The Bright Side of Global Warming

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Despite all
the doomsday reports from environmentalists about global warming,
there is reason to rejoice if the earth does get warmer. In his
Anti-Environmentalist
Manifesto
, Lew Rockwell writes: "There is no evidence of
global warming, but even if it were to take place, many scientists
say the effect would be good: it would lengthen growing seasons,
make the earth more liveable, and forestall any future ice age."

Many researchers
have studied and documented the bright side of a warming world climate
trend. Thomas Gale Moore,
an economist at Stanford University's Hoover Institute, is the author
of Climate
of Fear: Why We Shouldn't Worry about Global Warming
, a
book that describes the many ways that warmer weather helps human
beings in all areas of life. And Moore is not alone in taking this
view. Many researchers have discovered the gains that human society
makes in warmer weather by studying its impact in various areas
such as health and agriculture.

Perhaps the
most direct and obvious benefit of warmer climate is its impact
on human mortality rates. Both extreme heat and extreme coldness
bring the risk of death. Statistically and historically in the West,
however, winters have posed a greater threat to humans than summers
have.

According to
William.
R. Keatinge and Gavin. C. Donaldson
, two researchers at the
University of London, "Cold-related deaths are far more numerous
than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost
all countries outside the tropics, and almost all of them are due
to common illnesses that are increased by cold." One of their
studies of various regions of Europe showed that cold-related deaths
outnumbered heat-related deaths by nearly ten to one.

Sherwood
B. Idso, Craig D. Idso, and Keith E. Idso
, researchers at the
Center for the Study of CO2 and Global Change in Tempe,
AZ, agree. They point out that in both cold and warm countries,
the risk of both cardiovascular and respiratory diseases is higher
in the winter months.

Some have suggested
that in warmer weather, mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria
may increase as the climate becomes more favorable to mosquito life.
Historically, in England, malaria made a significant contribution
to human deaths during a cold period, and declined as temperatures
rose during the 19th century. The same can be said of
yellow fever, dengue, and tick-borne encephalitis. Other studies
show that there is either no connection between climate change and
incidence of these diseases, or that they decrease in warmer weather.

The Idsos provide
an explanation for this counterintuitive finding. They suggest that
human-dependent "factors such as the quality of public health
services, irrigation and agricultural activities, land uses practices,"
etc., have a far greater impact on reducing vector-borne diseases.
Draining wetlands for development, for example, eliminates potential
mosquito breeding grounds. Warmer weather is conducive to many of
these activities.

A warmer world
would also directly impact agricultural productivity, according
to Moore. Warmer weather means a longer growing season, and thus
greater output. It would also result in greater rainfall, providing
much-needed water for plants. The risk of crop failures would decrease
with shorter, milder winters.

As a result
of elevated levels of carbon dioxide, the quality and quantity of
agricultural products have risen as well. Given the significant
role that agriculture plays in feeding people around the world,
this is a huge benefit. Even if people do not consume more grown
food, they still benefit from the drop in prices that accompanies
an expansion of supply.

High carbon
dioxide levels from industrial output, the alleged culprit behind
global warming, also improve the quality of certain plants. For
example, many types of plants contain antioxidants, substances that
protect the body against destructive molecular radicals. In many
plants, the concentration of antioxidants such as vitamin C increases
significantly under higher levels of carbon dioxide. The Idsos report
their findings in their article. Given the medical properties of
these substances, greater CO2 levels are a very important
health benefit.

This should
not come as a surprise to anyone who has studied chemistry and plant
biology. As part of photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide
and transform it into organic compounds. These compounds are what
give the plant its mass, nutritional value, and other beneficial
properties. As college freshmen learn in chemistry class, the rate
of many chemical processes is proportional to the concentration
of the inputs. A greater concentration of carbon dioxide results
in a greater rate of turnover, as more carbon dioxide is converted
into plant matter in a given time span. Consequently, plants grown
under increased CO2 levels contain more biomass and nutrition.

Warming climates
are advantageous to other forms of human activity as well. The
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
(ACIA), a study prepared by
the Arctic Council,
found that a warmer Arctic would have more available resources.
By reducing the polar ice caps, Arctic warming opens up resources
that were trapped by ice to human exploration and use. In light
of recent gas prices, one especially important advantage is increased
access to oil deposits in the Arctic.

