Earth’s surface temperatures have defied the predictions of climate models for the past decade, coming in considerably cooler than expected. The climate science community is stumped about this. One possible explanation is that oceans are “storing” much of the heat that would otherwise have warmed the atmosphere. There are other possibilities as well. What this uncertainty means for future climate models is unclear. What is clear is that we should take the predictions of climate models with a grain of salt. The system they are attempting to represent is ridiculously complex; we will probably never do better than a rough approximation. The imperfections of climate modeling, however, don’t mean we don’t need to think about what happens if the warming resumes.Most of the focus tends to be on how warming will mess things up, but it may not be the all-out catastrophe that many predict. Some things will undoubtedly change for the worse, but others will change for the better. Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, for example, are predicting that rain forests will have their day in the sun if temperatures rise. Newsroom Panama reports:
[Researcher Carlos Jaramillo] said that the fossil record shows that tropical forests thrived under global warming conditions and diversity increased, since larger forested areas generally have a level of diversity that is higher than in smaller areas.The research showed that rainforests expanded into more temperate zones as temperatures increased.
Of course, this conjecture is just as uncertain as most other climate predictions. But it’s an important reminder that the effects of climate change will be more of a mixed bag than hysterical greens have admitted in the past. If the alarmists are right, island nations will be hit especially hard by the effects of climate change. But other parts of the world are going to enjoy more arable land.Greens have framed this issue in the worst possible light in the hopes of pushing a particular maximalist policy agenda. They’ve aligned themselves with science and wagged their fingers at the consuming public for pushing the world to the brink of disaster. That approach might help grassroots fundraising from people already inclined to agree with the cause, but it alienates the moderate public and ultimately hurts the likelihood of coming to workable agreements. People know when someone is trying to scare them by telling only half the story and holding back the information they need to make an informed decision.Climate policy, like climate science, is complicated. Treating it as a black-and-white issue does no one any favors—not the greens, not sinful consumers, and certainly not the earth.[Taman Negara rainforest image courtesy of Wikimedia]