Matt Ridley has an interesting piece in the Spectator on the effects of climate change. He makes the rather unremarkable observation that we should count the benefits, not just the costs of climate change. Unremarkable except that people almost exclusively focus on the costs.
What are these benefits? He writes:
The chief benefits of global warming include: fewer winter deaths; lower energy costs; better agricultural yields; probably fewer droughts; maybe richer biodiversity.
The greatest benefit from climate change comes not from temperature change but from carbon dioxide itself. It is not pollution, but the raw material from which plants make carbohydrates and thence proteins and fats.
Ridley reads the scientific research to suggest that the benefits will exceed the costs unless temperature rises too high - or until about 2080 - according to some projections. He writes:
You can choose not to believe the studies Prof Tol has collated. Or you can say the net benefit is small (which it is), you can argue that the benefits have accrued more to rich countries than poor countries (which is true) or you can emphasise that after 2080 climate change would probably do net harm to the world (which may also be true). You can even say you do not trust the models involved (though they have proved more reliable than the temperature models). But what you cannot do is deny that this is the current consensus. If you wish to accept the consensus on temperature models, then you should accept the consensus on economic benefit.
Overall, Prof Tol finds that climate change in the past century improved human welfare. By how much? He calculates by 1.4 per cent of global economic output, rising to 1.5 per cent by 2025. For some people, this means the difference between survival and starvation.
It will still be 1.2 per cent around 2050 and will not turn negative until around 2080. In short, my children will be very old before global warming stops benefiting the world. Note that if the world continues to grow at 3 per cent a year, then the average person will be about nine times as rich in 2080 as she is today. So low-lying Bangladesh will be able to afford the same kind of flood defences that the Dutch have today.