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Could Global Warming Make Life on Earth Better? 923

Posted by Zonk
from the makes-for-lots-of-swimming-opportunities dept.
mikee805 writes "A lengthy article in Spiegel explores the possibility that global warming might make life on Earth better, not just for humans, but all species. The article argues that 'worst-case scenarios' are often the result of inaccurate simulations made in the 1980s. While climate change is a reality, as far as the article is concerned, some planning and forethought may mean that more benefits than drawbacks will result from higher temperatures. From the article:'The medical benefits of higher average temperatures have also been ignored. According to Richard Tol, an environmental economist, "warming temperatures will mean that in 2050 there will be about 40,000 fewer deaths in Germany attributable to cold-related illnesses like the flu." Another widespread fear about global warming -- that it will cause super-storms that could devastate towns and villages with unprecedented fury -- also appears to be unfounded. Current long-term simulations, at any rate, do not suggest that such a trend will in fact materialize.'"
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Could Global Warming Make Life on Earth Better?

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:44AM (#19085325)
    Only if you bought lake front property in Siberia for no money down ... and you were hoping that one day you could use it as a Winter home.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:53AM (#19085565)
      "warming temperatures will mean that in 2050 there will be about 40,000 fewer deaths in Germany attributable to cold-related illnesses like the flu."

      Of course, the math gets a lot more complicated once we start counting tropical type diseases which will increase in prevalence.

      Not to say there aren't good things from global warming, but I would rather deal with what we do know (the climate we have now) rather than hoping that things will be better with whatever climate we get later.
      • by Rei (128717) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:06PM (#19085867) Homepage
        Yeah -- and quite honestly, I'd rather get the flu than dengue fever [wikipedia.org], yellow fever [wikipedia.org], viral encephalitis [wikipedia.org], malaria [wikipedia.org], and a whole host of other tropical diseases.

        Sure, preparataion would help us deal with global warming. However, the fact remains that humans are tightly bound to geography and environment by our infrastructure. While individuals may uproot and move without too much complication (although there certainly is an economic cost to do so), our infrastrucure doesn't. Furthermore, the simple cost of relocation makes it completely infeasible in many locations. Look at Bangladesh. Something like 60 million people there live within one meter of sea level. They expect a country as poor as Bangladesh to uproot and move a third of its population? And to where?

        Just because global warming has the *potential* to, say, transform Siberia and Canada into a new breadbasket, doesn't mean that such a transition would go smoothly. Even in the best case in which the warming is a net positive to world climate (which is doubtful), this simple fact means hardship for humanity.
        • To add to that (Score:3, Informative)

          by phorm (591458)
          Here in BC, Canada, we're having our forests killed off by the "mountain pine beetle." While this is a recurring pest, it seems that this time around it's a lot worse than previous. One of the main things that can kill the bugs in a big hurry is a sudden cold snap to about -40c for about 3-5 days. Winters have been milder and shorter lived these last few years though, so the beetle is continuing on. I've heard that Eastern Canada is starting to suffer from something similar with "Pine Wasp" (I'll take the b
          • Re:To add to that (Score:4, Informative)

            by dusanv (256645) on Friday May 11, 2007 @03:28PM (#19089607)
            I'm in eastern Canada. The worst winter of my life is easily January/February 2004. I don't think it peeped over -20C more than a couple of times during those two months (I remember starting my car one morning and the car thermometer read -37C, despite the car being in the sun and that it was at 8:45 AM, I don't want to imagine what the temperature was at 4 AM). This winter kicked in late but wasn't warm and stuck around a fair bit longer than normal with frequent snow fall even in late April (I'm on my summer tires since last week). It all depends on your locality. What you're seeing in BC doesn't necessarily describe the entire situation too well.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by phorm (591458)
              Yeah, we're actually starting to warm up fairly well around here. Actually, winter did hang around into April, but it was extremely sporadic and weird weather (with +14 to +18 one day, and snowing heavily the next few). It's around +20c here now, but just the other day it snowed in a nearby city at a slightly higher altitude...

