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Climate Change's Armyworms

One of the more recent lines of defense for industrialists and their apologists is to claim that global warming will bring about a paradise of permanent summertime, in which the living will be easy all the time, with prosperity for all. A “Disneyland”, one of our readers called it.

Those predicting good times under global warming ought to pay attention to what’s happening over in Liberia right now. The country is in an agricultural crisis because of what appears to be an unusually large outbreak of armyworms.

Armyworms eat almost any foliage, with such a vigor that they can destroy entire fields of crops in a very short time. Many of the Liberian armyworms have already entered the ground to pupate, which means that they are beyond the reach of pesticides, and when they emerge as adult moths, they will be able to fly away to lay eggs within a range of 500 miles, creating the danger of a region-wide food crisis.

It’s too early to say what’s caused this particular unusual outbreak, but what is known is that dramatic changes in habitat, such as those that accompany climate change, often create such unusual population surges. The armyworm outbreak is just the sort of thing that would be expected as a result of climate change.

I don’t know under what definition massive agricultural destruction would count as Disneyland, but then, I have never actually been to Disneyland myself. Does Disneyland have a Hunger Island attraction?

Update: The Liberian government now reports that the insects appear not to be armyworms, but a similar, previously unknown species with slightly different behavior.

Also, the caterpillars are reported as moving at a startling speed through cocoa plantations. That’s another warning that doesn’t fit with the global-warming-as-Disneyland scenario: Climate change could endanger your ability to eat chocolate.

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