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Sahara Desert Greening?

by whataboutbob Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 05:26:42 AM EST

I stumbled on this intriguing article published in the The National Geographic that reports there has been heavier than usual rainfall in parts of Northern Africa, with interesting results:

Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences. (...)

The transition may be occurring because hotter air has more capacity to hold moisture, which in turn creates more rain, said Martin Claussen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, who was not involved in the new study. "The water-holding capacity of the air is the main driving force," Claussen said.

While satellite images can't distinguish temporary plants like grasses that come and go with the rains, ground surveys suggest recent vegetation change is firmly rooted. In the eastern Sahara area of southwestern Egypt and northern Sudan, new trees--such as acacias--are flourishing, according to Stefan Kröpelin, a climate scientist at the University of Cologne's Africa Research Unit in Germany. "Shrubs are coming up and growing into big shrubs. This is completely different from having a bit more tiny grass," said Kröpelin, who has studied the region for two decades.

In 2008 Kröpelin--not involved in the new satellite research--visited Western Sahara, a disputed territory controlled by Morocco. "The nomads there told me there was never as much rainfall as in the past few years," Kröpelin said. "They have never seen so much grazing land." (...)

"Now you have people grazing their camels in areas which may not have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years. You see birds, ostriches, gazelles coming back, even sorts of amphibians coming back," he said. "The trend has continued for more than 20 years. It is indisputable."

That's interesting news! There is actually a return of both plant and animal life! I wonder how this weather and environment change will impact Europe??


Display:
real green shoots!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 10:21:47 AM EST
I vaguely recall reading something about this a while ago, interesting to see how microclimates can adapt and potentially bring new life back to an area again.

Makes me think of Dune though.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 10:55:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reason why I prefer the name "Global Climate Change" over "Global Warming."

While there is solid evidence the planet is moving to a warmer - how much?  Nobody knows - overall climate the local impact will vary.  Some areas will get worse; some areas will get better; some areas will stay the same.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 11:31:58 AM EST
But what changes do global climate change models predict for the Sahara?  The received wisdom in my youth was that the Sahara was expanding due to more droughts and over-grazing.  The time frame for these changes - the last 20 years - suggests that human induces climate change may be having a beneficial effect at least in the Sahel.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 03:27:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is in fact an expected change.

What Global Warming means is that climate zones shift, and that includes all climate zones. At the same time the northern boundary of the desert bands moves north, the southern boundary also moves north. In effect, the tropics expand. So the Sahel is where you´re expected to see it, and if they´re seeing it now in the Sahel as the article seems to say, then that is just as much in line with Global Warming expectations as the desertification of Spain.

by marsanges on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 11:21:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there is this theory that says that a lot of the desertification and starvation in the Sahel in the 70's and 80's was due to particulate emissions in Europe. When we cleaned up our factories and power plants the desertification stopped and reversed, in spite of the fact that the clearer air also meant higher global temperatures.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 03:43:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nice to see you here, marsanges. are you in marseille?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Sep 12th, 2009 at 07:35:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It could be that the Sahara Desert is just moving north and bringing the relatively green, jungle equatorial African region north with it. The climate models I have seen predicts the Sahara Desert cross the the Med and expanding into southern Europe.
by Magnifico on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 12:30:29 PM EST
Here's one example of what I'm talking about. Here's a story from 2006 --

DW-World: Spain Fights Back on Europe's Desertification Front Line

Officials on the Iberian Peninsula are leading Europe's charge in the fight against global warming and are pulling out all the stops to get people to save water in a region increasingly under threat.

The desert is on the march in Spain. Around 6 percent of the Iberian Peninsula has been lost to the wilderness forever, and a third of all arable land is seriously threatened. One of the worst affected regions is the southern Spanish province of Malaga, which is losing two centimeters (almost one inch) of valuable land every year. What is happening in Malaga could be the fate of much of Spain and other parts of southern Europe if desertification is not arrested.

The changes aren't solely  due to climate change, but it is having an impact

by Magnifico on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 12:47:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps a different reaction: can we work with this (via, for example, DeserTrec: http://getenergysmartnow.com/2008/12/09/energy-cool-a-powerful-renewable-vision-reprise/) via biochar to green the desert even faster and foster massive carbon reservoirs in the desert?

