Thursday, 8 September 2011

How costly will climate change in the Enriched World be?

Although for years I have emphasised the cost of man-made global warming in the fragile environment of Australia and the dreadful failure for the past thirty years of Australia’s ruling classes to act as if they were interested in maintaining the value of Australia’s environment by preventing greenhouse emissions with a rigid one hundred percent renewable energy policy, I have always thought the impacts on the Enriched World (and even the Tropical World) would not be of any importance.

However, Time this year has shown that the effects of climate change even in the robust environments of North America have the potential to be serious. Last month, when there was still hope for good rains that have been quashed by a bone-dry spell in Victoria that I would rather believe will last forever, Time published an article about drought in the American South and Southwest that made me suspect climate change’s effects could be felt in areas with greatly higher runoff ratios and essentially zero (as against 200-400mm in southern Australia) runoff thresholds. Evidence of extreme patterns of dryness and wetness in the US, as can be seen from last “year”’s rainfall data by state and district, is as with Australia in recent years proof that carbon emissions are chnging the climate immensely.

The way in which the eastern part of the affected region has been affected by a hurricane and flooding is perhaps a suggestion that in the future the American South may acquire the rainfall variability of a tropical region, which as those who understand Central Queensland (which does not even include people in southern Australia) will know, can have drastic effects. At the same time it is these very regions (actually in the hottest parts of the Enriched World) which are gaining people through their more hospitable (less masculinised) cultures as regions further north lose people to high living costs, big government and glaciation-generated lack of mineral resources. A potential problem in these regions is that as hotter regions become drier or harsher, market reforms in cooler regions (which invariably have little land and hence no economic agriculture) could force more production onto hot regions that have even less water than before anthropogenic global warming.

Such a change could make global warming even worse if hotter regions resort to coal-based desalination, since they will either lose soil nutrients from erratic tropical rainfall or become even drier and have to irrigate more with less – and there are limits to what can be done here because crops cannot withstand heat above a certain point. This gives a good reason to try to farm in cooler regions for the future and to try to get around the huge governments: it could mean a lot for the world if sustainable demographics return in cooler regions even without the extreme living standards.

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