July 6, 2011

Is climate change bad?

Climate change poses an existential challenge for the future of the human race. Most climate change impacts confer few or no benefits, and may do great harm at considerable cost. The following list examines the possible outcomes of unchecked climate change.

Agriculture

While CO2 is essential for plant growth, all agriculture depends also on steady water supplies, and climate change is likely to disrupt those supplies through floods and droughts. It has been suggested that higher latitudes – Siberia, for example – may become productive due to global warming, but the soil in Arctic and bordering territories is very poor, and the amount of sunlight reaching the ground in summer will not change because it is governed by the tilt of the earth. Agriculture can also be disrupted by wildfires and changes in seasonal periodicity, which is already taking place, and changes to grasslands and water supplies could impact grazing and welfare of domestic livestock. Increased warming may also have a greater effect on countries whose climate is already near or at a temperature limit over which yields reduce or crops fail – in the tropics or sub-Sahara, for example.

Health

Warmer winters would mean fewer deaths, particularly among vulnerable groups like the aged. However, the same groups are also vulnerable to additional heat, and deaths attributable to heatwaves are expected to be approximately five times as great as winter deaths prevented. It is widely believed that warmer climes will encourage migration of disease-bearing insects like mosquitoes and malaria is already appearing in places it hasn’t been seen before.

Polar Melting

While the opening of a year-round ice free Arctic passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would confer some commercial benefits, these are considerably outweighed by the negatives. Detrimental effects include loss of polar bear habitat and increased mobile ice hazards to shipping. The loss of ice albedo (the reflection of heat), causing the ocean to absorb more heat, is also a positive feedback; the warming waters increase glacier and Greenland ice cap melt, as well as raising the temperature of Arctic tundra, which then releases methane, a very potent greenhouse gas (methane is also released from the sea-bed, where it is trapped in ice-crystals called clathrates). Melting of the Antarctic ice shelves is predicted to add further to sea-level rise with no benefits accruing.

Ocean Acidification

A cause for considerable concern, there appear to be no benefits to the change in pH of the oceans. This process is caused by additional CO2 being absorbed in the water, and may have severe destabilising effects on the entire oceanic food-chain.

Melting Glaciers

The effects of glaciers melting are largely detrimental, the principle impact being that many millions of people (one-sixth of the world’s population) depend on fresh water supplied each year by natural spring melt and regrowth cycles and those water supplies – drinking water, agriculture – may fail.

Sea Level Rise

Many parts of the world are low-lying and will be severely affected by modest sea rises. Rice paddies are being inundated with salt water, which destroys the crops. Seawater is contaminating rivers as it mixes with fresh water further upstream, and aquifers are becoming polluted. Given that the IPCC did not include melt-water from the Greenland and Antarctic ice-caps due to uncertainties at that time, estimates of sea-level rise are feared to considerably underestimate the scale of the problem. There are no proposed benefits to sea-level rise.

Environmental

Positive effects of climate change may include greener rainforests and enhanced plant growth in the Amazon, increased vegetation in northern latitudes and possible increases in plankton biomass in some parts of the ocean. Negative responses may include further growth of oxygen poor ocean zones, contamination or exhaustion of fresh water, increased incidence of natural fires, extensive vegetation die-off due to droughts, increased risk of coral extinction, decline in global photoplankton, changes in migration patterns of birds and animals, changes in seasonal periodicity, disruption to food chains and species loss.

Economic

The economic impacts of climate change may be catastrophic, while there have been very few benefits projected at all. The Stern report made clear the overall pattern of economic distress, and while the specific numbers may be contested, the costs of climate change were far in excess of the costs of preventing it. Certain scenarios projected in the IPCC AR4 report would witness massive migration as low-lying countries were flooded. Disruptions to global trade, transport, energy supplies and labour markets, banking and finance, investment and insurance, would all wreak havoc on the stability of both developed and developing nations. Markets would endure increased volatility and institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies would experience considerable difficulty.

Developing countries, some of which are already embroiled in military conflict, may be drawn into larger and more protracted disputes over water, energy supplies or food, all of which may disrupt economic growth at a time when developing countries are beset by more egregious manifestations of climate change. It is widely accepted that the detrimental effects of climate change will be visited largely on the countries least equipped to adapt, socially or economically.

