Older readers may recall the heatwave that hit much of Europe, but especially France, during August 2003. Inevitably, perhaps, studies concluded that the influence of humankind was probably behind the event, or at least made events such as that heatwave more likely. See, for example, Stott, Stone & Allen (2004)i. The abstract makes it clear that:

It is an ill-posed question whether the 2003 heatwave was caused, in a simple deterministic sense, by a modification of the external influences on climate—for example, increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—because almost any such weather event might have occurred by chance in an unmodified climate.”

Having said that, they nevertheless find:

Using a threshold for mean summer temperature that was exceeded in 2003, but in no other year since the start of the instrumental record in 1851, we estimate it is very likely (confidence level >90%) that human influence has at least doubled the risk of a heatwave exceeding this threshold magnitude.

By 2019, when western Europe (and particularly France) had experienced another heatwave (in June of that year) attribution studies had moved on. CarbonBriefii was quick to tell us that:

The record-breaking heatwave that struck France last week was made at “least five times more likely” by climate change, according to a new quick-fire assessmentiii.

They went on to explain that there were uncertainties, although it seems that uncertainties only operate in one direction:

However, they note that there are “large uncertainties” in their analysis and the true influence of climate change could be higher.

So far so apparently certain, and indeed the Wikipedia entry for “Climate change in France”iv tells us that:

Climate change is expected to bring longer, warmer summers and less precipitation to France, which will severely affect many of the crops used in agriculture. Due to the warmer weather, the evaporation will be higher and less rain is expected. As most crops currently grown in France are to some extent sensitive to drought, there will likely be a higher need for irrigation, leading to a higher cost of crop production. Extreme weather events and droughts can also eliminate crop yields for some years. The warm weather…will prolong the growing season.

Bees

What has all this got to do with bees? Well, on 20th October 2021 an article appeared in the Guardianv with the headline “‘Climate change is hitting us’: French beekeepers expect worst honey harvest in half a century”

It appeared that all those warnings of long hot dry summers brought about by man-made greenhouse gas emissions were justified. But wait. What’s this? The secondary heading to the Guardian article expanded on and clarified the contents of the main headline, thus:

Bad weather hits production across Europe as flowering seasons become earlier and shorter”

What do they mean by “bad weather”? Most of us, at least those of us who live in fairly cool, wet locations and who are grateful for a bit of sun and warmth, assume that by bad weather they mean things like cold and rain, maybe even frost and snow. And sure enough, this is what the Guardian tells us, when we read on:

French beekeepers expect their worst harvest in decades as unseasonably cold and wet weather due to climate change has prevented bees from producing honey….

…Beekeepers association UNAF said …2021 will be a disastrous year for honey as, with the exception of a few rare areas in France, conditions have been very difficult for bees in spring and summer, with long periods of frost, cold, rain and northerly winds…

…Due to late frost and rains, there will be virtually no acacia honey this year, for the second year in a row, while rosemary, thyme and heather honey production, as well as chestnut and sunflower honey harvests, have been poor to virtually zero.

Forest, mountain and pine honey harvests have also been disappointing as the flowering season was too short…

…“Little by little, climate change is hurting our business. At this rate, there will be less and less French honey,” he said.

So it’s our old friend (or enemy) climate change again. But not climate change as we’d been led to believe. It seems any unusual weather (hot, cold, wet, dry) qualifies as climate change, even if it’s not the type of climate change we had been told to expect. I have no doubt that extreme weather of all kinds might be less than helpful to bees and their keepers, but is it right to blame an all-embracing climate change on variable weather? Might some other factor be at play?

Pesticides

On 4th August 2021, an articlevi appeared on the France 24 website, headed “Pesticide threat to bees likely ‘underestimated’: study”. It provides a detailed explanation of a very real and substantial threat to French bees, and concludes that the main problems are habitat loss and pesticide use (no mention of climate change):

Exposure to a cocktail of agrochemicals significantly increases bee mortality, according to research Wednesday that said regulators may be underestimating the dangers of pesticides in combination.

Bees and other pollinators are crucial for crops and wild habitats and evidence of steep drops in insect populations worldwide has prompted fears of dire consequences for food security and natural ecosystems.

A new meta-analysis of dozens of published studies over the last 20 years looked at the interaction between agrochemicals, parasites and malnutrition on bee behaviours — such as foraging, memory, colony reproduction — and health.

Researchers found that when these different stressors interacted they had a negative effect on bees, greatly increasing the likelihood of death.

The study published in Nature also found that pesticide interaction was likely to be “synergistic”, meaning that their combined impact was greater than the sum of their individual effects.

…In a commentary also published in Nature, Adam Vanbergen of France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment said that pollinating insects face threats from intensive agriculture, including chemicals like fungicides and pesticides, as well as a reduction of pollen and nectar from wild flowers.

