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When Global Warming is Good

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The melting Arctic ice has been a key measure of the pace of global warming for several years now, but a smart piece in Foreign Affairs argues that the regional melt is creating an economic boom:

No matter what one thinks should be done about global warming, the fact is, it’s happening. And it’s not all bad. In the Arctic, it is turning what has traditionally been an impassible body of water ringed by remote wilderness into something dramatically different: an emerging epicenter of industry and trade akin to the Mediterranean Sea. The region’s melting ice and thawing frontier are yielding access to troves of natural resources, including nearly a quarter of the world’s estimated undiscovered oil and gas and massive deposits of valuable minerals. Since summertime Arctic sea routes save thousands of miles during a journey between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic also stands to become a central passageway for global maritime transportation, just as it already is for aviation.

Given these economic facts, chances are that many of the region’s inhabitants are fervently saying: “melt, baby, melt.” The Arctic boom reminds us that global warming, like most every macro phenomenon, has good and bad effects. The pace of warming has slowed down in recent years and it’s uncertain what the long term effects of climate change will be. But even if we grant that some of the greens’ fears will be realized, there are still countervailing benefits to consider. It looks to us as if the affects of climate change are much more complex and harder to predict than green publicists claim; the earth’s climate system has surprised us before and is likely to surprise us again as the interactions and interrelations of different factors lead to unexpected changes in the world around us.

Given that climate change is a mixture of curses and blessings, any policy addressing it is going to involve trade-offs. Slowing it down, for example, would hurt some, help others. It’s not clear why a cold, Arctic-reliant country like Russia whose economy is linked to the oil and gas trade would find a benefit in cooperating with efforts to stop climate change. It also appears that human activities like farming are better able to adjust to temperature variations than some pessimists would have us believe. Crops like soya, corn and wheat can be bred (or genetically modified) to grow in warmer and dryer conditions at a modest cost.

Greens, many impelled by emotional overreactions or a deep inner belief that unfettered capitalism is a terrible thing, have tried to simplify the discussion about the earth’s changing climate into a morality play. They’ve overstated the evidence that favors worst-case scenarios, argued for top down, bureaucratic solutions that don’t work, and when critics object to these policies they lash out at their critics as ‘science deniers.’

The Arctic melt shouldn’t be taken to show that climate change is nothing to be concerned about. Rather, it’s such a complex phenomenon with so many ramifications, that understanding what is happening around us is a major task, and we are still nowhere near a complete analysis of the changes taking place in the climate system.

Meanwhile, read the whole thing for a balanced, sane understanding of the climate shifts currently happening. Fortunately, the piece in Foreign Affairs seems to be part of a broader trend in the media to acknowledge and examine the complexities surrounding this important issue. Zealots are rarely the best guides when it comes to difficult issues like climate change.

[UPDATED VERSION]

[Image of iceberg off the coast of Greenland courtesy of Wikimedia]

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  • Andrew Allison

    Re: “The pace of warming has slowed down in recent years” In truth, average temperatures have not risen at all for 16 years (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/bild-906721-511098.html)!

    • shootist MP

      I defy anyone to take an average planetary temperature and have it be accurate to plus or minus 5 degrees.

      • Andrew Allison

        You might argue about the validity of the data, but an average is simply that. Furthermore, regardless of what’s really going on, when the data from the same points establishes a trend, it’s real.

        • shootist MP

          Not when the data points are not the same this year as they were last.

          I only know enough Statistics to have graduated with an MS in a natural science (40 years ago). But I do know that measuring the average temperature in a building with humidity and climate control is nigh impossible to more than 2 significant figures. Yet the climate scientists routinely publish global average temperatures using 3 significant figures.

          You do understand that Freeman Dyson has disagreed with the AGW theory? One of his greatest complaints is the liberty the climate science community has taken with statistical analysis. So I feel as if I’m on pretty solid ground.

          • Andrew Allison

            You’ve failed to grasp the implications of the fact that the data is averaged. The average temperature and humidity of a climate controlled building over, say five years (the commonly used average for global temperature) is, in fact constant, and you are on very shaky ground.

          • shootist MP

            Dyson failed to grasp the implications?

            Uh huh.

      • klem

        Oh yeah? Well they have 3000 year old tree rings and swamp sludge that is accurate to a 10th of a degree. Of course, the error bars are +- 5 degrees, but they are still accurate to a 10th of a degree. Shows what you know.

        • shootist MP

          And dairy farms in Greenland.

  • stan brown

    And ice in Antarctica is increasing. Such that total global ice is up.