              I think the best description I could give for the weather is... weird. Winter comes a bit later, and while it had a certain period of being really cold it wasn't as bad as those I h
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hador_nyc (903322)

          Yeah -- and quite honestly, I'd rather get the flu than dengue fever [wikipedia.org], yellow fever [wikipedia.org], viral encephalitis [wikipedia.org], malaria [wikipedia.org], and a whole host of other tropical diseases.

          I'm pretty sure the other things you mentioned are true, but this part is partially untrue. It's not that these diseases won't follow the warmth, I'm sure they will, but that they won't be a problem when they get here. Granted, I'm talking about rich places like the USA, but here's the

        • by rssrss (686344) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:39PM (#19087763)
          "I'd rather get the flu than dengue fever, yellow fever, viral encephalitis, malaria, and a whole host of other tropical diseases."

          Smile when you say that. Most flus over the past few decades have been fairly mild. But there is always the possibility that a new flu (such as the much bruited avian influenza A (H5N1)) could create a new pandemic as deadly as the 1918 out-break, which killed more than 600,000 here in the US.

          Of course, flus are not caused by cold weather, they are caused by viruses, many of which originate in south-east Asia which is tropical or semi-tropical. That in turn is not a result of climate, but of the poverty and which in turn leads to close contact between humans and farm animals that serve as the reservoirs of infectious viruses.

          The reason that flus spread in the winter in the northern hemisphere is that winter leads to close human contact in schools, offices, and shopping malls that allow the viruses to be transmitted between infected and uninfected human hosts. Flu pandemics are not caused by weather.

          Similarly, the tropical diseases you mention are not truly tropical. They are transmitted by insects (mostly mosquitoes) that thrive in water. The reason that they are largely found in the tropics now is that the tropics are largely poor and dominated by bad governments. In Europe and North America public works of sanitation, drainage and insect extermination have largely eliminated these diseases, and they could in the tropics, if they were used.

          These are not really climate issues.
    • by NockPoint (722613) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:32PM (#19086493)
      For any place on the Earth, there is a global average temperature that will make that place the best it can be. For Germany, I wouldn't be the slightest bit amazed if that global average temperature was one, two or even more degrees (C) warmer for Germany. Sweden, home to Svante Arrhenius, probably even warmer. There are other places that would probably be better with a lower global average temperature. If we tried to some sort of average, there would be some sort of global optimum temperature, which might well be higher than today's.

      However, why would global warming stop at the optimum, for Germany, or for Sweden, or for the world?

      Even if we recognized the optimum temperature when we reached it, overshoot seems very likely. Once we decide to stop warming the planet, it would take decades to change to non-carbon power sources. There would be more decades of warming already built into the increased CO2 levels, due to the thermal inertia of the oceans.

      Very much warmer temperatures are very likely to less than optimum.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        "Once we decide to stop warming the planet.."

        You assume we have anything to do with it. We humans LOVE taking credit for things much bigger than we are. The sun goes around the earth, you know.

        The greenhouse gas emissions created by the human race are about 3-5% of the total. The rest comes from the planet itself.

        I really wish you people would stop repeating the same lines over and over.
        • by multi io (640409) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Friday May 11, 2007 @04:26PM (#19090523)

          The greenhouse gas emissions created by the human race are about 3-5% of the total. The rest comes from the planet itself.

          Get your numbers right (don't take them from obscure global warming sceptics' sites, for starters). You're confusing the oceans' (and land masses') total CO2 emissions (which are indeed much higher than ours) with the ocean's *net* CO2 emissions (which are *negative* -- the oceans currently absorb more than they emit, slowing the CO2 level increase in the atmosphere -- CO2 concentrations in the oceans are rising, all measurements show that). The CO2 concentration in the air is higher today than it was in the last 600,000 years or more, we also have direct evidence (carbon isotopes) that much of the CO2 in the atmosphere comes from fossil fuel burning, and if you want, you can take the total amount of CO2 released into the air since 1800, divide it by the total number of molecules in the atmosphere and see for yourself that the current CO2 concentration is not a "thing much bigger than we are". About one in three CO2 molecules in the atmosphere originates from human activities, there is no scientific dispute about that.