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 04:55:02 PM EST
The Sahara area has not always been desert.

Sahara - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The climate of the Sahara has undergone enormous variation between wet and dry over the last few hundred thousand years.[12] During the last glacial period, the Sahara was even bigger than it is today, extending south beyond its current boundaries.[13] The end of the glacial period brought more rain to the Sahara, from about 8000 BC to 6000 BC, perhaps due to low pressure areas over the collapsing ice sheets to the north.[14]

Once the ice sheets were gone, northern Sahara dried out. But in southern Sahara, the drying trend was soon counteracted by the monsoon, which brought rain further north than it does today. The monsoon is due to heating of air over the land during summer. The hot air rises and pulls in cool, wet air from the ocean, which causes rain. Thus, though it seems counterintuitive, the Sahara was wetter when it received more solar insolation in the summer. This was caused by a stronger tilt in Earth's axis of orbit than today, and perihelion occurred at the end of July.[15]

By around 3400 BC, the monsoon retreated south to approximately where it is today,[16] leading to the gradual desertification of the Sahara.[17] The Sahara is now as dry as it was about 13,000 years ago.[12] These conditions are responsible for what has been called the Sahara pump theory.



Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Sep 3rd, 2009 at 03:48:51 AM EST
I suspect that the cool summers we have experienced in the Ozarks and much of the US plains and old mid-west is due to similar climate change.  The arctic is experiencing record high summer temperatures and apparent summer thawing of what were previously permafrost soils.  The heat to accomplish this thawing seems to be coming from the temperate zone to the south in a big atmospheric thermal cycle.  Two summers do not make a trend, but the basics seem to be in place.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 10:29:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the gold rush will be in figuring out which areas will actually benefit from climate change.
by paving on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 06:59:28 PM EST
Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Canada.

There, got the gold for ya. :)

You could add the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania too. Maybe Argentina as well?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Sep 6th, 2009 at 03:12:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only if the Labrador Sink keeps sinking;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Sep 6th, 2009 at 03:45:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WikiP:
It is believed that North Atlantic Deep Water formation has been dramatically reduced at times during the past (such as during the Younger Dryas or during Heinrich events), and that this might correlate with a decrease in the strength of the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic drift, in turn cooling the climate of northwestern Europe. There is concern that global warming might cause this to happen again. It is also hypothesized that during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), NADW was replaced with an analogous watermass that occupied a shallower depth known as Glacial North Atlantic Intermediate Water (GNAIW).


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Sep 6th, 2009 at 03:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NETHERLANDS???

Better add a few more: ??????

The country (well, 65% of it at least) will have to be vacated!

My pick for best place to live post warming: New Zealand.
Now try to have 6 billion people there. Aye, there's the rub.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Sep 7th, 2009 at 01:24:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uhm why is that? The Dutch are the world leader in levee construction. If they have already managed to build 4 metre high levees, they'll manage to build 5 metre high ones as well.

If sea levels do actually rise, it'll be a huge export market for Dutch companies.

I mean, look at a place like Bangladesh. Their problem is not that the country is flat and next to the sea, but that they can't get their shit together. The Dutch have built levees for hundreds of years: it only takes dicipline.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Sep 7th, 2009 at 06:07:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're talking about adding 15 metres there. And many more when Antarctica goes completely.
There is no way that will work for long without a major accident wiping out the population. Not to mention the colossal needs to pump back the water that will get through.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 02:20:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one in the Netherlands is talking about 15 meters. Not even in the long term. I'm not even sure where that figure suddenly pops up from in this discussion.

The Netherlands is a country that's rich enough to protect themselves for a considerable long time from sea level rise (normal or accelerating) and soil subsidence. My worry lies with those countries too poor to do that.

by Nomad on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 03:16:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do not know about 15 meters, though if Greenland is prime realestate I guess the ice has melted.

How would the world look if Greenland melts? (grinsted)

In the figure on the right you can see the effect of a 7 m increase in sea level would have on the Copenhagen coastline. 7 m is roughly what you would expect if the entire Greenland ice sheet melted.

