Friday, 13 May 2022

Is a warmer world a better world?

Kuta Beach, Bali, picture taken in 2015

On a website where I am an author, I was replying to a commenter, who made the following claims:

·       A warmer world is a disaster. It would cause mass extinctions because habitats would change radically. Species take many thousands of generations to evolve.

·       The decline in insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians has been startling over the course of the last 60 years. We have reduced forests by 50%.

·       The effect on humans would be catastrophic. Much warmer summers, changes in weather, more extreme and volatile weather, heat waves, droughts, floods.

·       Then we have sea level rises. Most of our major cities are at sea level. The main problem is the expansion of water. A degree rise in temperature causes 2.3 metre rise in sea level.

·       We are predicted to have at least a 1.5 degree rise in the next twenty years.

·       You ask which species you have personally made extinct – any intelligent person can see that it is all of them.

The guts of my reply:

The idea that a warmer world is likely to be a better world is based on history. Human civilizations have tended to flourish in warmer periods, and decline in cooler ones. The Mediaeval Warm period from about 950 to 1250 AD was exactly the time during which commerce started to “take off” in Europe. The Vikings colonized Greenland in about 1000 AD, but when the climate became colder in the 14th century, they had to abandon their settlements there. Looking further back, the heyday of Roman civilization in the 1st century AD was in the middle of the Roman Warm Period (roughly 250 BC to 400 AD). The peak of the Roman warm period was at least 1.3 degrees C warmer than the Little Ice Age (some say 2 degrees warmer). The Romans were even able to grow grapes in Scotland! And earlier still, there was a yet warmer “Minoan Warm Period” about 1300 BC, which coincided with the peak of the Minoan civilization. I’ve seen a reconstruction showing a peak of temperature about 1400 BC, followed by a steep drop of about 1 degree C over 300 years to 1100 BC – which, perhaps not coincidentally, was about when the Minoan civilization foundered.

I tried, some years ago, to check up on the reports claiming recent mass extinctions of mammals, reptiles and amphibians. I found one study done in Germany, and one in Costa Rica, neither of which showed beyond doubt that a large number of species extinctions were happening, or that they had been caused by human activities. And that was all. I also came across this: Gregory Wrightstone simply plotted the extinction counts from the IUCN Red List against extinction date. He came up with extinctions per decade peaking in the late 19th century, and generally dropping since then. For that, he gets labelled by the alarmists as an “extinction denier” and “the Heartland Institute’s resident climate denialist.” (See This is typical of alarmist conduct; insults and ad hominems. The only objective argument they make is, in effect, to blame the IUCN for being incomplete and late with their figures.

As to forests, the global rate of deforestation peaked in the 1980s, and has been going down ever since. Temperate forest cover (in places like Europe and the USA) has been increasing since 1990, not decreasing. And we’ve been in this particular forest before; in the 1980s, there was a scare about Waldsterben, a large and fast decline in German forests, supposedly caused by air pollution. That was debunked in the 1990s.

As far as extreme weather is concerned, I’d expect a warmer world, with a less steep temperature gradient from the tropics to the poles (which is what they are predicting) to be wetter, but to have, if anything, less severe storms and hurricanes.

The one potentially credible worry is sea level rise. But sea level rise in most places is of the order of 2 to 3 millimetres per year, and though alarmists try to make out that it is accelerating fast, that isn’t proven. It all depends whose figures you accept! Tide gauges show a lot less sea level rise than satellite measurements. But neither, individually, shows much if any acceleration (except sometimes when one satellite is replaced by another…)

3 millimetres per year is 30 centimetres per century. This kind of rise can be contained by dykes – as the Dutch have been doing for centuries. When I worked in Holland, I lived 8 metres below sea level! At that rate, it would take more than 2,500 years for sea levels to rise by 8 metres. Of course, there are all kinds of alarmist “predictions” being thrown around, about ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melting. But the Greenland ice sheet would take centuries at least to melt, and Antarctica is actually cooling.

As to the effects of a degree of temperature rise, NOAA data tells us that sea levels have risen about 25 centimetres between 1901 and 2018, during which there has been a temperature rise close to 1 degree C. That’s a lot less than 2.3 metres.

Will there be a 1.5 degree C global rise in the next 20 years? When the global temperature has gone up by at most 1.1 C since 1910, and probably less? Unlikely, I think.

The choice is between, on the one hand, going ahead with business as usual, fixing any problems as they come up (known as “adaptation”). And on the other hand, the alarmists’ so-called “mitigation” approach, demanding a forced “transformation” of human civilization that aims to suppress our industrial civilization, to shut down the free market and to regulate economies, and to destroy prosperity for everyone but a clique of élites. I know which side I’m on: the side of business-as-usual and adaptation.

Finally, the argument that I am responsible for all extinctions that happen, no matter what I do or do not do, makes no sense. Just by taking part in human civilization, I acquire responsibility for everything that anyone does? Am I, then, responsible for Putin starting the war in Ukraine? Surely not. It is individuals who act, and individuals who bear the responsibility for the effects of their actions on others.

This argument seems to be based on the view that human civilization is a bad thing, just because some individuals do some things that are wrong. And that human civilization is less important than avoiding some bunch of scares that haven’t even been proven to be problems. That is diametrically opposed to my own views: That building civilizations is part of human nature. That the economic means of productivity and trade are the natural way for humans to deal with each other. And that those that use Franz Oppenheimer’s “political means” – “the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others” – are criminal aberrations.

And my request stands: Name one species to whose extinction I have contributed, and say what I did, and roughly when, to contribute to that extinction.


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