The other side of this equation is “what to do?” Lomborg has attempted very rationally to ascribe some of the expected impacts and using various economic measures to calculate the rationality of making investments. My basic problem from the beginning in this debate has been that even assuming all the worst case climate predictions the predicted impacts were not believable. If climate models are hard to get right for 80 years in the future predicting food production in 80 years is similarly hard. We have had numerous predictions of food supply in the past that have proven to be wildly off. The ability of man to create solutions that have not been imagined before seriously puts an upper bound on predictions of this type. In the face of our exponential knowledge about genetics and chemistry, our growing wealth and ability to affect lifespan, disease, mitigate natural disasters it is unbelievable the consequences predicted. I am reminded how 16 years ago a heat wave in france killed 15,000 but a similar heat wave the next year killed 10. Simple measures like having a fan, drinking more water produced a 99% reduction in fatalities. A study i made of disasters in the 20th century showed that nearly 70% of deaths due to natural disasters occurred in the first 50 years of the century and only 30% in the last half. In fact, the death rate from natural disasters has fallen an astonishing 98% in the last century. If a similar fall in death rates happens in the 21st century then it won’t matter if storms do increase or whatever. Our ability to withstand mother nature is improving dramatically. Some will point out that rising sea levels will be not as easily mitigated but the fact is few buildings last 100 years. Over the course of the century numerous buildings will be replaced naturally irrespective of rising tides. The ability to see this gradual movement and plan accordingly is contrary to the idea these things will be “submerged” suddenly. Some places may be abandoned and some places may be changed but it is hard to argue we should pay today for the inconvenience of future coastal landowners.
I could get into a hundred topics here from extinction rates and storms and so many of the supposed impacts and show you there is tremendous uncertainties in these studies. Some are pathetic in their robustness. The bigger issue is that it is robustly unprovable or logical that so many negative effects will happen because of a change in temperature of even 2,3,4 degrees because as temperature has risen human life and other life seems to benefit from warmer climate. A case in point is that during the climactic maximum 5,000 years ago temperatures were more than 2C warmer than today. During this time as you know humans finally felt in places around the globe that life was good enough to become agricultural. Numerous available data point to the fact that life was indeed better then. Life was more prevalent and more robust. The nile was twice as big. Life existed where deserts exist today. While this is NOT proof that similar rises would produce good results it does put some doubt if the studies showing catastrophic effects from 2C change in doubt. Similar to climate studies for me there would have to be proof through the use of much more robust data and models that the environment would be affected in such negative ways. On the face of it, researchers are clearly motivated to make their articles inflammatory. I would guess that surveys would show a bias to people in academia that any change in the environment is negative. However, simple mathematics, probability, science would say this is unlikely. It is unlikely we are at the perfect temperature today. Maybe it is so, but I personally would need to see proof that any change is necessarily negative consequence. Yes, any change will be inconvenient to some but change is unstoppable even if we factor out all human change. Things happen. The more you learn about history it is sobering to realize that sh** happens, has happened and will undoubtedly continue to happen. Get prepared is the only rebuke. We are. We have reduced the death rate from natural disasters by 98% in one century. I believe we will have large improvements this century as well and natural disasters will be a minor concern by 2100.
Such thoughts were evident to me from the beginning of this debate when I believed the temperatures would climb 2 or 3 degrees or more. It was never clear to me why such change should automatically be negative given that much of the world is covered under ice and snow there is clearly room for some warming to make more of the earth livable. Historical analysis shows that for large parts of evolution the earth was dramatically warmer and that it is relatively recent that we have had persistent long term ice ages that have covered the earth in snow and ice and left 50% or so of the surface of the earth harsh and deadly to life. Some will say that heating will naturally increase desert areas and lack of water however, all that melting ice and snow will raise sea levels over centuries causing disruption but it is much more likely that the environment would get wetter in general everywhere. This is common sense and backed by what we know about life at these warmer times looking at sediments and where life existed. It is just not robustly believable without significant additional proof that all these negatives are so obvious or given. All the focus has been on the models and the climate but for me just as equally suspect and poorly attributed is all the negatives.
I realize it is risky to just assume that change will be good too. The most prudent thing would be to minimize our impact and study. I suggest this for the time being cognizant that as we refine our knowledge of the environment and the consequences we may in fact learn that there is a net positive benefit to warming. The one thing that scares me is the ice age. It seems inevitable we will sink into one again. I doubt anyone can doubt this would be a terrible event for humans and life but we have sustained it before. The question would be would we take the experiment of modifying our climate to stop an ice age? It is a science fiction like scenario to be faced presumably by generations ahead but hopefully we will invest enough in knowledge by then to have a really good factual and scientific basis to understand how change will affect everything. Life is uncertain yet it has persisted on the earth.