But 7 meters is also a lot.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 04:02:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
March 10, 2009
Greenland ice tipping point 'further off than thought'

Jonathan Bamber, an ice sheet expert at the University of Bristol, told the conference that previous studies had misjudged the so-called Greenland tipping point, at which the ice sheet is certain to melt completely. "We're talking about the point at which it is 100% doomed. It seems quite an important number to get right." Such catastrophic melting would produce enough water to raise world sea levels by more than 6m.

"We found that the threshold is about double what was previously published," Bamber told the Copenhagen Climate Congress, a special three-day summit aimed at updating the latest climate science ahead of global political negotiations in December over a successor to the Kyoto treaty. It would take an average global temperature rise of 6C to push Greenland into irreversible melting, the new study found.

Previous estimates, including those in the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the critical threshold was about 3C - which many climate scientists expect to be reached in the coming decades.

"The threshold temperature has been substantially underestimated in previous studies. Our results have profound implications for predictions of sea level rise from Greenland over the coming century," the scientists said.

There is time to make sure the earth doesn't exceed that threshold. 6C - that's a lot.

by Nomad on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 04:53:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We definitely have to stop before 6 (or 5, or 4) degrees. There are no safe levels of warming, but the effects will be managable at 2-3 degrees if there is no methane trigger at those temperatures.

Even if the Greenland ice sheet would 'irreversibly' melt that would take well over 1000 years.

The local impacts of Greenland ice sheet melting have however been underestimated for the Northern Atlantic coasts. 20 centimeters worldwide in a long-term equilibrium may translate in to two or three times that amount in Europe and ten or twenty times in the North-Eastern US and Canada in the short run.

Thermal expansion, especially the local impact of the expansion of the Arctic Ocean, also remains to be modelled with any kind of precision.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 06:43:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then Greenland might not be so good as real estate investment.

I think it also illustrates the general problem here. The most valuable real estate will be the one with sufficient rain fall (but not to much) close to the sea (but not submerged) and so on. And that is a question of just how the climate patterns will change, which we do not know.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 12:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except we are talking about a 100% certainty of doom for the whole icesheet.

A more reasonable threshold would be 50% chances of losing around a third. Because that would be enough to be a disaster. Actually 10% chances would already be rather a lot.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 03:04:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe a sea level rise of 15 meters was brought up by you in this discussion out of the blue, and I questioned that. My point remains that this figure appeared out of thin air with no particular reference to anything, and no time frame.

We can continue quibling what projected sea level rise would be but Climate Doom in the vogue of "we're all gonna die because of Greenland melting" is not very rational and mostly acts defeatist. Hence my reply. Now we´re talking.

by Nomad on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 03:50:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not out of thin air. The premise was that Greenland had melted -it was said to be prime real estate.

Greenland cannot melt without a lot of Antarctica going (West Antarctica is probably a gonner before 2050, let alone in the longer run).

And that means at the very least 15m, without taking thermal expansion into account. And even more in Europe initially.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 04:24:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one talked about Greenland's ice melting completely prior to you bringing up 15 meters. So the premise may have been yours at first, and may not have been communicated that well. In any case, it wasn't clear to me.

Part of the reason why we're talking past each other is because different time frames are colliding.

If 100% irreversible melting of Greenland's ice will occur (at, say, 6C temperature increase), this will not happen in the short term, and probably not this century either. In the case of water management, one cannot plan much further today. So that's it, and the rest is all what may be, and not relevant (yet) from an adaptation point of view.

On the longer time frame, the one you seem to be using, it's interesting stuff, but also speculative and not that helpful. It's mostly done by a lot of academics quibbling, or people getting distracted by doom scenarios because tsunamis sell enough prints. That's all there is, and nothing more. 15 meters? It could be 20. So what as long as we don't know when it will happen?

by Nomad on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 05:14:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I said nothing about Greenland melting completely or becoming prime estate. I said it was a climate winner. Any heating of that dreadful place will make it a nicer place to live, and will make petroleum and mineral exploitation less of a hassle.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:35:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So raising the sea wall another 5-7 meters would be no big problem?  How high are they now?  6C is not an unreasonable average ambient increase, given the collective ability of our species to respond to what are perceived as distant threats.  I understand that 6C is what we can expect unless current actual trends are significantly altered, and these trends have not yet really begun to be altered, especially outside of Europe.