          • Hi, welcome to earth. We're much older than 600,000 years. By quite a bit.

            There's proof that the levels were higher when the Dinosaurs were around, and hey, guess what, there's also evidence that the climate is in a cycle. Meaning you're ignoring that this could be happening normally.

            Like I said originally, the human mind LOVES to think that it's the most important thing in the universe, and while it is kinda cute, it's going to be our downfall. The sun doesn't go around us, and to think that a species that is outweighed by certain insect species could change the global climate of a planet is just silly.
    • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:37PM (#19086613)
      How dare you, Slashdot! You have posted blasphemy in the name of Our Religion. The sins of man have sullied our great Eden, and when the Judgement Day comes and the waters flood and the fires burn, it will fall on your head, so sayeth the Lord Gore. You must repent your sins and pray through ritual recycling, carbon credits to make companies rich, dangerous mercury bulbs, and higher taxes. You damn Christian capitalists and your fundamentalist religion. You're a bunch of Nazis! Now pay the government for the shame of your existence.
  • Not all good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:46AM (#19085369) Homepage
    I live in the Netherlands. We are now taking measures to prevent the flooding of my country. But, recent calculations show that we can manage the extra water that we will have to cope with.
    • by jonadab (583620) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:00PM (#19085719) Homepage Journal
      > I live in the Netherlands.

      Here, let me translate that into English for you:

      "I live on the ocean floor. We call it a polder, but it's pretty much seabed. We've built earthen walls around this section and continuously pump out the water, and we have a lot of experience doing this and are quite good at it now, with triple-redundant pumping stations and seven nines of uptime, but nonetheless flooding is not so much a _potential_ disaster as it is our inevitable, inescapable, pre-ordained fate, i.e., it's really a question of when (not whether) we'll be flooded."

      HTH.HAND.
  • by Tavor (845700) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:46AM (#19085371)
    the increased popularity of scantily-clad women running around in bikini tops and shorts, due to the heat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888)
      You're assuming that someone out there will run around and put up lots of outdoor webcams so that we can watch from our flooded basements...
  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lockejaw (955650) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:46AM (#19085381)
    Would the decrease in cold-related deaths be countered by an increase in heat-related deaths?
    • by StefanJ (88986) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:53AM (#19085551) Homepage Journal
      Sir, this is Happy Thought Hour!

      Didn't you see the pictures in the article of pretty young ladies enjoying the sun?

      Eliminate the negative! Accentuate the positive!

      Visualize palm trees in Germany, and put out of your mind the massive droughts and desertification in the torrid and equatorial zones.
      • Desertification? In the event of a 3 degree average increase, which is almost three times the current estimate by 2100, Africa in all areas except the very southern portion of the continent is predicted to receive substantially more and more consistent percipitation.

        Further, global warming, whether true or not, could not signifigantly affect trade winds which are governed by the spin of the Earth, and it is they that drive the major weather in many tropical and subtropical regions.

        Global warming may or may not happen. If it does, it may or may not be a bad thing. Humans don't have any fundamental data on the subject, so human nature takes over: we fear change. The whole global warming scare across the world smacks of a very human fear of change. Most people don't even realize that the temperature on Earth now is, as far as we can tell, below the lifetime average for Earth, and below the lifetime median as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ambitwistor (1041236)

          In the event of a 3 degree average increase, which is almost three times the current estimate by 2100, Africa in all areas except the very southern portion of the continent is predicted to receive substantially more and more consistent percipitation.

          Upon what science is that statement based?

          See, for instance, Figure SPM.7 of the Summary for Policymakers [www.ipcc.ch] of the 2007 IPCC 4th Assessment Report.

          That figure gives a >20% precipitation decrease for northern Africa in 2090-2099 (relative to 1980-1999 levels). It gives a similar decrease for southern Africa in the summers. For central-east Africa it gives a precipitation increase in the winters, and finds the predictions are unreliable for central Africa in the summers. Those precipitation decreases are

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wbean (222522)
          "Further, global warming, whether true or not, could not signifigantly affect trade winds which are governed by the spin of the Earth, and it is they that drive the major weather in many tropical and subtropical regions."

