Climate change isn’t all bad. Depending on where you do your reading, you may only see the downside. But there are upsides. This post examines the three main benefits – warmer winters, longer growing seasons and more fossil fuels.
I’m writing this post because of the reader survey from the end of last year. One of you didn’t feel able to answer the question on how bad is climate change because you didn’t know about the upsides.
There are three main benefits as far as I can see. The first two are only benefits in the short-term; the last will keep on giving for centuries to come.
Firstly, at the moment in most of the developed world, there are more weather related deaths in the winter than in the summer. A warmer world will mean that the average winter will be milder than before, and so cold related deaths will decrease in the short-term and in higher latitudes, according to the IPCC. There are some important caveats, of course. Excess winter deaths are higher in milder countries at the moment, so maybe it could go the other way. And climate change brings with it much more variability, such as the chilling vortex over the US at the moment, which could stretch our ability to cope. By the way, the frozen US was caused by a very weak and wobbly jet stream allowing a chunk of polar air to descend deep into the south, all as a result of a warmer world. And of course the lower latitudes are stuffed.
The second benefit is longer growing seasons, again for the higher latitudes. That’s the UK, by the way. On average, spring will start sooner and summer will be longer over the next few decades, so we will be able to grow more food. In fact, in the short-term, there should be an overall global increase in food productivity, again according to the IPCC. Longer term it goes the other way, of course, and the lower latitudes are again the losers throughout. And in some years, due to flooded summers or droughts, we will have to wait for the next year to eat.
The final benefit I’d like to talk about is the receding ice-sheets exposing more land and sea, for food growing, travel and of course for fossil fuel extraction. Greenland, here we come, and we can start drilling in the Arctic. Like a smoking amputee reaching for another packet of cigarettes because of their unrelenting addiction.
So, all in all, in the next few decades, the richer people in the more northerly or southerly parts of the developed world will probably benefit from some domestic improvements. Will we be better off in that time, as the rest of the world withers away?
And will we be able to enjoy our spoils, with the knowledge that we have pushed the world out of its natural cycles into something new and unknown, with the inevitability that it will be coming to get us when we are old and our children are struggling on?