Old Talking Points Die Hard: "Climate Change Is Beneficial" Edition

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If you follow the cycle of anti-climate change talking points, you’ll notice a pattern that repeats itself every few years. In between spurts of outright denial, the anti-science crowd will occasionally revert back to a less-heard talking point: Climate change is actually a good thing.

Even as the year 2011 has ranked the 10th warmest year on record, the “climate change is good” talking point has crept back to center stage among conservative pundits and dirty energy apologists who can’t help but to acknowledge that climate change is real, but suggest that we don’t need to worry about it.

This particular talking point gained a lot of steam in 2004, when the Cato Institute began hyping the idea that climate change was going to be a net benefit for mankind. From Cato:

Theory predicts and observations confirm that human-induced warming takes place primarily in winter, lengthening the growing season. Satellite measurements now show that the planet is greener than it was before it warmed. There are literally thousands of experiments reported in the scientific literature demonstrating that higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations – cause by human activity – dramatically increase food production. So why do we only hear one side about global warming?

Keep in mind, the Cato Institute was co-founded by oil billionaire Charles Koch and has received over $5.5 million from Koch family foundations since 1997, in addition to at least $125,000 from Exxon in the last 13 years.

During the same period that Cato was touting the benefits of warmer climates, other media outlets like London’s The Telegraph were also downplaying the disastrous effects of climate change. The Telegraph told us that, yes, climate change is absolutely real, but that we shouldn’t worry about it because it isn’t a man-made phenomenon. According to The Telegraph, and a host of conservative media in North America, the earth was just in a “natural warming phase” that would soon end and bring about another “natural cooling phase.”

Well, a few years later, we’re beginning to hear that familiar drumbeat of the positive aspects of climate change all over again.

The New York Post told its readers last month that not only are we currently in an ice age, but that “global warming” is going to benefit us all by preventing a full-blown ice age from taking over the planet.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute staffers who run the website GlobalWarming.org have taken it upon themselves to promote the “climate change is good” talking point each week by posting excerpts from books that also make the claim. This week, they led with an excerpt from Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist:

…Once again, people will adapt, as they do today. People move happily from London to Hong Kong or Boston to Miami and do not die from heat, so why should they die if their home city gradually warms by a few degrees? (It already has, because of the urban heat island effect.)

Pause for a moment to digest the fact that CEI and Ridley are still pushing the myth of the “urban heat island effect” even after the Koch-funded BEST study debunked it thoroughly.

According to Forbes’ contributor Tim Worstall, we can all sit back and relax because climate change isn’t going to be as bad as all the environmentalists and activists want us to believe:

This is however the most important remaining question in the science of climate change. Not is it happening, but how bad is it going to be? The lower climate sensitivity is the less bad it will be and the less attention we have to pay to it.

We’re also seeing numerous articles about how climate change will bring down the cost of goods as it opens up new, easier shipping routes in the arctic.

While certainly a clever attempt to paint a rosy picture of climate change, the “climate change is good for us” talking point is completely false. In North America alone this year, we’ve seen record snow falls, record floods, record droughts, record wildfires – many of them deadly events – and a further list of seemingly endless disasters and extreme weather events that are consistent with climate scientists’s warnings about what the future holds for us.

To understand the effects that climate change is already having in some areas of the world, I recommend reading Jeff Goodell’s recent piece in Rolling Stone magazine “Climate Change and the End of Australia.” As Goodell points out, Australia is one of the best examples to see how disastrous climate change will be for the rest of the world. The continent is already experiencing severe hurricanes and droughts, both of which are the direct result of climate change.

The NRDC has also worked to show what the real effects of climate change will be – and it isn’t Christmas Eve pool parties for Canadians, as the climate deniers would have us believe.

The reality is that climate change is going to have a disastrous effect on human health. As they point, in 2011, NRDC points to the following statistics from climate change-related events:

1,689 premature deaths
8,992 hospitalizations
21,113 emergency department visits
734,398 outpatient visits.

How exactly are these statistics “beneficial?” Are those numbers what the “climate change is good” crowd want us to celebrate? The truth is that there is nothing “good” about climate change. And as long as we continue down our path of mutual fossil-fueled self-destruction, things are only going to get worse.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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