Dr. Dy is active in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (BIMP) East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA). In March 2007, he was a paper presentor on Private Investment in the EAGA Conference in Makassar, Indonesia. In November 2007, he was resource speaker at the EAGA Investment Conference in Davao City; and in January 2008, on agro-industry at the EAGA Strategic Planning conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. He served as ADB consultant to the review of the BIMP-EAGA Strategic Planning Conference in KotaKinabalu in late 2008. He is an alumnus of the IESE Business School�s International Faculty Program in Barcelona, Spain. He completed BS in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of the Philippines, MS in Industrial Economics from CRC, and PhD in Development Management from UA&P.

When I was young, I was so proud of the wide-ranging and informative journalism in the United States. That was a long time ago.



English Language Question

13 February 2011

Below is a transcript of comments by a well known political figure. Who is the speaker?

One guess.

“Remember, President Reagan lived that mantra trust but verify. We want to be able to trust those who are screaming for democracy there in Egypt, that it is a true sincere desire for freedoms and the challenge that we have though, is how do we verify what it is that we are being told, what it is that the American public are being fed via media, via the protestors, via the government there in Egypt in order for us to really have some sound information to make wise decisions on what our position is. Trust but verify, and try to understand is what I would hope our leaders are engaged in right now. Who’s going to fill the void? Mubarak, he’s gone, one way or the other you know, he is not going to be the leader of Egypt, that that’s a given, so now the information needs to be gathered and understood as to who it will be that fills now the void in the government. Is it going to be the Muslim Brotherhood? We should not stand for that, or with that or by that. Any radical Islamists, no that is not who we should be supporting and standing by, so we need to find out who was behind all of the turmoil and the revolt and the protests so that good decisions can be made in terms of who we will stand by and support.”


“It’s a difficult situation, this is that 3am White House phone call and it seems for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House it it seems that that call went right to um the answering machine. And nobody yet has, no body yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and I’m not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt. And in these areas that are so volatile right now because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And we do not have all that information yet.”

In a committee meeting with faculty from a number of fields, I once remarked that it was basically impossible to diagram one of this person’s sentences. Someone from outside the English department bristled and said she disagreed with me. It turns out this faculty member assumed I was attacking this person’s politics. I wasn’t. I was attacking the person’s lack of skills with English. I fear this type of conflation, confusion, and consternation is why this person remains a high profile political figure, i.e. the befuddled use and understanding of language is shared.

The answer is here.


Re: Corn: It’s the Food Supply, Stupid

6 February 2011

Several years ago, I read an article by Jeremy Grantham in which he railed about the stupidity of ethanol. I long ago lost track of his article, but I’m pretty sure I echoed many of his points in my post of of November 28, 2010.

Here’s another commentary on the subject from Seeking Alpha, one of the highest-rated financial blogs: “Archer Daniels Midland: Time to Disarm”

This article by Dana Blankhorn isn’t as forceful as Grantham’s attack, but it’s always nice to see a financial blog with the weight of Seeking Alpha, a pioneer financial news/opinion aggregator, post an entry on BOTH ethanol and the ever-evil Archer Daniels Midland (ADM):

Now, back to my copy of Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland, the Supermarket to the World.

My book stack is high, so I have no idea when I’ll finish it, but I should have something to say about ADM when I do.