The Frontal Cortex

The Upside of Global Warming

We should all move to Greenland. From the WSJ:

Greenland represents one of the largely unrecognized paradoxes of global warming. In former Vice President Al Gore’s recent film “An Inconvenient Truth,” the melting of Greenland’s ice cap, along with a similar cap in the Antarctic, is portrayed as one of the greatest threats of global warming. If the layers of ice and snow holding billions of tons of water were to melt, scientists warn that global sea levels would rise by 40 feet, submerging lower Manhattan, the Netherlands and much of California.

But to many of the people who live here in Greenland, the warming trend is a boon, not a threat.

It is no small feat to get things living and growing in Greenland, an arctic and sub-arctic country at the northern tip of North America whose frigid landscape is often confused with Iceland, a smaller, greener European island nation to the southeast.

More than 80% of Greenland is covered in ice. Temperatures in the south regularly drop to 22 degrees below zero during the long, dark winters when the sun shines for as little as five hours a day. Intermittent frosts during the four-month growing season make it difficult for anything to thrive.

Even small increases in temperature can make a big difference in the quality of life for many Greenlanders who scrabble out a living at the whims of the weather. Freezing temperatures are the biggest factor limiting plant growth in Greenland. If the average temperature warms just a degree or two, the number of freezing nights is reduced. Higher temperatures produce stronger, healthier plants and provide farmers larger crop yields.

Already, the temperature rise in Greenland has extended the growing season by two weeks since the 1970s — no small matter since those two weeks come during the spring and summer when the sun shines for as long as 20 hours a day in southern Greenland. Warmer days allow farmers to take better advantage of the extended sunlight, which gives plants more energy and a better chance to survive and thrive. If temperatures rose enough to allow the growing season to begin in late April, rather than mid-May, Greenlandic farmers might be able to grow fruit, including strawberries or apples.

Improved crop production could help wean Greenland from its heavy dependence on expensive, imported produce: Greenlanders pay about $3.50 for a cucumber at a local grocery store, $5 for a head of lettuce and $7.50 for a pound of carrots. Since 1980, Greenland has seen farmland devoted to growing crops increase to about 2,500 acres from 620 acres.

Comments

  1. #1 Daniel Collins
    July 18, 2006

    Isn’t the hockey stick the upside?

  2. #2 natural cynic
    July 18, 2006

    It happened before in the Medieval warm period – read Collapse by Jared Diamond.

  3. #3 Paul Riddell
    July 18, 2006

    Well, that settles it, then. If global warming is a boon for a few thousand people recently freed of ice, then it has to be a boon for everyone else not living within the Arctic Circle! How could we ever doubt the wisdom of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, especially when they try to “liberate” that newly exposed land and discover that the Inuit have no interest in giving it to them?

  4. #4 Andrew Dodds
    July 19, 2006

    It helps if you believe that the earth is flat (i.e. Cylindrical projection:

    http://www.ilstu.edu/microcam/map_projections/Cylindrical/AC_Cylindrical.pdf

    Rather than Airy:

    http://www.ilstu.edu/microcam/map_projections/Azimuthal/Airy.pdf

    Since with the former you can convince yourself that the land lost to desertification will be completly compensated by permafrost melting..