Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Early Census Report and Global Warming

Early reports from the 2010 census are showing a shift of population to the southern states, which is a trend that has already been going on for a couple of decades. Ohio, New York, and New Jersey are losing population, relatively speaking. Texas, Florida, and Arizona are gaining population.

What does this have to do with global warming? It has to do with the fact that the majority of people would rather have warmer weather than colder weather, which is why for 20 or 30 years the population in the US has been shifting to the southern states. If global warming was going to increase the temperature of the planet 100 degrees so that the whole planet became uninhabitable, that would be a problem. But if it makes the climates of some of the northern states (and countries in the rest of the world) a bit warmer in the winter, all that will do in the US is slow the decades-long migration of people moving southward.

This gets at what I think is one of the great unexamined assumptions of global warming, which is the assumption that climate change is bad. A warmer climate for northern states and countries means a longer growing season, which means more crops can be grown, and more varieties of crops can be grown. Since much of the world's land mass is currently in northern areas (especially Canada and Russia, but also much of Europe), those areas could become more agriculturally productive.

Much of the hysteria around global warming seems to be based on the unstated (and untrue) impression that the warming will occur quickly. But no one thinks it will occur quickly. Current estimates are that we can expect a temperature increase of 2-4 degrees over the next 100 years. If that increase occurred within a couple years, people might find their climates inhospitable. Even in primitive cultures in places like Africa, peoples will move over the course of decades to areas where they can tolerate the climate. This would be difficult if we were talking about rapidly occurring change, but no one is talking about that. We are talking about change that occurs gradually over decades.

In the increasingly mobile developed world, slow change that occurs over multiple will simply cause each new generation to locate itself in the location that has the climate it prefers. And as the latest U.S. census data shows, global warming may simply spare the majority of people from the trouble of having to relocate to someplace warmer.

No comments:

Post a Comment