          The Earth's spin is responsible for the direction of the trade winds, not their existence or force. The winds are generated by the temperature (and hence pressure) difference between the equatorial zone and the temperate zones. If the Earth didn't spin, the winds would blow straight from
  • by Valar (167606) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:46AM (#19085389)
    40,000 more somewhere else from increased range of tropical diseases and their carriers.
  • Cold related deaths? (Score:5, Informative)

    by bahwi (43111) <incoming&josephguhlin,com> on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:47AM (#19085401) Homepage
    Hate to tell you, but you can get the flu in summer. But all that aside, people die every year here in Texas because of the heat.
  • by businessnerd (1009815) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:47AM (#19085403)

    warming temperatures will mean that in 2050 there will be about 40,000 fewer deaths in Germany attributable to cold-related illnesses like the flu
    Wouldn't this also mean that there would be an increase in heat related illnesses and deaths like heat exhaustion?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)
      Never mind the loss of marine food supplies, since warmer water is less oxygenated and supports far less life. Major, major implications for world food supply and deaths from starvation.
  • Life finds a way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongMonkey (1027334) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:48AM (#19085425)
    I don't know if you can call it good or bad, but life will adapt. Some species will die off others will thrive. Humans? We're the best adapters of them all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by somepunk (720296)
      Sure, the earth will, find a new equilibrium point. So what? Its the transition between equilibria that sucks. Oh, and you just might not like it when you get there.

      How much war, pestilience, and famine would you cheerfully endure in this process? Oh, right, you'll be dead for most of it. I hope your kids enjoy themselves.

      I hear this attitude a lot, but it just reflects nihilism and/or a lack of compassion for the rest of us, spatially and temporally. Or perhaps more likely, a lack of careful reflec
  • by eclectro (227083) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:51AM (#19085501)
    That talk like this will make Al Gore hot, but not in the sexy way.
  • Models (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:51AM (#19085503) Homepage
    When the weather isn't consistent with what models predict, it's the weather that's wrong, not the models.
  • by Yonder Way (603108) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:51AM (#19085505)
    Regardless of why the earth is warming (either man-induced or a natural cycle of the earth), I welcome it with open arms.

    Milder winters are going to open up trade routes through the arctic.

    I will potentially be able to grow stuff in my garden that won't grow there today. My tomatoes may become perennials as they are in their native habitat. And I could do with some citrus trees in my yard.

    If the ocean levels rise, landmass on the North American continent will shrink as populations rise. The equity in my real estate investments will grow at an unprecedented rate.

    Living in Raleigh, I will be much closer to the coast than I am today.

    OK yes this does mean I will have less buffer from hurricanes, and the hurricanes may be more frequent and more violent than is typical.

    Inuit may lose their traditional way of life, but they are sitting on vast chunks of currently frozen land that will become desirable temperate areas that the yankees will pay good money to move to once they start experiencing the kind of weather that is more typical of the southeastern US.

    It's not all doom and gloom, folks. There will be extensive collateral damages, whole species will be lost, but life has a way of moving on. And Homo sapiens is one of the most adaptable vertebrates on this planet, so I'm sure we'll find a way to thrive through this.
    • by mrcdeckard (810717) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:06PM (#19085871) Homepage

      It's not all doom and gloom, folks. There will be extensive collateral damages, whole species will be lost, but life has a way of moving on. And Homo sapiens is one of the most adaptable vertebrates on this planet, so I'm sure we'll find a way to thrive through this.


      i notice that the ones that are comfortable with "collateral damage" are the ones who won't be -- or at least believe they won't be -- "collateral damage".

      note that i'm not necessarily talking about, just making an observation in the general.

      mr c
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:52AM (#19085535)
    Yes, it's a nice sizable article, featuring women in bikinis enjoying a nice drink on a hot day, quotes from important figures, official-looking charts, and subtext in places like "a warm future" under a simplistic image of warmer-colored earth.