Even if we reach 6C there is no certainty as to how long it will take for the ice cap to melt.  But there is also no certainty that the ice cap will not have already melted by then.  And then large scale ice melt from Greenland could conceivably alter the deep saline current and the Gulf Stream.  This could cause ice sheets to begin accumulating in northern Europe.  It might slow down the melting of Greenland, but it would hardly be an advantage to northern Europe.

There is only really one way to verify if the models are accurate and we don't want to go there.  To me the prudent thing is to assume a worst case and work to avoid it.  At worst we will have given people employment doing things that turned out not to have been necessary, but the world as we know it will have survived substantially.  But that is not how finance operates and, as we know, finance runs the world.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 07:18:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is an absolutely massive amount of temperature increase in geological perspective. Just saying. We'll need to go back far, far back to a time where we think the earth was that warm. From the top of head, probably into the Paleocene.

6C is a convenient number to quote, but establishing a figure on climate sensitivity has been and still is the holy grail of climate science, and it's not settled. I'm agnostic on what it will be. To me, the number matters more for establishing proper adaptation gaols, than that it acts as a stimulus for switching to a non-carbon society.

Right now, the IPCC projection of sea level rise until 2100 range from a few cms to 1 meter - a figure which has been corroborated by younger studies. However, current sea level rise will have to accelerate a lot to find itself in the higher end of that bracket. Even so, in the medium long term (decades to 1 century), the Netherlands has little to worry.

by Nomad on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 04:14:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No serious scientist I know of has talked about anything worse than 2 metres in 100 years. And that is if the global warming stuff is actually correct and peak oil/gas/coal isn't real.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:38:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No serious scientist is talking about 15 metres. The most doomeristic are talking 2 metres in 100 years. Big deal...

And that's only if

  1. The climate models are actually correct.
  2. BP, IEA and everyone but the IPCC has strongly underestimated the amount of recoverable fossil fuels on our planet.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 11:06:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh yes?
If Antarctica goes, it's actually around 30 meters. Before taking dilatation into account.

Some rather major bodies of ice lying on the sea floor are already considered doomed in the next few years in Antarctica.

As for 2 metres, no it needs absolutely no underestimate of the recoverable fossil fuels. On the contrary, the already discovered reserves are about twice as big as needed to get +2-3°C on the current models, and so far they have always proved to underestimate the ice melting.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 03:02:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The rate of sea-level rise has increased in the period from 1993 to the
present (Figure 1), largely due to the growing contribution of ice loss from
Greenland (Box 1) and Antarctica. However, models of the behaviour of
these polar ice sheets are still in their infancy, so projections of sea-level
rise to 2100 based on such "process models" are highly uncertain. An
alternative approach is to base projections on the observed relationship
between global average temperature rise and sea-level rise over the
past 120 years, assuming that this observed relationship will continue
into the future. New estimates based on this approach suggest a sealevel
rise of around a metre or more by 2100

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/files/synthesis-report-web.pdf

The above recently doubling of the estimate to around 1 meter by 2100 is based on a linear extrapolation from previous data. Hansen argued a couple of years ago that the linearity assumption should be questioned, and that if rapid collapse of the arctic and antarctic glaciers were to occur, quick rises of sea level beyond the 1 meter range could result.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526141.600-huge-sea-level-rises-are-coming--unless-we-act-no w.html?page=1

Many civic projects related to flood control are financed and designed with 100 year time frames, so large uncertainty in this area is difficult from both the technical and the political viewpoints...

by asdf on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 07:52:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, look at a place like Bangladesh. Their problem is not that the country is flat and next to the sea, but that they can't get their shit together. The Dutch have built levees for hundreds of years: it only takes dicipline.

Discipline and carefully accumulated capital from centuries of profiting off the backs of poor wretches like the Bangladeshi.