This post is reproduced from Skeptical Science and is used with permission

  • Jimmy

    If global warming existed and wasn’t a theorized result of the altered statistics that are different to a previous version; would it really be so bad? Common sense can tell you so much. Such as: Warming the ice results in more water in the “global water table”, more water in the system adds to the effects of the growing tropical climate (also supported by the global warming), tropical environments funnily enough are abundant in plant life. And on the other end of the spectrum, cold and dry environments (deserts) are unsurprisingly without life. “Global Warming” would be the agricultural breakthrough of the century, if it existed.

  • Dave

    Global warming does exist. See temperature graphs from any reliable source, over a decent time period.

    Would it really be so bad? Well, yes.

    Common sense tells us that a rapid increase in average global temperature will cause chaos to agricultural production. Lifeforms on our planet CAN adjust, and HAVE previously adjusted, to very long term climate change. But global temperatures are rising at a speed that has never EVER occurred before. That is the root of the issue. Maybe if this change was happening over the next 10,000 years you might have a point. But it is more like the next century.

    Jimmy if you are older than 50 or so, and you don’t have kids, maybe you won’t have to face the consequences and you can afford not to think about this. But if not, for your own sake and that of your descendants, please try some decent scientific sources – NASA, Royal Academy, New Scientist, etc. and do a bit more reading on this.

  • Toby0222000

    Science now is “settled”, political ends justify any means. Science now is also based on computer models instead of double blind empirical studies.

    Carbon Dioxide, which plants breathe is a deadly poison, while plutonium and uranium waste with virtually infinite half-lives are the saviors of the environment-
    along with mercury laden “energy saving” light bulbs which will leach into water tables around the world their healthy heavy metals.

    All the climate change constantly quoted comes from elite controlled NASA and the Royal Society, or UN IPCC, and there is no such thing as big money affecting these. After-all, NASA never makes mistakes like the time they pressured Thiokol to ok the cold launch of the Challenger in 1986. 

    The solution is to create some b.s. carbon trading scheme and dropping barium salts and God knows what other poison to drop down on our heads.

     Life on this planet is carbon-based, hence carbon taxes are a tax on life…

    Al Gore gets a Nobel Prize and and Academy Award for a his little film, meanwhile he is a major owner in and Oil Company, jets all over the world and buys waterfront property that supposedly will be swamped by rising sea-levels. Yet he says about his investments in carbon scheme, he is just investing in what he believes in.

    There you have it in a nutshell; elites want to tax life, and if they have to do so by fraudulent “science”, they will. Now shut up and pay your Breathing Tax, damn deniers.

  • Lemmy Kilmister

    This is probably one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Not only because global warming is VERY REAL, but also in what universe would the melting of ice and glaciers be a good thing? 

    Glacial ice makes up about 70% of all the fresh water on Earth (of which there is only 3%, with the other 97% made up of salt water in the oceans). Surely common sense has told you that losing glaciers and ice caps to the effects of global warming can not only mean a loss of major fresh water resources globally, but also a great loss of habitat for many polar climate animals (I am also including humans in this, since we are animals too).
     
    Additionally, while it is true that tropical climates are vast in diversity of both flora and fauna, you are clearly oblivious to the fact that a great amount of life exists in deserts around the world (funnily enough, both plant AND animal life). Global warming could potentially have detrimental effects on our existence and the ecosystems around us if we do not find ways of diminishing our impact on the environment.

  • bobyy

    carbon tax sucks booo boooo

  • Ajgsdf

    soryy bobby i think you are wrong

  • David Hill

    look into how global warming deniers came about its interesting they are actually born from the pro smoking lobby . 
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_denial#Connections_to_the_tobacco_lobby

  • pete

    wouldnt releasing mega millions of fresh water into the oceans through melting polar caps have a devastating effect on sealife not to mention how all this fresh water would interact with things like the north atlantic current or the gulfstream which play an important part of the climate of this planet

  • Jack

    You’ll probably find, just adding,  cold and dry environments (e.g. deserts and Antarctica) contain a surprising amount of life. 

    While climate change innately isn’t bad. Life will go on, it will adapt and survive. It does mean change to the environment, and as such will impact on our currenty systems of economics and such. We would have to adapt as well, which will cause quite a bit of turbulence. Anyway, my main point: There is life in the desert.