is climate change a good thing?
There is more or less scientific consensus, the climate is changing and the world is getting warmer. I want to talk about what climate change is, what it isn’t, and why it should be largely ignored.
Firstly, what does ‘climate change’ mean? It means the average temperature of the globe has increased by 1°C in the last 170 years (The UN Paris Climate Accord wants to limit the total warming by the year 2100 to 1.5°C). This coincides with the industrial age of humans and the burning of fossil fuels on a scale never before seen in history. As a result of the proliferation of machines, concentrations of atmospheric gases like carbon dioxide have increased and contributed to a warmer planet.
This warming is not felt everywhere to the same degree. It dissipates around the world so that colder places experience relatively more warming than hotter places. Canada or New Zealand might become less cool, while countries close to the equator stay generally the same. A welcome occurrence in a world where far more people die of cold than from heat.
Climate change is not climate catastrophe. The number of people in the world who die as a result of climate has fallen by 95% in the past 100 years. The more our economy develops, the safer we are from climate. There is no consensus that this trend will change any time soon, and talk of reaching any kind of ‘tipping point’ is non-existent in scientific literature.
Climate change is not ecological collapse, deforestation, forest fires, flooding, or pollution. Ireland’s climate has been mild and wet for the last 10,000 years. In that time we have gone from complete natural forest cover and biodiversity rich, to less than 1% and covered in sheep. Tomorrow we could decide to remove subsidies for sheep farming and start to control deer populations and our mountains would rewild into deciduous temperate rainforest. They could be home to elk, lynx, beaver, boar, auroch, wolf, bear, etc., just like they had been since the last Ice Age. A few more degrees of warming would not affect this.
200 years ago, 95% of people lived below the poverty line. Life expectancy was around 40 years old. Since the burning of fossil fuels, The world population, life expectancy, standard of living, and the world economy have grown exponentially. The population of earth has increased by approximately 12 times and 90% of those can afford reasonable accommodation and enough food to eat. This is why human impact on the planet should be celebrated. We have made this planet so liveable that you are more likely to die from obesity than starvation.
From the perspective of humans, climate change corresponds with the most prosperous and bountiful time in our history, where billions of people have been lifted out of poverty. This progress is under threat however as governments around the world pursue a net-zero carbon energy strategy that is going to make electricity prohibitively expensive for individuals and businesses. We are so wealthy that we look on wind turbines as a necessary extravagance, instead of seeing them for what they are; ugly, expensive, and unreliable.
The Industrial Revolution is ongoing. According to author Robert Bryce, three billion people in the world still use less electricity than the average American refrigerator. This group of people need cheap air conditioning, electric cookers, refrigeration, phones and PCs, before they can even start to think about luxury items, weekend getaways, 4k television, even preservation of nature, things that we take for granted in the West. Humans have contributed to climate change, but the advancements in standard of living in that time are almost unfathomable, and there is still plenty more room for improvement.
We still live in an energy poor world. We need to liberate all forms of energy to continue to improve standards of living for everyone on the planet. We need to remove laws that criminalise nuclear power based on fear, remove subsidies for archaic technologies like Wind (500 years old) and Solar (as old as time) energy, and we need to stop demonising fossil fuel which is the only hope for a billion more people to be lifted out of extreme poverty.
Like most other aspects of your life, the government is the last group of people you want to be in charge of the decisions. They are enacting policies in their Climate Action Bill that will be felt for decades and that are known to fail. The party that implements these changes will not be around to see them through, and those responsible will suffer no consequences. You should be free to decide how much of a threat climate change is to your own life. My guess is that you’d quickly forget all the hype.