Why is global warming important?

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.”

[source]

They made a nice map, too:
i-29844efc96d66f1dc498a006a7a4d3e8-Global-warming-maps_490.jpg

Click Here to view a larger image

Comments

  1. #1 Brian
    November 8, 2007

    Great White North? When did you move to Canada? Maybe Minnesota qualifies as an honorary province.

    In BC one of the first big problems credited to warmer winters has been the spread of the mountain pine beetle which has decimated the entire province’s pine forests. The cold winters used to slow them down and kept the populations in check but all you see now driving down from the north is a sea of red, turning to grey. Preperations are now underway to fight the massive fires that are expected as soon as all the dead wood starts to light up.

    The point I’m trying to make is that there is going to be a lot of unexpected consequences to climate change; stuff that we can’t even imagine right now, besides all the things that we do know will happen.

  2. #2 Nathaniel
    November 8, 2007

    Me personally, I don’t see the effects of global warming. In fact, I’ve seen more snow here in Texas in the past couple of years than I ever did when I was a kid. There are just so many crazy things being said about global warming. A lot of people are making a lot of really nutty claims. It’s hard to believe in something that seems just as likley to exist as man-bear-pig (if you’re a south park fan, you’ll get the reference).

    But I suppose climate change could be happening. That being said, who knows what it could be doing. Warmer climates might increase the spread of some diseases and it might hinder the spread of others. Who knows? I guess we’ll find out.

    Heh, nice analogy. We are going to all die eventually. I love that line of logic, makes a great point.

  3. #3 Who Cares
    November 9, 2007

    There are other effects related to the junk we pump into the atmosphere. Seems that particle pollution by Europe caused the monsoon area in Africa to shift south causing the famines in the 1980s. Another reason to try and reduce/clean up what is dumped in the air.

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