Cana­di­ans see sil­ver lin­ing in global warm­ing; farm­ing, ship­ping gain

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Barry Brown

TORONTO — Pre­dicted cli­mate change might not be bad for ev­ery­one.

Canada would be a net eco­nomic win­ner, ac­cord­ing to an April U.N. re­port cited by a num­ber of au­thor­i­ties dur­ing in­ter­views in re­cent days. The pa­per pre­dicted that milder tem­per­a­tures would ex­pand agri­cul­ture while boost­ing the econ­omy with lower win­ter heat­ing bills.

Yale Univer­sity eco­nomics and en­vi­ron­ment pro­fes­sor Robert Men­del­sohn lists a num­ber of gains that Canada could ex­pect from a 50to 100-year shift to a gen­er­ally warmer and wet­ter cli­mate.

Among them would be the abil­ity to grow fruit and veg­eta­bles in ar­eas that now are use­ful only for grain, and the open­ing of iced-over Arc­tic wa­ters to nav­i­ga­tion and other com­mer­cial uses.

“Cana­di­ans will clearly be bet­ter off in the fu­ture than they are to­day. I can say that with con­fi­dence,” he pre­dicted. “The most dra­matic gains could be in agri­cul­ture, de­pend­ing on pre­cip­i­ta­tion.”

How­ever, the com­plex­ity of global cli­mate and lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of data pose ma­jor prob­lems in mod­el­ing cli­mate change.

Mr. Men­del­sohn said many of the con­se­quences of global warm­ing are un­known, such as changes in the type and size of cloud cover and pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

Small changes, he said, “can cause lots of feed­back.”

For the U.S., he said, warm­ing trends will likely cause worse droughts, like the one cur­rently threat­en­ing Ge­or­gia’s north, and a pop­u­la­tion shift north­ward.

Michael McCracken, CEO of the Ottawa-based eco­nomic re­search firm In­for­met­rica Ltd., said “no one knows” what will hap­pen.

He said some fore­cast­ers ex­pect much colder win­ters and much hot­ter sum­mers, which will cre­ate adjustment prob­lems across Canada. Such changes would also bring “so­cial” costs like build­ing sea­walls around low-ly­ing cities or mov­ing their pop­u­la­tions, and “in­di­vid­ual” costs such as higher prices and taxes.

The prob­lem, he said, is that world weather changes “are run­ning ahead of the mod­els,” so “the worry fac­tor is high and grow­ing.”

Stephen Leeb, New York-based in­vest­ment an­a­lyst and ed­i­tor of the Com­plete In­vestor news­let­ter, said that so­ci­ety has de­vel­oped ac­cord­ing to a fairly steady cli­mate pat­tern and that change will not come eas­ily if there is a dra­matic shift.

Com­par­ing the world to a city that has de­vel­oped with peo­ple on the pe­riph­ery and agri­cul­ture in the mid­dle, if the inside be­comes less pro­duc­tive for farm­ing and the out­skirts more pro­duc­tive, a theo- ret­i­cal shift is pos­si­ble, but, he asked, “What do you do with all the build­ings?”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Leeb, any dra­matic cli­mate change will not likely oc­cur as a cat­a­strophic shift in an­nual weather pat­terns but in upand-down trends, with sev­eral years of warm­ing fol­lowed by a sud­den surge in repet­i­tive cold weather.

The real ques­tion, Mr. Leeb said, is en­ergy and whether Amer­i­cans will find a so­lu­tion to oil overuse and for­eign de­pen­dency or take the con­se­quences in terms of the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy if sup­plies run short and a fos­sil-fuel-de­pen­dent econ­omy is left out in the heat and the cold.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.