June 29, 2005

Global Warming Sham
#4 Colder Isn't Always Better

We are constantly inundated by media and pressure groups about the catastrophe that would come with climate change. The world will end, diseases will spread, deserts and swamps everywhere, mass extinctions, political instability, economic depression, and millions dead. In other words, they sound a lot like the Y2K survivalists.

If global warming were to come, what would be affected first? News reports like to talk about the ice caps melting, deserts advancing and floods over much of the Earth. Of course, if global warming is real then there has to be a starting point because all that stuff wouldn't happen overnight. That starting point for warming would actually be where it's most needed: in the coldest parts of the planet and at the coldest times.

Northernmost regions, at night, during winter, are going to see the first effects of warming. This means that these places would be more habitable for humans and more hospitable for plants and crops. It means growing seasons would be longer. It means fewer fatalities due to weather. In short, it means a better planet to live on.

This isn't to say that all warming would be good, but it's important to retain some perspective on the issue. On the whole, it wouldn't be so horrible if more parts of the Earth were easier for animals and humans to live in and produce food from. Lives would be saved and improved from that change.

A good example is the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted roughly from the 900s to the 1300s and saw increased temperatures for Europe and the northern Atlantic. Winters were shorter and warmer. Ice receded around Scandinavia and allowed colonization of Iceland, greenland and newfoundland. It was during the MWP that the Vikings probably sailed to North America. Grapes grew in southern England, which is 300 miles north of their current northern limit (in France).

The Medieval climate optimum ended in the 14th century - just as the Black Death wiped out a third of Europe's population. There's a good chance that fewer warm bodies and decreased agricultural production helped bring about the end of the MWP and replace it with the Little Ice Age (which ended in the 1800s, as Europe's population began to boom). The decrease of heat-generating sunspots and the increase of volcanic ash probably converged with other factors to cause this shift. What was the result when the boom-time ended?

Colonies in Greenland and the northern Atlantic were lost, isolated from food and resources back home. Iceland was often completely surrounded by ice and had no port access, coinciding with the collapse of the government there. Because the LIA concided with the Black Death, it's perhaps misleading to say that crop yields saw major reductions, but it's definitely true that crops did not grow as well or as far north as they had earlier.

A warmer winter is in many respects a very good thing. It allows more crops to be grown, it means fewer deaths to cold, fewer resources spent fighting the weather, and a more hospitable world. Is this what we're going to spend billions and trillions trying to avoid? That's a pretty flimsy rationale.

Certainly global warming can have very dangerous consequences for human beings if it's out of control. But every indication is that the coldest parts of the planet would improve with warming and that they would be the first things affected.

WEBSITE: This is available on the website under issue articles along with the other Global Warming Sham essays here.

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