    The problem is that I don't see it citing many sources, and when it does, it seems to selectively quote them, such as limiting it's considerations to "gradual thawing of the Greenland ice sheet" only when considering sea level changes. I'm not going to call this a whitewash, but it seems to be a sales job for a point of view, rather than a well-founded findings of a respectable research effort.

    Ryan Fenton
  • by MyDixieWrecked (548719) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:56AM (#19085617) Homepage Journal
    I've got friends who think that global warming is a big crock of shit and (in a very immature way) bring up Al Gore and say how he thinks he invented the internet as their basis for not believing anything he says.

    One of my biggest annoyances with people who question global warming isn't that they think it's not happening or that it isn't us who are contributing to it, but rather the fact that they use these previous statements as an excuse to not do anything about it.

    Let's say, for the sake of argument, that carbon dioxide emissions really don't have any effect on global warming... does that mean that we should keep driving SUVs and not care about how much pollution we dump into the environment?

    Although people who announce that the earth is doomed because of global warming and come across as being panicky appear to be crackpots to all them skeptics, it doesn't mean that we should ignore them. we should do what we can to conserve what we have. It's worth it.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:57AM (#19085629)
    The argument that "yay more sunshine, more warmth, what's the fuss, party!" is generally not considered a serious one.

    Although arguing based on authority is something I don't usually do, but in the case of global warming most common people just display ignorance about the matter. That in itself is not a problem, but writing articles proclaiming truths which show signs that the guy didn't even bother to do basic research is bad. I wish people would try to inform themselves before trying to form the opinions of others.

    Science is complex, deal with it. Naive, overly simplistic ideas set off my bullshit alarm, like in the case of "paranormal" stuff.
  • Know your source... (Score:3, Informative)

    by lxs (131946) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:00PM (#19085725)
    The flagship publication of the reactionary publishing house Springer Presse puts forth an article in favor of heavy oil and coal consumption?

    That's unpossible!
  • by denominateur (194939) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:01PM (#19085749) Homepage
    No matter which positive aspects this warming trend has, I think it's also important to look at the flux of refugees that will eventually develop when (if?) most the southern hemisphere transforms into a desert. I'm sure we Europeans would be happy to welcome all North Africans on our shores because their arable land has completely dried out while you guys will embrace most of South and all of Central America moving to the States.
  • by Bullfish (858648) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:01PM (#19085751)
    It's now a feature. I love how spinners work, first, it was not happening, then it was not humans really doing it, now the spin is that it is happening, but it's actually a good thing.

    It's like a politician caught in a lie trying to turn it to virtue.

  • Sigh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:03PM (#19085813)
    The article is a nice try to put some good spin on Global Warming. To some extent, they're right. There will be positive effects from an overall warmer climate: Siberia won't be quite so forbidding. Canada could get some better agricultural areas. Cold spells will kill hundreds less of homeless people in nothern latitudes.

    The problem is that this is akin to talking about the positive effects of smoking: weightloss, fewer old people to draw down retirement benefits, etc. It's disingenuous and generally only used to mask the drawbacks. Is it a necessary part of the discussion? Of course. Does it change the negative aspects of Global Warming? No. Do the negative aspects of Global Warming outweigh the positive aspects? Yes. The cost of Global Warming is still going to be in the trillions, because people generally already accounted for this.

    Fewer deaths from flu spells will be offset by increasing deaths by malaria (which is already migrating north). Actually, reading through the article, it seems that the author has no idea about what has already happened, and is content with merely posting speculation about what could happen. I'm reminded of the troll piece recently posted on C|Net about intellectual property. Same lack of content, same latching onto vague promises that have not materialized, same complete lack of evidence for their position.

    I'm off to tagging the article flamebait.
    • Re:Sigh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:37PM (#19087723) Journal
      "Do the negative aspects of Global Warming outweigh the positive aspects? Yes."

      Really? It would be nice to live in such certainty, however, that certainly smells like something from the genus Factus Internetis Sphincterum to me. For every negative you can think of, I can probably think of an equal or greater net positive. That makes one of us either a Pollyanna or a Cassandra. Personally, I expect the reality will fall somewhere in the middle, as usual.