Transportation
also benefits from more clement weather. Heavy rain and snow during
the winter disrupt both ground and air transportation, resulting
in costly delays and hazardous conditions. The ACIA has also found
that reduced ice caps would open up sea routes through the arctic.
Currently, many freighters must take the Panama Canal to reach the
other side of North America. (The ones that cannot fit in the canal
must go around South America!) A shortened route through the Arctic
would cause shipping costs to plummet, benefiting a multitude of
industries that depend on carrying goods between continents.

The fishing
industry stands to benefit as well. Moore notes a study that found
that in a cooler world, fish, shellfish, and crustacean catches
would decline. Turning this analysis around, he concludes that warmer
climate would boost fishery productivity. The ACIA report agrees,
citing the prospect of more productive fisheries in the Arctic due
to the northward migration of cod and capelin, made possible by
warmer weather.

On land, improved
weather conditions would benefit traffic as well. Currently, winter
storms are one of the biggest factors in causing traffic problems
and delays. They create unsafe driving conditions. They force airports
to postpone flights. If winters became shorter due to warming trends,
road and airport conditions would improve massively.

A warming trend
brings many benefits to economic activity. Since so many people
around the world are dependent on oil, fish, transportation, and
shipping, the economic advantages of warmer climate reach far and
wide. As the supply of these goods rises along with temperatures,
prices would fall, allowing consumers to enjoy more without paying
more.

History shows
that warmer weather has always been on the side of human civilization.
Moore describes the role that the climate has played in primitive
societies: "Primitive man and hunter-gatherer tribes were at
the mercy of the weather, as are societies that are still almost
totally bound to the soil. A series of bad years can be devastating."
In warm years, the growing season was long and fruitful. Animals
flourished, providing food for societies that relied on hunting.
Disruptions in climate would have greatly reduced their means of
sustenance.

In fact, climate
changes may have played a key role in the transition from hunter-gatherer
societies to farming societies. Moore points to the coincidence
of the end of the Ice Age with the rise of agriculture and domestication
about 10,000 years ago. As a result, populations that grew food
could grow larger and larger without being constrained by a limited
supply of wildlife.

According to
Moore's book, there was little population growth in Europe during
the late first millennium A.D. Mountain passes restricted trade
and movement, and many settlements were abandoned. When the warmer
11th century came, towns grew and trade flourished. Marshes
dried up to yield good farmland. Human life expectancy in England
reached 48 by the year 1276. In Greenland, settlers even grew corn
— it was truly a "green
land
."

This trend
of warmth reversed itself starting around 1300, ushering in a Mini-Ice
Age. Glaciers in North America expanded. The once-flourishing civilization
in Greenland was abandoned. Europe experienced crop failures due
to a shortened growing season. The coldness generated storms and
turned good land into bogs and marshes. Moore believes that this
cooling period even contributed to the Black Death plague. "The
unpleasant weather is likely to have confined people to their homes
where they were more likely to be exposed to the fleas that carried
the disease," he says. "In addition, the inclement weather
may have induced rats to take shelter in buildings, exposing their
inhabitants to the bacillus." As a result, life expectancy
in Britain plummeted to 38 by the late 14th century.
He documents similar historical trends in Asia.

Human civilization
prospered during periods of warm weather in history and faced hardships
and setbacks during cold periods. Says Moore, "During the best
of times, human populations have gone up rapidly, new techniques
and practices have developed, and building and art have flourished."
Although the Industrial Revolution has reduced the dependence of
human activity upon the climate, warmer weather still makes a difference
today.

Despite all
the benefits, many scientists still claim global warming is a problem.
Some of their concerns may be valid, such as the possible flooding
of small islands. The question is, how can we weigh the gains against
the losses? How should global warming be judged when it could be
both advantageous and disadvantageous for people?

Here is where
the realm of science ends. Science can tell us the bare facts about
what will happen as a result of natural, physical processes. However,
it cannot tell us how people will or should act in response to these
processes. According to Thomas Gale Moore in an interview, global
warming is not so much a scientific issue as an economic
issue. People are fully capable of adjusting to new conditions —
just as they have done for thousands of years. A farmer who finds
that his crops can no longer grow under the new climate, for instance,
could either move south or find a more suitable crop. The result
of human adaptability can be seen today in the fact that people
today can live in both extreme heat and extreme cold due to good
insulation and air conditioning. "That's the interesting thing
about human beings," says Moore.

If it turns
out to be true, global warming may change the world in many ways.
But as long as people are capable of acting and adjusting, they
can compensate for the negative effects of warming while enjoying
its positive fruits. Moore agrees: "There's no reason to think
that warm weather is bad."

June
29, 2006

Simon
Que [send him mail] just
graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a B.S.
in electrical engineering. He will be working in San Jose, CA.

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