The negative consequences of global warming are well-documented — melting ice caps, rising sea levels, loss of habitat for polar bears and countless other species, mass disruptions and dislocations around the world as formerly habitable areas become unlivable. It sounds like the world’s going to become a very unpleasant place to call home if everything that’s been predicted comes to pass.
The less-publicized reality of climate change is that some change is likely to be beneficial. Granted, virtually every positive effect has a negative corollary, and sometimes the negative outweighs the positive (territorial disputes over low-lying islands will cease, which is good, but only because the islands will be underwater, which is worse). But it’s not all bad. The following list details the top 10 effects of global climate change that could be good for the planet. This may not convince the doomsayers, but should global warming transpire as many scientists predict, it could make waiting for that toasty Armageddon a much more endurable experience.
10. More Usable Land
Presently, vast swaths of the Earth — the northern half of Canada, for instance, and the majority of Russia’s land area — aren’t suitable for agriculture. As the globe warms, however, high-latitude zones now on the verge of cultivation could become agriculture-friendly. More food for the world’s people is certainly a good thing, although it must be acknowledged that climate change could at the same time transform other fragile regions such as sub-Saharan Africa into more of a desert than they are already.
9. Longer Growing Seasons
It’s conceivable that the world’s current breadbaskets could become even more productive as temperatures warm, increasing yields. Farmers accustomed to one harvest a year may even see two. What’s more, a larger variety of crops could be grown in more locations than is currently possible.
8. Extra CO2 For Plants
We humans can only expel carbon dioxide, but plants love it. With heightened levels of CO2 in the atmosphere thanks to a warming globe, plants will have the opportunity to get drunk on the stuff, growing larger and more robust. This in turn would be good news not just for agriculture, but also for the many animal species that depend on plant life (at least those not already threatened by habitat degradation).
7. Northwest Passage Becomes Reality
The long-sought shipping lane through Canada’s polar regions is already close to being a viable alternative during the summer months. Its existence could mean the world’s largest ships, particularly oil tankers too big for the Panama Canal, which have to round the southern tip of South America, would have a much shorter route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at their disposal.
6. Arctic’s Resources Become Accessible
Nobody really knows just how much oil exists in the Arctic, but oil companies and various nations, are moving fast in an effort to find out. Russia is already taking a lead staking claims to promising stretches of international waters that had long been under frozen lock and key. Drilling for Arctic oil, currently not a viable option, could be soon.
5. Less Energy Required For Heating
This obvious benefit of warmer winters has yet to come to pass, as recent winters across North America and Europe have actually trended colder than normal in many locales. Whether this is simply a statistical anomaly or a more long-term effect of climate change remains to be seen.
4. Warmer Weather is Healthier
The doomsayers have made much of tropical diseases such as malaria spreading as the globe warms, but cold-weather illnesses like the flu kill far more people every year. If warmer winters (when they do finally take hold) mean less time spent indoors in close quarters, where so many contagions are spread, maybe someday flu shots will become a thing of the past.
3. Warmer Weather is Safer
No more middle-aged men falling down with heart attacks while shoveling snow. No more motorists careening off icy highways. No more kids falling through thin ice, or elderly people freezing in their homes. Wintertime is a dangerous time. Granted, record-breaking heat waves have killed scores of people, especially in northern cities where older buildings aren’t equipped for such heat, but those structures are being demolished and replaced daily.
2. People Enjoy Sunny Climates
Where do senior citizens go to retire? Cleveland? Not usually. Statistics may not show the residents of Florida to be any happier than people elsewhere, but nobody would complain if they had their weather. However, some scientists believe climate change has thus far led to an increase in extreme conditions, from heat waves and cold spells to snowstorms and flooding, not just warm, sunny days.
1. Increased Interest in Alternative Energy
Fear of global warming has already led many people to look beyond fossil fuels at wind and solar power as possible alternatives for powering our way of life. If climate scientists are to be believed, it will likely be too little, too late. But ironically, such efforts could represent progress toward weaning us from our dependence on foreign oil. A warmer globe leading to energy independence? Even this cloud could have a silver lining.