Good things about climate change

Could climate change be a good thing?
July 22, 2015 – 03:27 pm

Duncan climate change FAQ : Children play in the fountains on the South Bank, LondonA changing climate isn't inherently bad, and commentators who are sceptical about the risks posed by global warming often point to the benefits that higher temperatures could bring – such as longer growing seasons in cool countries and more efficient shipping routes through an ice-free Arctic. Even some of those who are concerned about climate change occasionally highlight opportunities that it presents, whether that's a boost to UK tourism or a shake-up of global politics.

Certainly it's true that a warmer world could benefit certain people, species, regions and industries – at least for a period. However, any such benefits need to be seen in the context of a number of serious and widespread negative consequences that scientists have warned the world to expect: things such as rising sea levels, an increase in the number of people exposed to devastating droughts and floods, and a potentially massive increase in extinction rates. That explains why world's most prestigious scientific bodies stated in 2009 that: "It is essential that world leaders agree on the emission reductions needed to combat negative consequences of anthropogenic climate change".

Of course, any comparison of specific positive and negative impacts is complicated by the fact that the effects of climate change will vary according to both location and time. For example, the science suggests that global agricultural productivity may increase during the first three degrees Celsius of warming, driven by gains in relatively wealthy high-latitude regions. During that time, however, productivity looks likely to fall in the poorer tropical areas, followed by a drop in global food production if the temperature warms by more than 3C – something that could be expected to put a huge strain on a world population expected to exceed nine billion by the end of the century.

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