      Here's a little quiz:
      Take any point in history.
      Now, what are the odds that the world's climate on that day will be exactly the same as it is 100 years later?

      To put it another way...if you plop a city down somewhere, and then move forward through time, the odds that city will suffer some catastrophic event - from earthquake, to war, to flood, to famine, to plague - reaches near-unity. Put it on a coastline and you've probably DOUBLED your odds of 'something bad' over time.

      Climate has never stood still. It was historically both warmer and colder than today. It will be both warmer and colder in the future. Accept that the world in which our society is built (and that includes infrastructure, national boundaries, etc.) is all just ephemera compared to the natural processes of a planet.

      Suddenly, this hairless ape that infests almost every corner of the landmass of this planet thinks that it's his fault. Cute, but kinda pathetic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098)
        Personally, I expect reality to be just what it is - reality. Picking two opposite positions and claiming that reality is in the middle is mind-boggingly simple-minded, not to mention generally wrong.

        I'll just point out that the problem at hand is not change, but man-made change that will hurt. A lot.
  • by scottennis (225462) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:07PM (#19085895) Homepage
    "This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes."
  • by mikech@rbsgi (120719) * on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:07PM (#19085911)
    Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple.
  • by SengirV (203400) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:22PM (#19086255)
    ... All the leftists are blaming the historically bad Hurricane season of 2006 on Bush.

    Huh? There was no bad hurricane season of 2006?

    Nevermind.
  • by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed.gmail@com> on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:31PM (#19086465) Homepage
    I listen to the BBC World Service every day on my way to and from work. In my gas-guzzling SUV.

    Just about every story is about how the world is ending, mostly because of man-made global warming. Yesterday, I heard that dams and hydro-electric power release more greenhouse gases than coal-fire electric plants. If they keep on like this, the only option for humanity will be mass suicide. Though, only if a decomposing corpse releases less methane than a living person, I guess.

    Earlier this week there was a story about RFID devices in trash cans, to measure and control the amount of garbage thrown out by Britons. If this were in support of the George Bush's Global War on Terror, the masses would be out on the streets, but any invasive authoritarian measure can be justified in order to "Save the Earth" (tm).

    I'm over it. Bother me no more with stories of global warming. At this stage, it's become a catchphrase to justify all sorts of bureaucratic intrusion and control, instigated by the watermelon left (green outside, red inside).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ballpoint (192660)
      The watermelon left, indeed:

      I found a nice spoof on an advertisment [flickr.com] for the Flemish socialist party (sp.a).

      I don't think you need a translation, but you might not know that Spa [www.spa.be] is *the* best known mineral water in Belgium !

  • by enodo (603503) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:38PM (#19086621)
    Why is it that the moderators on /. always post these silly contrarian articles and ignore the relevant scientific discussion? In mid April, the largest and most highly-regarded group of climate scientists, working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) published a report about precisely this subject. It was the second in a series of reports. The third was about what can be done to combat climate change. /. never ran a piece linking to the actual report - and never mentioned the third report at all. It is here [www.ipcc.ch](pdf), and is easily readable by non-experts. You can get all of the reports (including the past IPCC reports from their website [www.ipcc.ch]. (In fairness to /., there was this discussion [slashdot.org] about some BBC coverage on the report about it a week before it came out.) The IPCC scientists did not ignore the "improvements" to the earth that the this article covers. Here is their exact words on that subject:

    Studies in temperate areas have shown that climate change is projected to bring some benefits, such as fewer deaths from cold exposure. Overall it is expected that these benefits will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures world-wide, especially in developing countries.
    Also, BTW, why would anyone focus on the year 2050 when climate change is projected to continue - and possibly accelerate - after that?
  • Hello, Spiegel (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dasher42 (514179) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:45PM (#19086779)
    But it quickly became apparent that the horrific tale of a melting South Pole was nothing but fiction. The average temperature in the Antarctic is -30 degrees Celsius. Humanity cannot possibly burn enough oil and coal to melt this giant block of ice.

