When discussing global warming (and more broadly, climate change), especially here in the Great White North, it is often quipped that a little global warming is not necessarily a bad thing. So what if cold regions get warmer? That would be good for growing more food, having a warmer winter, and so on. Also, when we note the very large “natural” climate changes and contrast this with what is happening now, some people conclude that human-induced global warming is small change and therefore unimportant.
There are two reasons why this is wrong.
The first reason, which we can discuss another time, is that the nature of the present global warming is different from natural climate change in important ways. The other is an ethical or moral issue.
Everybody dies, right? Well, if you are driving down the street in your SUV, and you are in a hurry, and some nim-wit walks out in front of you, you could figure … “Hey, I’m in a hurry, and that ni-wit is J-waking, and is going to die anyway, so I can just run him over.” And bump-splat, you run him over and keep going.
But that is not considered moral or ethical. Hes, he was going to die anyway, but it is not your job to see to it that this happens.
For the same reason, deaths due to global warming are deaths with an ethical implication. This is especially true, perhaps, of the extra people who die, i.e., the net number of dead after discounting for those who get to live because they did not freeze to death up here in the Great White North.
Even worse, the human suffering (not just dying) that comes from human induced climate change is likely to be more severe among those who had the least to do with causing climate change.
But this is all speculation unless there is some science behind it.
In a paper to be published the week of Nov. 12, 2007, in the journal EcoHealth, a team of researchers led by environmental public health authority Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports that the health burden of climate change will rest disproportionately on the world’s poor.
“Our high consumption of energy is putting a huge disease burden on places that are quite remote from us,” explains Patz, a professor in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. “There are many serious diseases that are sensitive to climate, and as earth’s climate changes, so too can the range and transmission of such diseases.”
The new study, says Patz, begins to hitch the scientifically quantifiable aspects of climate change to the ethical dimensions of the problem. Some, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore, have long argued that the “global warming crisis is not a political issue but a moral one.”
They made a nice map, too: