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The good aspects of global warming

David Friedman (son of Milton F.) has a good post here in which he asks the question of why we don’t focus more on the possible positive impacts of man-made global warming, rather than always focus on the bads. If you live in Siberia or have endured the winters of Canada, the idea of a bit more warmth will, well, warm your heart. And assuming the net impact of AGW is to leave more people with climates that have positives, such as longer growing seasons, fewer deaths from cold, etc, then surely this is a good thing? I remember Bjorn Lomborg, in his book, Cool It, looking at how many people die every year from cold and comparing that with current deaths from extreme heat and projected deaths from more heat.

The good thing about the way David Friedman poses this question is that he is not taking a view on whether AGW is bunk or not. Rather, he is saying that assuming X or Y is happening, we need to weigh the positive impacts as well as the bads before deciding on the right response.

Of course, from a cynical point of view, the reason the bad effects of AGW get so much attention is because it is more fun for grant-seeking scientists and journalists looking for a good story to play up disaster. Greater crop yields in northern Canada don’t sell newspapers.

Thanks to EconLog for the pointer to the Friedman piece.

16 comments to The good aspects of global warming

  • m2p

    If you look at it, much “sceptic” literature also takes as a premise that the underlying warming is happening, or at least that the underlying science is correct. Lomborg, Nigel Lawson and others largely take issue with the economic folly of the proposed mitigations, not with the science.

    Perhaps we need a better term than “sceptic”.

  • Dom

    “…why we don’t focus more on the possible positive impacts of man-made global warming, rather than always focus on the bads.”

    If I can play the devil’s advocate here, the answer is that man-made global warming is, in fact, man-made. Economists often bring up the law of unintended consequences. Considering how complicated the ecology is, I (the devil’s advocate, that is) think there will be many unintended consequences if you change the climate.

  • Deep Lurker

    The standard warmist argument is that the warming is not only human-caused, but that it will be much greater than anything seen in the past. (See, for example, the “hockey stick” graph.) It’s easy to sell a never-before-seen degree of warming as having enormously bad effects.

    But saying that AGW will produce the equivalent of the Medieval Warm Period, or the Roman Warming Period, and then trying to sell that as a disaster won’t get you any buyers. Thus we see the warmists not only crying alarms about current warming, but also trying to minimize and deny previous historical warm periods.

  • Kevin B

    CAGW is not about warming, it’s about population control. In both senses of that phrase. Crispin Tickell(Link) , who was one of the early adopters and advised the sainted Maggie, was firmly convinced that there were too many brown people, too many yellow people, too many black people and, of course, too many chavs, and that the population needed to be ‘controlled’ in order that life on this planet could be ‘sustainable’.

    Sustainable, in this context, means comfortable for them and their ilk to travel around in, but with far fewer of the ‘masses’ cluttering up the place and thus required a global government to control both the number of ordinary people as well as their actions. Don’t want the plebs to upset the ickkle animals in any way, (nor to clutter up the beaches).

    Look up the views of the likes of Beddington and Nurse on Optimum Population, (not to mention those of Porritt or Attenborough). To these guys optimum means fewer people and all of them under their control.

    So there really is no point in playing up any ‘positive’ side effects of global warming. That’s not what the whole scare is about. Rather, it’s about the ever popular theories of eugenics.

  • Samsung

    Some presenter on BBC Gardeners World last year proclaimed that our British gardens would change due to Man Made Global Warming. Apparently we will have hotter, dryer summers and milder winters, so in future we will have more drought resistant Mediterranean plants in our gardens. Yeah right…

    We have recently had three successive very cold winters in the UK. The last winter was the coldest winter since 1683. This year’s summer was the coolest in 20 years. If it’s supposed to be getting warmer due to alleged man made CO2 emissions, then why is it getting colder here in Blighty, or is that down to Global Warming too.

    I remain sceptical.

  • PaulH

    Dom has it, I think – there’s a lot of uncertainty about what will happen if/when the climate warms significantly. Oddly all sides agree about that, sceptics even more than greens; if you don’t think the models are correct in their predictions for overall warming, they’re even less likely to be correct about specifics such as rainfall in Bangladesh, for example, or things they don’t even try to model.

    Put against that we know that people are quite well adapted to whatever conditions they find themselves in at the moment. Not always brilliantly, of course (see Somalia, or the aforementioned Bangladesh), but at least to a known degree. And people are generally inclined to take well-established suffering over new, unknown (potential) suffering.

    @Samsung – You might want to read up on the difference between weather and climate.

  • Stephen Willmer

    I’d love to know what is the difference between weather and climate. Care to enlighten me?

  • Ditto

    I mean, doesn’t weather a climate make?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    ‘Weather’ is what happens in the atmosphere day by day- ‘Climate’ is the general weather conditions of a region, averaged over a series of years. Thus climate is the long-term average.
    Don’t other people have dictionaries?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Regarding good aspects of hotter climes, we Australians have a funny show, called ‘The Gruen Transfer’, which looks at advertising, and they decided, last year, to get some agencies to do some humourous commercials to make climate changs seem good! The best was where homeless people cheered whenever they saw people filling up their car’s petrol tanks, as that meant more warm nights, as opposed to the cold nights before AGW!

  • chuck

    Or as I put it, if you want me support the installation of a global thermostat, you first need to convince me that you know where it should be set.

  • Kevin B

    Weather is climate is weather is climate. The observation that we’ve had a few cold winters on the bounce here in the UK is an observation of climate.

    Climate is not taking the daily min/max temperature readings of a few thousand thermometers scattered unevenly about the globe; averaging them daily, weekly monthly and annually; homogenising them, adjusting them, adding in a fudge factor and smoothing them and then presenting the resulting product as some sort of global climate monitor.

    Nor is climate measuring tree ring widths from a stand of bristlecones in the California mountains, smoothing out the wrinkles, overwieghting those trees that show early twentieth century ‘warming’, adding on the aforementioned ‘global temperature’ to hide the late twentieth century decline, and declaring the whole mess somehow ‘teleconnected’ to the global climate of the last thousand years. Nor is a lonesome pine in russia nor some lake bed varves in Finland, (which had to be inverted to match the temps).

    I might be prepared to accept some of these things as pointers to how the climate might have changed over the years and millenia, but they are presented by known cheats, liars and, (in Hansen’s case), criminals, so I think I’ll pass.

  • I daresay when people are pointing out the last ten or fifteen extremely cold, dead-pensioner-filled winters in a row, people will still be instructing me to learn the difference between weather and climate.

  • Samsung

    According to the gospel of Global Warming/Climate Change, we have been prophesised hot balmy summers and mild winters here in the UK. In other words, an increasingly warming change in our weather. Here’s an example of what was predicted a decade ago;

    Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past(Link)

    Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

    “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,”

    Throw away your sledges kids, and break out the sun cream, Winter’s here.

    There are those like the naturalist botanist Sir David Bellamy, journalist Melanie Phillips and Meteorologist, astrophysicist Piers Corbyn, who believe that that thanks to sun spot activity (and not man-made CO2), the warming spell is closing and we are entering a global cooling period that has only just started.

    But wait, according to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change, now says to expect “warmer colder” winters! One minute, we are told it’s going to get warmer, the next, it’s going to get colder. Talk about double speak. Anyone would think that they are changing the goal posts to suit their own agenda.

    Personally speaking, my money is on sun spot activity (and not man-made CO2) primarily affecting our climate, and the distinct possability of it getting cooler in the decades to come.

  • nemesis

    Since the earth’s climate has been in flux for 4 and a half billion years, the time to worry would be when it stopped changing.