    Hello, Spiegel. Let me introduce my friend, the Larsen B ice shelf [nsidc.org], along with Journalistic Integrity. No, you haven't met.
  • Here we go again (Score:5, Informative)

    by Orp (6583) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:22PM (#19087457) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I have a PhD in meteorology. While paleoclimatology and climate change are not my research areas, I am fascinated by climate change and try to keep up on the research.

    I naively thought once the IPCC report came out these types of "debates" about climate change would end. I was wrong. If anything, the naysayers are louder than ever.

    I have read the Summary for Policymakers (and actually used it as a teaching tool in my numerical weather prediction undergraduate class). Have you? It's written at a relatively non-scientific level (hey, it's for politicians after all) but is very, very clear.

    The results of this international (intergovernmental) exhaustive literature review? Humans are very likely (90%) responsible for the bulk of observed global warming.

    That's it. Plain and simple.

    Yet, no other topic in the world brings out the armchair scientists more than global warming. It's a frustrating phenomenon for me as a scientist. It's sort of like being an oncologist dealing with a chronic smoker who blames his lung cancer on some genetic anomaly, or living 50 miles away from a nuclear power plant, rather than the bloody obvious fact that smoking two packs of cigarettes for 40 years just might have something to do with the cancer.

    This is science, not faith. Just about every climate change doubter starts his sentence with "I don't believe humans cause global warming because..." or "I don't believe in global warming." This clearly demonstrates a huge misunderstanding of the scientific process. Belief has nothing to do with it. It's about physics, meteorology, climatology, astronomy, biology, oceanography, chemistry etc., all of which rely on the peer-reviewed scientific process to further our understanding of the physical world.

    I challenge any of the naysayers to do a little research of their own, not simply rely on cherry picking viewpoints which align with their own. It's sort of like a game, holding up their "most credible scientist" as a shield, challenging me to do the same. Never mind the fact that my "army" of scientists is about three orders of magnitude greater than their own... but I digress...

    The very least anyone should do before arguing against... or for... anthropogenic climate change is to pick up an undergraduate meteorology textbook and opening up to (usually) chapter 3, the chapter on heat transfer. The section on radiation is the most crucial one. Read about blackbody radiation. The solar spectrum and the terrestrial spectrum are a function of their temperatures. Because the Earth is much colder than than the sun, it emits in the infrared (longer wavelength than visible light etc. from the sun).

    Then read about greenhouse gases, those by-and-large trace gases which exist in our atmosphere. Understand how they respond to longwave and shortwave radiation. A little light bulb should eventually go on over your head when you realize "oh, so *that's* why the Earth is habitable." You see, without these trace gases (CO2, H20, CH4) the earth would be in a deep freeze - estimated at about 50 degrees F colder global average temperature.

    Once you make it that far, you're almost there. Realize that humans are responsible for increasing atmospheric CO2 levels from preindustrial levels of 280 ppm to a modern day value of 380 ppm, an increase of over 30%. It takes very little stretch to realize that this would lead to a shift in the radiative equilibrium temperature of the earth (related to the global average temperature).

    You see, this is really easy science. There is NO REASON TO ASSUME that CO2 values increasing the way they have would NOT lead to an increase in global average temperature!! This is exactly what we'd expect! And this doesn't even involve the scary discussion of feedbacks (water vapor feedback, snow/ice albedo feedback) which may accelerate the warming.

    And that's just the back of the envelope part. Yes, there are still unknowns. Not, it's not the sun (we've checked into that if you can believe it). No, it's n
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:23PM (#19087477) Homepage

    I had with a friend who is a *very* fundamentalist Christian who believes in the Rapture. A time when all the "good" Christians (opposed to what?) get taken up to heaven for a thousand years. It went something like this:

    Him: And then there will be plagues.

    Me: What kind of plagues?

    Him: The earth will get hot.

    Me: Let me get this straight...all you right wing Christians will be gone and the rest of us can live our lives in peace without your religious dogma and misguided legislative agenda and it will be endless summer here? What's the bad part again?

