Politics and Economics

Could Global Warming be Beneficial to Mankind?

Greenpeace logic:

1. Is the world’s climate warming?  Yes

2. Is the climate warming man-made? Yes

3. Is it caused by higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels? Yes

4. Conclusion: Divert a fortune away from education, healthcare and welfare to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide levels.

Better logic:

1. Is the world’s climate warming?  Yes

2. Is the climate warming man-made? Yes

3. Is it caused by higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels? Yes

4. Is the consequence of global warming good, bad or neutral overall?  Don’t know

5. If the overall consequence is bad, how much will it cost us to adapt to the new climate? Don’t know

6. How much will preventing global warming cost? Don’t know

7. Do we know how to prevent carbon dioxide emissions without increasing other greenhouses gases and pollutants or having the lights go out?  Not yet.

8. Will any political system anywhere in the world spend a fortune today to prevent something which may happen in 100 years? Unlikely

9. Conclusion.  Answer 4,5 and 6.  If 6 is less than 5 and we can answer 7 we should act bearing in mind the difficulties of 8.

There is an opportunity cost here.  Money diverted from education, healthcare and welfare is also detrimental to the well-being of mankind.

Is preventing global warming worth it?

The debate has become sadly polarised.

On one side is the “environmental” lobby composed of self promoting eco-warriors / eco-terrorists who often have a hidden political agenda of anti-capitalism, anti-globalisation and Ludditeism, which is finding “environmentalism” a convenient Trojan horse.  Joining them is a strong lobby group that has a financial interest in the emerging “green” technology industries.  They insist that global warming is real, all its consequences are catastrophic and unless we act immediately we will experience a quick and conclusive Armageddon.

On the other side are the climate change deniers, who dispute a large body of peer reviewed scientific data that supports a model of global warming, caused by an increase in man-made greenhouse gases.  A large, well resourced lobby supports them with extensive financial interests of the fossil fuel industry.

Neither of these two groups can be trusted in a rational, evidence based debate because they have too many vested interests.

But the world is not just divided into those who believe in catastrophic manmade climate change and those that don’t.

There are many who accept that global warming is happening, and it is largely man made, but are still waiting for proof that it will be detrimental overall. 
 After all, the costs of preventing climate change are astronomical and this diverts funds from education, healthcare and welfare. 
 We need to know the money is going to be wisely spent.  I’m not a climate change sceptic, but I am a government-spending sceptic.

I’m wondering if the overall costs of preventing climate change could be more than the overall benefits of preventing it?  Or indeed, if there are actually overall benefits of global warming? 
There will be winners and losers, as ever.  Get ready for the debate to be biased by self-interest!

For example:

The vast majority of the world’s land mass is in the higher latitudes (Canada and Russia) where it is currently too cold to live. A few degrees of warming could transform these baron areas into habitable land capable of supporting human populations and vast food crops. As the climate warms the forests in these northern latitudes will have a longer growing season and will prosper further north, consuming carbon dioxide.  Forests and plants all over the planet will benefit from more carbon dioxide and warmth helping them flourish.  The worst projections predict warming over a hundred years or so, not next decade.  Mankind will migrate, as it has always done. There is time.

Global warming is creating milder winters rather than hotter summers.   In previous eras, when the climate was significantly warmer than now, the whole planet was tropical with a year round growing season and no winter.  Farmers in the warmer, wetter tropical Philippines can get three rice crops per year but only bother with two. Compare that to the single wheat crop in cooler climates.

What are now deserts once teemed with life, with rich forests and diverse wildlife. Until the world cooled and got drier. This cooling and drying devastated much of the life on the planet – look what happened in central Australia where there were once forests and a diverse ecosystem in its interior.  Global warming will mean a warmer, wetter planet and fewer deserts.

We can use our human ingenuity to adapt to other changes.  We won’t need glaciers if it rains every day.  The rain will make rivers, which can be dammed and controlled.  Dykes can protect low-lying land from the gradual increase in sea levels.   The Netherlands is already largely below sea level and their engineers have adapted commendably.  Human ingenuity can move plants and animals around the world that are already adapted to the new climate.  We don’t need the slow process of extinction and evolution by natural selection to take its slow and meandering course.

We must also do more work to prove that the proposed expensive climate change prevention schemes will actually work.  By rushing at this problem before we know the facts we could make things worse.  For example, many of the reservoirs which were built to create “clean” hydroelectric energy actually produce large amounts of methane which makes global warming worse than an equivalent efficient carbon fuelled power station.

The final question is whether we can, realistically, change the world’s climate.  Getting political consensus between the USA, China, India and Russia looks unlikely.  Australia and Canada are reversing their previous green policies.  The will and ability under any political system to spend a fortune now to prevent something that may happen in 100 years will be fragile at best.  We could end up with the worst case scenario.  i.e. spending a fortune on green polices to not prevent climate change.

Climate change inevitably means we must change and adapt, and as a species we have done this very well up until now. We’ve survived ice ages and deserts.

Manmade global warming is a fact with potentially detrimental and beneficial consequences.  We need to assess where the balance lies.  If the overall effect of climate change is detrimental we still need to assess the costs of preventing climate change and balance them with the benefits of preventing climate change.  Rather than spending the money on a futile attempt to change the world’s climate we may get better value by allowing a certain amount of climate change and spending the money on a combination of adapting to the new climate and education, healthcare and welfare instead.

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