The industrial-scale use of managed honey bees also increases pollinator exposure to parasites and diseases.

…The main drivers of pollinator extinction are thought to be habitat loss and pesticide use.”

Bearing in mind that this appeared just two and a half months before the Guardian article bemoaning the supposed effect of climate change on French bees, one might have expected it to be considered relevant to the issue, and reference to have been made to it by the Guardian. All the more so since on 9th September 2021 the Guardian’s website included an articlevii with the heading “France threatened with legal action over use of pesticides

Widespread use of chemicals that can harm wildlife means French state has failed to protect the country’s flora and fauna, say NGOS”. Even more than that, the heading to the article was followed by a photograph of lots of placards with pictures of angry-looking cartoon bees raising one fist, with the sub-heading: “A campaign in Paris earlier this year highlighting the threat of neonicotonoids on bees”. Indeed, in this article, even the Guardian said:

Scientists have repeatedly shown a link between the widespread use of pesticides on agricultural land and the loss of pollinators, which are essential to so many food chains. This is believed to be a leading cause of insect losses worldwide – along with the destruction of wild areas. Last year, a global study showed insect numbers had dropped by almost 25% in the last 30 years.

EU members banned neonicotinoids on crops in 2018 because of the damage they do to bees, but some countries have subsequently allowed them to be used in specific situations.

The whole article was about threatened Court action against the French government by two NGOs, in respect of the French government’s alleged failure to meet its obligations to protect nature by authorising the use of neonicotinoids under specific conditions in France despite the EU ban. The entire article makes no mention of climate change.

Conclusion

Adverse weather conditions undoubtedly cause all sorts of problems to bees and beekeepers in France. However, cold summers and shortened flowering seasons are the exact opposite of all the usual climate change warnings that have been made by alarmists about French weather, especially summer weather, where almost the entire focus has been on how CAGW is making heat-waves more likely. To blame cold, wet shortened summers on climate change without more ado is all just a bit too glib and easy. To blame the problems of French bees on climate change in an article that doesn’t mention pesticides and habitat loss is unworthy, in my opinion, especially when the Guardian is well aware of those issues.

Endnotes

i https://www.nature.com/articles/nature03089

ii https://www.carbonbrief.org/frances-record-breaking-heatwave-made-at-least-five-times-more-likely-by-climate-change

iii https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/human-contribution-to-record-breaking-june-2019-heatwave-in-france/

iv https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_France

v https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/20/france-honey-worst-harvest-climate-change

vi https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210804-pesticide-threat-to-bees-likely-underestimated-study

vii https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/09/campaigners-threaten-france-with-legal-action-over-use-of-pesticides-aoe

19 Comments

  1. Perhaps rather than bee carnage the poor weather might have affected the flowering season for the “single origin” honeys. That might have either led to poor flowering or poor foraging in the critical period, quite short for single species of flower. Dunno. But that wouldn’t be the case for the “forest” honey, which is collected from aphid honeydew in conifer woods. [This says nothing about blaming “climate” over weather.]

    I have been a neonicotinoid sceptic, but have been told recently that the neonicotinoids in a seed coat can affect bees later foraging on flowers (i.e. months later). This seems extraordinary to me. Another thing to read more about.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Of course “Climate Change” literally means change in either direction, but the IPCC early in its career officially redefined it to mean “man-made climate change” (though presumably still in either direction.) Meanwhile the term “global warming” (considered passé and usually replaced by “climate change”) has been replaced officially by the Guardian by “global heating,”, (a term now in common use, according to a recent press release by the Oxford Dictionary) despite the fact that “heating” normally mean “a method of keeping warm” (as in “underfloor heating,” “heating engineer” etc.) and so is also by definition man-made. So global heating is what we do when we make the world hotter. Climate change is what we do when we make the world hotter or colder. Everything else is just weather.

    It’s difficult to comment without going into the entire history and politics of French agriculture. It’s almost impossible to criticise farmers in France, since many of them are small family businesses struggling to survive, and everyone in France has nostalgic memories of holidays down on their grandparents’ farm. Half France’s farmers live on less than 300 euros a month, according to a statistic I saw. Yet the blokes dumping lorry loads of manure outside the Prefecture during their regular protests look well-fed enough.

    Yet there are also regular stories of parents keeping their kids home from school during the spraying season, and the countryside seems unnaturally devoid of insects and wild flowers. The wildlife that the French peasant likes to preserve is the kind it can shoot at.