    • tomdperk

      Don’t confuse the lefties with facts contrary to the narrative, they can’t handle it.

      I for one, don’t want to be cleaning up the brains. And I’m close enough to several, at least, the dry cleaning bill will be noticeable.

  • TheCynical1

    The opening of new Arctic sea lanes may also impact global security, by increasing the geographic responsibilities of the major navies of the world.

    • Thirdsyphon

      That’s a delicate way of putting it. The Arctic thaw is exposing resources that will keep Russia, the U.S., the E.U. (if it survives) and perhaps even Canada playing “Game of Thrones: The King Beyond The Wall Edition” for the next 50-100 years. It’s not beyond possibility that even China could get in on the action, if they’re farsighted enough to forge a geostrategic alliance with Iceland to help them press *their* claim.

      • klem

        Canada? Never heard of it. Must be new.

  • Corlyss

    “Greens, many impelled by emotional overreactions or a deep inner belief that unfettered capitalism is a terrible thing,”
    I wish the tireless MBTC at WRM would start attributing to the hysterics what they so obviously have: profound religious delusions.

  • bigfire

    We can adapt to Global Warming. We CANNOT survive Global Cooling. Just as this XKCD comic demonstrate, do you really want a return to the ice age? http://xkcd.com/1225/

    • xbox361

      we could survive Global Cooling, as long as we can frack enough natural gas to melt ice and grow crops.

      • bigfire

        Ahm, no. We cannot burn enough gas to melt the 3000 meter thick ice sheet that covers 1/2 of North America. That fireball thing in the sky is the only thing that can do this. The only solution is for billions to starve and people moving towards Equator.

        • klem

          Oh come on now, you don’t actually think that fireball thing in the sky actually has some connection to the earth’s climate do you? Oh brother. There is a 97% consensus that all scientists believe that fireball thing in the sky is not really there.

    • Jack

      Yes, you have a good point. Anthropogenic warming will probably delay onset of the next ice age for thousands of years. The projected effects of warming pale in comparison with the devastating effects of an ice age on human civilization.

  • ljgude

    Amen, Brother Corlyss! Apocalyptic thinking and Manichaeism came out of ancient Persia and were old by the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Once humans have a clear linear sense of time rather than a cyclical one, there arises the possibility of an end to time. All sorts of end times scenarios have emerged from the human imagination. In the ancient world such predictions were known by the literary form called an apocalypse. Add Manichaeist dualism to an apocalyptic vision and you get a good versus evil struggle claiming to be necessary to prevent the apocalypse. All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the earth’s climate which may or may not be going to the dogs. As WRM implies, there is a Marist agenda underlining the Green movement. Marxism is already an apocalyptic belief system with capital H History inevitably leading to the triumph of the working classes and the End of History. Since the big day didn’t come, the Green movement is Marxism regrouped – peddling a different and more punitive (why am not surprised?) end times scenario.

  • Boritz

    “Melt baby melt!”
    You order the bumper stickers and I’ll order the lapel pins.

  • shootist MP

    Looking forward to growing oranges in Alaska.

    • klem

      Looking forward to skiing in Florida.

      • Jack

        You mean skiing over what was once Florida.

        • klem

          I guess I should make that skating.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    Greens, many impelled by emotional overreactions or a deep inner belief that unfettered capitalism is a terrible thing, have tried to simplify the discussion about the earth’s changing climate into a morality play.

    Bingo … and in the back of their minds, many of them are probably thinking, “even if we’re wrong on the science, it’s still the right thing to do.”

    Behold the tyranny of the condescending do-gooder, a priestly order within the Cult of the Credentialed and Connected Omniscient.

  • xbox361

    What? There are tradeoffs? Some benefits, some advantages?
    So, like everything else in life?
    Sorry Miami Beach, Hello Halifax!

    • shootist MP

      We’ll grow oranges in Alaska, papaya in Nebraska and coffee in Cascadia.

      • klem

        Don’t forget skiing in Louisiana.

  • klem

    I don’t think the author fully understands how the climate alarmist brain works.

    Here, just remember this simple rule: if any climate change is bad, it’s caused by humans. If any climate change is good, it’s caused by mother nature.

    There, that’s how the climate alarmist brain works. Simple.

    cheers.

  • charles.hoffman.cpa

    the next 23 penguins to celebrate at a birthday party will certainly appreciate the fine weather they enjoy; meanwhile, however, a few million farmers in Bangladesh will watch as salt water takes over their fields and they’re reduced to moving into another city’s overcrowded slums

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