  • NOT POSSIBLE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:42PM (#19087825) Homepage
    There's a lot more to "warming" than more sunny skies. Heat evaporates water.

    The most simple definition of "weather" is water in the air. The weather is all about water in the air. The force and fury of storms comes from differences in temperature and water in the air. If you have even paid a LITTLE attention to the news during hurricane season, you would have learned that the forces that power a hurricane are differences in temperature and the temperature of the water. (That's why hurricane season is during the months that they are and not during the winter season.)

    A global climate change will kill many species and cause others to flourish. This will create an unpredictable change in the global eco-system. We don't have the knowledge or computational power to take into account ALL known factors (let alone all unknown factors) to form a prediction. But one thing is pretty certain when it comes to global events like these. A lot of life is lost and it takes millions upon millions of years to bring the planet back to the level that we know it to be today. We won't see what happens. Our kids... our great great grandchildren will not see what happens. Humans may well be extinct when it happens and not necessarily for reasons we bring on ourselves. (In the grand scheme of things, very few species last THAT long, but given that we have effectively halted human evolution, it's quite possible we'll survive.)

    But back to the possibility that global warming might HELP the planet? No way... it will destroy anything close to the oceans, and areas identified as "tornado alley" such as an area close to where I live, will see expansion and intensification of those danger zones.

    Again: more heat, more water in the air, more intensely violent weather.

    I'm not a climate expert, but I stayed a weekend at some hotel that somehow makes you really smart.
  • an aside (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Friday May 11, 2007 @02:12PM (#19088327)
    Global warming may be happening and it may not be. Who can say with any absolute certainty that global warming is really happening? Who can say with any certainty that global warming will lead to abrupt climate changes? As Michael Crichton points out, all we have are computer models and theories. A computer model is just that, a prediction that is quite error prone. I think rather than being concerned about global warming, we should be actively conserving our natural resources and engage in environmentally friendly practices. It is my belief that money, time, and energy are better spent in actively reducing air, ground, and water pollution than throwing money into global warming research. Also, conservation of our forests and open spaces should be paramount. I think we can say only one thing with certainty: we are polluting our air and water. Let's deal with the immediate problems that are within our power to solve.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Friday May 11, 2007 @03:13PM (#19089353) Journal
    ...nuclear radiation was found to be beneficial for certain sports. For example, in the NBA, extra arms may improve ball dribbling and defense; and extra eyes may reduce the chance of somebody sneaking up from behind for a steal. It should be pointed out the extra limbs and eyes in a large percentage of irradiated individuals tend not to fully function. But for those who do have full-functioning extra limbs and organs, the NBA welcomes them with open arms (all 3 of them).
         
  • by dbk25 (565275) on Friday May 11, 2007 @03:14PM (#19089385) Journal
    Just about every argument I've heard about global warming can be summarized by a few talking points:

    Liberal talking points
    * Because of over a century of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the average temperature in Earth is increasing.
    * This has foreseeable negative impacts.
    * The scariest impacts are from subtle effects that we can't even predict.
    * Models say we are approaching a tipping point where the changes become self-sustaining and self-feeding.
    * We can slow or stop this, but we're running out of time, and must act now.

    Conservative talking points
    * Global warming is not happening. It's a liberal myth.
    * It's a normal cycle, not caused by man.
    * It's pointless for us to try to slow global warming because India and China are putting much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than the United States is, and they won't stop.
    * What's the big deal? It's only a few degrees change, and will make life better on Earth. Don't you like nicer weather?
    * It's too late to stop the major effects of global warming. Better for the the government to encourage and subsidize business to adapt to and profit from the major changes that will inevitably occur.

  • Truthfully (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SQLz (564901) on Friday May 11, 2007 @03:22PM (#19089483) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure how idiots can even speculate about what the earth will be like in 2050. Obviously, the point about saving 40,000 germans is stupidity. I mean, by 2050, I hope nobody is dying from the flu, let alone cold people. Computer simulations can't consistently predict the weather the next day, let alone 40 years from now.

Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. -- R. S. Barton

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