    Banning glyphosate (Round Up) was last year’s big ecological campaign. It was supposed to come into effect this year, I think, but it’s been quietly delayed until after next year’s election. There’s a lot of organic farmers, and of course they are fervently “écolo,” though even among them there are divisions. Organic farmers are supposed to not use a wide range of herbicides and pesticides, but a friend who’s an organic winegrower told us the trick is to have two parcels of land, one designated as organic and the other “normal” one, which is left uncultivated. The authorities only check the books, not the actual land, so if you’re half and half, you’re entitled to continue to buy pesticides, and no-one checks what you do with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jit and Geoff, you both know far more about these issues than I do – Jit as an ecologist, Geoff as a French resident. Thank you both for your comments. I’d be interested to learn more. My point in bringing these issues to the attention of readers here was partly in the hope of stimulating a debate among those who know more than me; and partly also to draw attention, yet again, to the appalling nature of the Guardian’s one-sided reporting when it comes to climate change.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. O/T I’ll post this here as a reminder to people that this is the kind of tip we post on the Open Mic Thread.

    Here we see a tweet from a Disinformation operation called BBC Trending
    this is an ambush name cos it rarely features stuff that is actually trending
    but rather stuff that BBC/Guardian land people WISH was trending.

    As usual projection is a libmob characteristic
    whatever they accuse others of
    is what they themselves are actually doing.
    Here the accuse Skeptics of being the guys that are misleading.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So, Michael Mann is coming out against doomism. Who said there were no silver linings? 😉

    Thanks Stew, this BBC demonisation push deserves our sober attention. Nasty.

    Like

  6. Vinny, interesting link. I followed it and found Mann also saying:

    “The concept of “uncontrollable levels of climate change” is both unscientific and nonsensical…”. Which is also interesting.

    Like

  7. sorry to go o/t Mark – thanks for the link Stew – 1st min from Mann was enough – partial quote’s from the audio “it was my sabbatical in Australia 2019/20…. where I first came face to face with climate change…unprecedented heat & drought led to bush fires that blanketed the Australian continent…it was dangerous to go outside some days.”

    by the way later in the audio Mann says he was attached/on line because he was Jewish & part of a cabal etc… ?

    Will listen to more later – but as Stew says – Trending for the Trendy green BBC & trusted factchecker.

    Like

  8. it’s a win/win narrative that seems to invade every climate related story,they just want to scare the children into meltdown (and achieve it)

    Like

  9. dfhunter, no worries. For me the only things that are O/T on my threads are unpleasantness and libel, otherwise I’m happy for discussions to meander where they will. So, please feel free to meander pleasantly where you like.

    Like

  10. This new low from the BBC deserves an article in its own right. Unfortunately to write one I would first have to listen to the programme/series, and I don’t know whether I could stand that. Well, we have been firmly out-grouped by that most inclusive of broadcasters. Disappointing.

    Like

  11. Jit, full quote from that BBC piece:

    “1. The ‘d-words’ v the planet
    Trending The Denial Files

    How much do disinformation and new forms of climate change denial threaten the fight to save the planet?

    In the first episode of a special new series running around the COP26 climate conference, BBC Trending speaks to a leading scientist who says the battle to prevent catastrophe may depend on winning the information war.

    Professor Michael Mann first made headlines in 1998 when he published the pioneering “hockeystick graph” which showed how carbon emissions caused by human activity are harming the planet.

    Since then mounting evidence has made it harder for the fossil fuel industry and its allies to deny the existence of man-made climate change.

    The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that we are now at a turning point where only urgent and dramatic action can save humanity.

    In November world leaders will gather at in Scotland to agree targets for cutting admissions. Many observers regard it as our last best chance to avert disaster.

    Professor Mann argues that in the face of this reality, what he calls “the forces of inaction” have developed new strategies to try to prevent humanity from kicking its addiction to oil, gas and coal.

    So does the future of life on earth depend on understanding the playbook of these new climate war tactics?”

    Yes, I think we can safely say that any pretence of balance has well and truly gone out of the window – the BBC is a full-on campaigning organisation now.

    Like

  12. In a similar tone Fullfact have been deployed
    “Here’s a FactCheck Farage was wrong on wind”
    … that is the weapon the anti-Faragers have wanted so they are running off with it.

    Which side is actually wrong ? the so called fact-check is full of flaws from the outset

    … Anyways at the time there was a pro-wind expert in the studio so there was already a voice putting their side..and the guy mostly accepted Farages points
    So aside from making a hit-piece there was no need for a fact-check.

    Like

  13. Mark/Stew that blurb from the BBC is so wrong it is alarming. Where are the checks? Is it now permissible to write any old rubbish about climate change so long as it is in the direction of exaggeration? So it would seem.

    the battle to prevent catastrophe

    There is no impending catastrophe.

    winning the information war

    We lost that a decade ago.

    pioneering “hockeystick graph”

    Not the adjective I would choose.

    which showed how carbon emissions caused by human activity are harming the planet.