Levees are an overestimated solution, and a rather figmental one for Bangladesh. Minor levees might work in the Ganges/Brahmaputra delta, but the thing is just a tad more impressive than the Rhine/Meuse delta, and packs a bit more punch in the monsoon season, or when it gets hit by a cyclone. And in day to day life you get all kinds of problems with salinisation, with people starting to live on newly deposited sediments all the time. Plus, you want those deposits, especially in the face of a potentially rising Indian Ocean.

Even the Dutch are spending more attention to 'living with water' as you can see from our spangling adaptation strategy.

Disaster preparedness is a broad field! Having a good information structure and some local shelters tend to save a lot of lives right away. As it has done in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands used to die every few decades not too long ago, but the average cyclone now doesn't even get to one thousand.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 07:36:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Discipline and carefully accumulated capital from centuries of profiting off the backs of poor wretches like the Bangladeshi.

Oh come on... Enough with the fashionable western self hate already.

Levees are an overestimated solution, and a rather figmental one for Bangladesh. Minor levees might work in the Ganges/Brahmaputra delta, but the thing is just a tad more impressive than the Rhine/Meuse delta, and packs a bit more punch in the monsoon season, or when it gets hit by a cyclone.

The coast of the Netherlands is as long as the coast of Bangladesh. If the Dutch could build good levees 50 years ago, the Bangladeshi should be able to do the same today, given that there are like 10 times as many of them. The fact that they regularly get massacred in the tens (or hundredes) of thousands by cyclones should give them a strong extra incentive if they value the lifes of their countrymen.

The reason they're not doing is not because it can't be done or they can't afford it, but because they can't get their shit together. Just like New Orleans.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 11:13:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Oh come on... Enough with the fashionable western self hate already.

Of course, this is a depiction of Sinterklaas arriving with goods from the colonies the ingenuity of the dutch engineers.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 01:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh come on... Enough with the fashionable western self hate already.

It's just a statement of fact with a lot more reality behind it than your silly Calvinist notion that the Bangladeshi could construct a comprehensive levee system to keep the sea out if only they were as disciplined as the good old Dutch.
The coast of the Netherlands is as long as the coast of Bangladesh.

The coastline of the Netherlands is 451 kilometres, the coastline of Bangladesh is 710 kilometres. The Rhine/Meuse delta makes up about a third of the Dutch coastline, whereas the Ganges/Brahmaputra delta makes up most of the Bangladeshi coastline, and stretches into the neigbouring state of West Bengal in India. The peak discharge of the Rhine and Meuse combined is 16,000 cumecs, the combined peak discharge of the Ganges and Brahmaputra is 106,000 cumecs (the Missisippi has 56,000). Those are averages. The Netherlands had a per capita income of $6000 in 1950, when it was just rebounding from WWII, going up to $26000 in 1997, when the Delta Works were completed (estimates using y 2000 dollars). Bangladesh has a per capita income right now of somewhere around $450 using the same measure.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 05:48:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's just a statement of fact with a lot more reality behind it than your silly Calvinist notion that the Bangladeshi could construct a comprehensive levee system to keep the sea out if only they were as disciplined as the good old Dutch.

Claiming that the West is rich because of colonialism flies in the face of the facts, given that the colonies were money losers and that lots of western nations never had colonies. But I guess the wealth of Sweden is built on the backs of the poor sods of St. Barth...


The coastline of the Netherlands is 451 kilometres, the coastline of Bangladesh is 710 kilometres. The Rhine/Meuse delta makes up about a third of the Dutch coastline, whereas the Ganges/Brahmaputra delta makes up most of the Bangladeshi coastline, and stretches into the neigbouring state of West Bengal in India. The peak discharge of the Rhine and Meuse combined is 16,000 cumecs, the combined peak discharge of the Ganges and Brahmaputra is 106,000 cumecs (the Missisippi has 56,000). Those are averages. The Netherlands had a per capita income of $6000 in 1950, when it was just rebounding from WWII, going up to $26000 in 1997, when the Delta Works were completed (estimates using y 2000 dollars). Bangladesh has a per capita income right now of somewhere around $450 using the same measure.

