Thursday, June 14, 2007

There is no silver lining without a cloud

NASA chief Michael Griffin brought up an excellent point when he asked how we know our current climate is optimal. Even though the earth's climate has varied naturally throughout its existence, virtually all prognostications of the AGW alarmists promise The End Of The World As We Know It.

It is, therefore, surprising when an article comes along in the major media admitting that a one or two degree temperature increase won't lead to human extinction.

Associated Press, June 14:
It's not in Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation, but there are some upsides to global warming.

Northern homes could save on heating fuel. Rust Belt cities might stop losing snowbirds to the South. Canadian farmers could harvest bumper crops. Greenland may become awash in cod and oil riches. Shippers could count on an Arctic shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific. Forests may expand. Mongolia could see a go-go economy.

This is all speculative, even a little facetious, and any gains are not likely to make up for predicted frightening upheavals elsewhere. But still ... might there be a silver lining for the frigid regions of Canada and Russia?

"It's not that there won't be bad things happening in those countries. There will be _ things like you'll lose polar bears," said economic professor Robert O. Mendelsohn of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "But the idea is that they will get such large gains, especially in agriculture, that they will be bigger than the losses."

Mendelsohn looked at how gross domestic product around the world would be affected under different warming scenarios though 2100. Canada and Russia tend to come out as gainers, as does much of northern Europe and Mongolia.

This is largely because of projected gains in agricultural production in those areas. Many researchers believe that if the world warms up, the sweet spots for growing crops will migrate toward the poles. Some people claim the phenomenon is already manifesting itself in bountiful forsythia blooms in Vermont and maple sap flowing in upstate New York in January.

Mendelsohn's study is summarized with an interactive map here.

Of course, the article's author can't let the topic go without reminding us that there wouldn't be a silver lining if there wasn't a cloud:

Of course, the caveats are significant when trying to make any long-term global forecast. There are so many variables.

A longer growing season does a farmer no good if resulting rain patterns bring a drought. Mendelsohn said northern residents saving on winter heating fuel will end up spending more than that to keep cool in the summer. Great Lakes cities might enjoy balmier weather, but could suffer if lower lake levels cut off shipping lanes. And global warming could present deadly new opportunities for parasites and disease.

Some researchers stress there aren't really any winners in global warming because the planet will be such a big loser. Marginal gains in limited areas can't be stacked up on one side of the ledger, they say, when the negatives can include planet-wide food and water shortages, mass flooding and extinction.

"In the end, you don't find really large, really significant benefits," said Michael MacCracken, chief scientist at the nonpartisan Climate Institute in Washington. "I mean, loss of biodiversity is an irreversible thing for the planet. Saving a little money on heating in winter areas is a small economic gain for some people. How do you compare that?"

P.S. The Climate Institute may be nonpartisan, but that's hardly relevant to the AGW debate.

One last observation before moving on. As the AP article's author transitions from the good news to the YeahBut part of the article, we see the following:
While oceanfront cities might have to build seawalls to hold back the ocean in a warming world, some researchers believe the freshwater Great Lakes will evaporate a bit. But a projected 11-degree boost at the turn of the next century could be a boon for chillier cities like Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit and Buffalo, even knocking them into the "optimal" holiday range.
Eleven degrees? Where did that number come from? An increase of 11F (6C) is even higher than the IPCC's worst-case prediction. I guess we really are headed for extinction.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse manages to spin this news using socialist class rhetoric in this June 8 article:
Climate change is expected to have disastrous consequences for Earth but some areas will profit, notably wealthy nations in the northern parts of Europe, Russia and the US, scientists say.

On Thursday the leaders of the Group of Eight club of wealthy nations agreed to pursue substantial cuts to greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and said they would seriously consider halving emissions by 2050.

But they will remain the main beneficiaries of climate change, with the agriculture, shipping, and oil, gas and mining sectors among those that are expected to prosper as snow and ice melts in the north.

"The rich countries of the north are going to be winners of climate change, while the poor countries of the south are going to be losers," Jann-Gunnar Winther, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, told AFP during a global warming conference held in the Arctic town of Tromsoe this week.