    It showed no such thing.

    mounting evidence has made it harder for the fossil fuel industry and its allies to deny the existence of man-made climate change

    It is the catastrophe element of this that I deny.

    The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that we are now at a turning point where only urgent and dramatic action can save humanity.

    That is a lie.

    our last best chance to avert disaster

    No.

    the future of life on earth

    Get real.

    [Edit: unexpected WordPress behaviour. I tried to paste in a quote with ctrl-v and it submitted the comment instead. Curious.]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “2021 will be a disastrous year for honey as, with the exception of a few rare areas in France, conditions have been very difficult for bees in spring and summer, with long periods of frost, cold, rain and northerly winds…”

    And yet, supposedly:

    “Europe’s record summer ‘impossible’ without global heating
    Cop26 countries must take action to stop record heat becoming an annual event, say experts”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/03/europe-record-summer-global-heating-cop26

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/03/europe-record-summer-global-heating-cop26

    Hmmm.

    Like

  15. It’s not just honey, it seems:

    “Warning over ‘extremely low’ wine production in Europe due to bad weather
    Industry body head warns there is ‘no vaccine’ against climate change and winemakers must adapt with ‘urgent necessity’”

    https://www.theguardian.com/food/2021/nov/05/warning-over-extremely-low-wine-production-in-europe-due-to-bad-weather

    “World wine production is expected to fall to one of its lowest levels on record after harsh weather battered vineyards in Europe’s major wine-producing regions.

    The conditions “severely impacted” production in Italy, Spain and France, resulting in “extremely low” production volumes, an international wine body has said.

    In the midst of the shortage, demand is expected to recover to near levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said in a statement on Thursday.

    Based on information collected from 28 countries, which represent 85% of the world production in 2020, the OIV pegged world production for 2021 at between 247.1 and 253.5 million hectoliters (mhl), with a mid-range estimate at 250.3 mhl.

    This would mark a third consecutive year of below-average output and approach the 2017 level of 248 mhl, the smallest in six decades, according to the OIV. One hectolitre is the equivalent of 133 standard bottles.

    A drop in production in Italy, Spain and France, the world’s largest wine producers, would outweigh what is forecast to be the highest-ever volume in the southern hemisphere, the OIV said.

    Vineyards in western Europe were hit by spring frosts, while French producers also endured heavy rain, hail and mildew disease….

    …In the European Union, production was forecast to fall to 145 mhl, down 13% from last year, it said.

    In the southern hemisphere, favourable weather should allow high output in major producing countries, except for New Zealand, the OIV said. Total output for the southern hemisphere was projected at a record 59 mhl, up 19% from last year.

    US production was forecast to rise 6% from last year to 24.1 mhl, although summer drought in some regions was expected to keep the volume below the five-year average….”.

    It’s all such loaded reporting. Europe’s summers were supposed to be much hotter because of climate change, and indeed the Guardian has had lots of reports banging on about Europe’s 2021 heatwave summer, which is supposed to have been the cause of wild fires left, right and centre. And yet cold wet weather has simultaneously caused huge damage to honey and wine production in those places too. Whatever the weather, it seems it’s climate change (if the consequences are bad). Meanwhile, “favourable weather” (presumably nothing to do with climate change, since the consequences are positive – the highest-ever volume of wine production) in the southern hemisphere is tucked well away in the article, and we don’t get a headline shrieking “Climate change results in highest-ever volume of wine produced in the southern hemisphere”.

    Like

  16. “Bees may take generations to recover from one exposure to insecticides
    Study shows reduced reproduction and other negative impacts on performance of species”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/22/bees-generations-recover-exposure-insecticides

    “It may take bees multiple generations to recover from being exposed to insecticides even just once, research shows.

    Although studies have long shown the damaging effects of pesticides for the biodiverse environment, little is known about how much they affect insects in the long term.

    This new research shows that even a single exposure to insecticides in a bee’s first year of life affects offspring production, and since the effects of the pesticides are cumulative, this results in an overall decrease in the bee population.

    Clara Stuligross, a PhD candidate in ecology at the University of California in Davis and lead author of this study, said: “Especially in agricultural areas, pesticides are often used multiple times a year and multiple years in a row. So this really shows us what that can actually mean for bee populations.”

    To show to what extent the environmental damage of insecticides bridges generations, also known as “the carryover effect”, the scientists carried out a two-year experiment in the field. They analysed how blue orchard bees, a solitary, wild pollinator species tinted blue and not black and yellow like honeybees, reacted to exposure to pesticides.

    They used the insecticide imidacloprid, which is known to be acutely toxic to bees, and tried out all the combinations of exposure – exposing the bees in their first year, in their first and second year, just in their second year. Use of this type of pesticide, neonicotinoids, is banned in the EU but production is not, and large quantities are exported each year.”

    Like

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