But Bangladesh has a far greater population as well. Total real GDP is the thing (PPP if there is lots of manual labour involved I guess), not GDP per capita. And as I mentioned, the Bangladeshis have a far greater incentive of getting it done.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:44:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Claiming that the West is rich because of colonialism flies in the face of the facts, given that the colonies were money losers and that lots of western nations never had colonies
Have some Adam Smith:
The difference between the genius of the British constitution which protects and governs North America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries.
In other words, the Bengal famine of 1770 was a consequence of the policies of the East India Company, and not because the Bengalis couldn't get their shit together.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:53:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, the Bengal famine of 1770 was a consequence of the policies of the East India Company, and not because the Bengalis couldn't get their shit together.

And when, pray, did I claim otherwise? Or do you think the lack of dikes in Bangladesh is the fault of the East India Company?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 01:23:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If my geography does not fail me, Bangladesh is in the former French Indochina. So that would be any combination of French, Japanese and American colonial administrations, rather than the British East India Company.

Also the fact that subtropical and tropical climates and a comparatively straight coastline (or absence of coast) do not facilitate the kinds of urbanised, agrarian societies that have historically been able to subjugate empires and engage in large-scale engineering works.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 06:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bangladesh is on the Bay of Bengal, is the former East Pakistan and was part of the British Raj,

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 07:09:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea that the colonies were money losers is an empirical claim, which in the case of the Netherlands as in case of the UK is completely off base. Some colonies in Africa in the late imperial age may have been money losers, but most colonies definitely were money producers. Just start looking into the kind of active industrial destruction the British enacted in their Indian colony to enhance their early domestic textile production to get a historically accurate idea (in place of an a-priori reasoned free marketeer idea) of the situation.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 06:40:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I recall having recounted to me, (but don't have the reference), the story of how the British East India Company succeeded in convincing the residents of Calcutta to purchase cotton cloth made on British power looms in place of their own home spun.  They rounded up the home weavers and cut off their thumbs!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 12:42:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Bangladesh has a far greater population as well. Total real GDP is the thing (PPP if there is lots of manual labour involved I guess), not GDP per capita. And as I mentioned, the Bangladeshis have a far greater incentive of getting it done.

They also have far greater disincentives to get it done, as in, the situation in their delta is completely different from the Dutch delta (which isn't much of one), and you have no idea of the differences.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 06:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Claiming that the West is rich because of colonialism flies in the face of the facts, given that the colonies were money losers and that lots of western nations never had colonies. But I guess the wealth of Sweden is built on the backs of the poor sods of St. Barth...

Sweden built its initial 19th century wealth on selling timber and iron, necessary ingredients for ships and cannons.

You do not have to rob people to get rich, selling weapons or other stuff to robbers also works. Does not change that you would not have it if there had been not robbery.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 07:48:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweden built its initial 19th century wealth on selling timber and iron, necessary ingredients for ships and cannons.

That argument is about as logical as: I eat bread. Hitler ate bread. Hence, I am Hitler.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 11:29:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More like "I make bread, Hitler eats bread, therefore I enable Hitler".

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 11:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iron and timber were not exclusively used for military purposes. It's just an absurd point of view. It's like saying that StatoilHydro exports oil, hence they are war criminals as oil is a necessary and crucial ingredient of warfare.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 12:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say it is more like: Hitler needs iron, I sell him iron. Hence, I profit from his crimes he commits with the iron.

But to return from Godwin territory, do you seriously question that the countries in Europe that traded with the colonial powers did not benefit from the latters access to cheap resources?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 03:30:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That might or might not be the case to a certain degree. If you recall, wages were low in Sweden as well, and having a greater labour pool to compete with might not have been a positive thing.

No matter what, the effect is marginal compared to all the things that actually did make Sweden (and other western countries) rich.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 06:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting, what would those things be?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 07:15:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to my textbook in economics (Vår ekonomi by Klas Eklund, page 375 and forward) there were several reasons, mainly industrialisation which began in Sweden around 1870.

  • Growing agricultural productivity because of the skiftes reforms.

  • The Peoples School reform which improved general education.

  • Freedom of trade had been introduced and guilds were abolished. Pro-growth and pro-business institutions were established.

  • The igniting spark came from abroad as European industrialisation and urbanisation led to highly increased demand for Swedish exports like iron, wood anf farm produce.

