21 Nov 2014

The Benefits of Climate Change

Diederik B. writes:*

Climate change has began transforming life on earth. Everyday we read about the impacts of global warming on the internet and in newspapers. We have learned that it is responsible for the rise of sea levels, for a loss of biodiversity, and for many other terrible things. It is evident that global warming is an issue that needs to be dealt with quickly. However, there are also some positive externalities that can be derived from climate change.

In this post I would like to focus on the arctic specifically. While the melting ice caps is becoming a huge issue for some countries, especially China, Vietnam and the Netherlands, new opportunities arise in the arctic region. An example of this is the Northern Sea Route (see illustration). This route is now accessible for cargo ships because of the melting ice. It can even shave two weeks off the normal route.

Another notable is example is that global warming increases the amount of agricultural possibilities in the arctic region. Whereas up until a few years a go the agricultural sector was basically non existent in Greenland, they now have the means and environmental circumstances that allow them to grow different fruits and vegetables, including strawberries! Of course, this does not mean that tomorrow the whole world will be eating strawberries from the arctic region, but it definitely shows potential.

Thirdly, the melting of the icecaps also exposes many undiscovered natural resources. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, these new sources should add up to about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas. Because almost the whole world still heavily depends on these depletable resources, one could argue that discovering new oil wells is a benefit of climate change as well.

Bottom Line: Despite all of the negative externalities of climate change, some people actually benefit from it. This of course does not mean that climate change is immediately a good thing, but it is always good to place things into perspective. It teaches us that we can still make a good thing out of something bad. While we are trying to stop climate change from happening, why not recap its benefits at the same time?

* Please comment on these posts from my environmental economics students, to help them with unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc.