Global warming brings peace and happiness
From the Chinese Dept of the Bleeding Obvious
By Andrew Orlowski • Get more from this author
Posted in Environment, 16th July 2010 12:53 GMT
A study correlating economic and political changes in China's Middle Kingdom has found that warmer climate benefited society. By contrast, a fall of temperature of 2C was correlated with conflict and famine.
"The collapses of the agricultural dynasties of the Han (25-220), Tang (618-907), Northern Song (960-1125), Southern Song (1127-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) are closely associated with low temperature or the rapid decline in temperature," say the academics led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Historical studies are problematic in two ways, and you have to be careful not to fall into one of two obvious elephant traps. One is that politics very much determines whether a society gets out of a pickle or goes into a decline. So deterministic views such as Jared Diamond's in Guns, Germs and Steel tend to underestimate this capacity for change.
The other (not entirely unrelated) trap is that we're no longer at the mercy of a nature, and thanks to technology have tamed it to a significant degree. We don't have a "peak wood" or a "peak whaleblubber" crisis today. Even the IPCC grudgingly admits as much. "The marginal increase in the number of people at risk from hunger due to climate change must be viewed within the overall large reductions due to socio-economic development."
Well, obviously. Although slight increases in temperature (and CO2) result in higher productivity, wealth remains the dominant factor. It's poverty that makes people miserable, not the climate. And lifting a couple of billion people from messing about in the mud, and into a modern, largely urban, technological society effectively removes them from the risks our great-great-grandparents used to worry about.
The idea that tiny changes in climate (either way) cause catastrophic effects, against which we're powerless, is really the last in a line of medieval superstitions. As Roddy Campbelll writes here, if you'd asked people in 1900 what would happen if temperatures rose by one degree, you'd have got the same prognosis you hear from the "bedwetters" today: "hunger, war, migration, desertification and water shortages in 2010... Pretty grim, wouldn’t you think?" Yet here we are, and life expectancy is higher than ever. The fear of science and technological innovation runs so deep with some people, that self-flagellation is always preferred.