  • During the 1890's three new dynamic industries surfaced: the pulp industry which was spurred by an explosive growth in the demand for newsprint and improved wood resource use technology. Iron and ore industry, where new technology had made the Lappland ore fields exploitable. At the same time ingenuity and development made Sweden a leader in high quality steels. Finally, from the 1890's to WW1 saw the rise of the manufacturing industry, based on many new inventions like the separator, turbine, ICE, ball bearing, of which many were Swedish. The telephone industry expaned strongly as well.

After that, it was just full speed ahead and here we are today.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 11:10:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I get where you're coming from, but attempting to write the economic history of any European country in the 19th century without mentioning colonialism is simply nonsense. It is comparable to writing the economic history of any European country in the 11th century without mentioning the Crusades - even those countries that never seriously participated first hand were deeply and broadly affected by these events.

We can argue about how and where to assign blame until we go blue in the face, but that does not detract from the fact that Sweden had a privileged position relative to Bangladesh. If for no other reason then because it had enough rifles and gunpowder to stop other European powers from bashing it over the head, dismantling its political structure and stealing its stuff.

Similarly, we can argue about the economic benefits (or not) of having colonies in general, or specific colonies in particular. But this does not detract from the fact that whatever hypothetical net burden upon European countries the colonies might have been, it does not compare - not even within an order of magnitude - to the burden imposed on the colonies by having their social, political and economic system deliberately demolished.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 13th, 2009 at 06:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid
If you recall, wages were low in Sweden as well, and having a greater labour pool to compete with might not have been a positive thing.

If we are talking about "non-colonial European countries" in the period before WW II, the issue of competing with cheap labor from the colonies of colonial powers was not an issue.  Colonies were seen as natural resource providers, as providers of goods unobtainable in Europe, such as spices, and as markets for European manufactured goods, such as cloth, railroads and locomotives along with telegraphs, the metal blades for Zulu spears, etc. etc.  Another colonial play was to obtain goods, such as opium, in one colony, such as Burma, and use the superior military power of the colonial mother country, such as Great Britain, to facilitate access to the interior markets of, for example, China, where that opium could be sold to landowners, who became addicted, as a means of extracting gold and silver from China for shipment back to, for example, Great Britain.  This led, of course, to the infamous Opium Wars between Britain and China when the Chinese Emperor and the Mandarins took a dim view of this process.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 09:20:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sole reason opium was exported was because of the huge bullion deficits created by the massive imports of tea from China, with China being uninterested in any imports of its own from the West, except bullion. A lot like the current situation actually, with China holding a trillion dollars of IOU's, the modern equivalent of bullion.

Anyway, it was to even the balance of trade that the opium trade began, to stem the outflow of bullion.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Sep 12th, 2009 at 06:56:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mercantilism forever!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Sep 12th, 2009 at 10:08:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, Britain (and France, and later Germany) bashed China over the head and looted their stuff. After all, "looting their stuff" is what happens when you "buy" their goods and "pay" in toxic crap like opium.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 13th, 2009 at 06:08:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After all, "looting their stuff" is what happens when you "buy" their goods and "pay" in toxic crap like opium subprime mortages.

And history just keeps repeating itself...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 01:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New Zealand.
Now try to have 6 billion people there. Aye, there's the rub.

Sounds like John Brunner's novel Stand on Zanzibar

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon Sep 7th, 2009 at 06:28:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much of coastal north east England, down to London, and the northwest from Liverpool well inland will be submerged if the Greenland ice cap melts.  In time it will get worse if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts. These are not considered likely now, but it depends on the extent of GHGs added to the atmosphere and whether the effects remain linear.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 7th, 2009 at 02:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Levees my friend. It's not rocket science.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Sep 7th, 2009 at 06:08:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Cocoanuts, starring the Marx Brothers--Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo | clown ministry | Marx Brothers Reviews
Groucho : All along the river, those are all levees.
Chico : That's the Jewish neighborhood?
Groucho : Well, we'll pass over that.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon Sep 7th, 2009 at 06:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any low-lying seaside countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, UK, Baltics) are going to have to expend a lot on adaptation. Of your second list, only Argentina and Poland are reasonable. You can add Ukraine and Belarus.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 8th, 2009 at 06:49:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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