Can climate change be good?

Dr. Ivar Giaever has the same thought I’ve had for years.

What is the optimum temperature for the earth? Is that the temperature we have right now? That would be a miracle! Maybe it’s two degrees warmer. Two degrees colder. But no one has told me what the optimum temperature is for the whole earth.

Climate change poses a threat to some of our present-day lifestyle. But is it altogether bad, on net? Is it not even possible that climate change could make life easier for many humans?

As far as I understand, some climate change models have cities like New York and Miami underwater if warming continues its course for the next 100 years. That doesn’t sound good. But what happens to the rest of the earth? Do we gain billions of acres of arable land, once too cold to support life? Will droughts become less frequent and less severe?

I have no idea how to answer my question. But if we could derive an optimum temperature for the earth, based on maximizing the amount of arable land, minimizing drought and extreme weather activity in populated areas, etc., might that temperature be outside the range climate change alarmists believe we must maintain, even at the cost of expensive carbon taxes and slowed industrial development?

I’m not convinced. Any serious discussion of climate change ought to talk about why global warming is bad—not take that idea for granted. Maybe such talk is about there, but I don’t see it from popular commentators except insofar as they paint scary pictures of flooding coastal cities and stronger hurricanes. That doesn’t sound good, but what happens to the world on net? What happens, if you will, to the human race’s prospects for long-term survival (if you like thinking in such terms…I don’t)? Is it possible that things will improve in this regard?

Let’s first establish exactly why climate change is bad, then talk about whether it’s worth fighting. Because neither of those goes without saying.

Posted by Nick Freiling

Founder/Director of PeopleFish. I write on technology, market research and economics. Bylines at Startup Grind, FEE, the American Enterprise Institute and the Mises Institute.

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