Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Bloomberg has helpfully drawn together a series of dire predictions from the latest US government report about how climate is going to make us less educated, unproductive, violent, and too heat exhausted to work. My question – how do they explain Singapore?
Blame Global Warming for Your Bad Attitude
Climate change is making us angry. It may also cause more assaults, murders, and even poor math grades for your kids.
It doesn’t take a PhD to see that climate affects our lives. Anyone who lives far enough from the equator can tell just by opening the closet.
It takes a lot of scientists, however, to reveal how climate affects us—particularly as our climate changes. Sure, there’s prolonged heat and drought in some places, persistent floods and storms in others—all the ways we’ve learned to see global warming (though some still reject the science). But an exhaustive review of almost 200 different studies reveals not only the extent of those predictable changes but also how we humans are reacting to climatic wallops. The results are troubling.
Richard Moss, senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute, calls the study essential to making clear the everyday price of climate change. Moss, who led the climate division of the U.S. Global Change Research Program and contributes to the National Climate Assessment, said “it’s always been a challenge in some of our national conversations.”
If you think the Bloomberg article is unreadable, try the government website.
Thankfully there is a referenced study, which lets us see the gist of the argument;
For centuries, thinkers have considered whether and how climatic conditions—such as temperature, rainfall, and violent storms—influence the nature of societies and the performance of economies. A multidisciplinary renaissance of quantitative empirical research is illuminating important linkages in the coupled climate-human system. We highlight key methodological innovations and results describing effects of climate on health, economics, conflict, migration, and demographics. Because of persistent “adaptation gaps,” current climate conditions continue to play a substantial role in shaping modern society, and future climate changes will likely have additional impact. For example, we compute that temperature depresses current U.S. maize yields by ~48%, warming since 1980 elevated conflict risk in Africa by ~11%, and future warming may slow global economic growth rates by ~0.28 percentage points per year. In general, we estimate that the economic and social burden of current climates tends to be comparable in magnitude to the additional projected impact caused by future anthropogenic climate changes. Overall, findings from this literature point to climate as an important influence on the historical evolution of the global economy, they should inform how we respond to modern climatic conditions, and they can guide how we predict the consequences of future climate changes.
So how do we know these predictions are nonsense, at least with regard to the USA? We know because the world is full of highly productive economies which experience climates far warmer than any imaginable global warming would inflict on the USA.
The predicted social impact of warmer temperatures is clearly the most ridiculous claim.
Blazing hot Singapore, the country I mentioned in the title, with an average GDP growth rate of 6.88% since 1976, is one of the most productive and safe countries in the world. Singapore’s education system is consistently at or near the top of international league tables. Violent crime rates in Singapore are amongst the lowest in the world. This real world example utterly contradicts US government claims that warmer climates cause increased violence, inability to study, and reduced productivity.
Hot weather in a region which is normally cold can cause suffering and health impacts. You have to drink a lot of water in truly hot weather – coffee and fizzy drinks will not adequately hydrate you. People who have rarely experienced real heat, who do not habitually drink water, sometimes don’t understand this, and suffer dehydration.
A sign sometimes seen in pub toilets of tropical Australia reads;
If your urine is clear, keep drinking.
If your urine is yellow, drink water.
If your urine is brown, you’re going to die
After a year or two of living in a warm climate, or repeated experience with hot weather, one way or another you learn the rules. Even if the world warms as predicted, most people will not experience the abrupt change in climate which people who migrate to the tropics experience. People who stay put will have decades to adapt, to learn appropriate warm weather adaptions. People who grow up in warm climates don’t suffer dehydration through stupidity, they learn to drink plenty of water as toddlers.
The alleged impact on agriculture is also ridiculous. Given that staple crops such as wheat are grown everywhere from the Canadian steppes to the arid inland of tropical Australia, I somehow suspect there is enough agricultural genetic diversity available to cope with any imaginable change in global temperature ranges.
Planting times also have a significant moderating effect on crop viability. On the edge of the tropics where I live, there is a very simple solution to growing temperate climate vegetables – you plant them in Autumn, or at the start of “winter”. Temperate vegetables can’t cope with the tropical Summer heat – but by the time that heat arrives, the winter planted veggies have long since been harvested.
Education – as I mentioned, warm Asian countries, including Singapore, regularly score at or near the top of education leagues. Suggesting that people can’t concentrate and learn in warm climates – the scientists who peddle such claims should be ashamed of spouting such obvious nonsense.
Violence – some tropical countries are extremely violent. Some freezing cold countries are also extremely violent. There are plenty of tropical and cold climate countries which are not violent. Surely this suggests to anyone not on the government payroll that violence is more of a cultural issue, than a climate issue?
In conclusion, claims that a slight increase in temperature, even several degrees rise in temperature, would have a dramatic impact on human health, behaviour and productivity in the USA are nonsense. The irrefutable proof that such claims are nonsense is simply that humans who live in the tropics, people who are acclimatised to the heat, have no problem working, prospering, learning and living in warm weather.