University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
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PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Climate Change

Beneficial effects.

There are probably few real benefits from climate change and global warming but two are worth considering.

1) The Carbon dioxide ‘fertiliser’ effect:

Climate change and global warming might have a few ‘benefits’, although according to Sir John Houghton in his discussion about the benefits to agriculture –“ negative ones outweigh the positive ones

The following extract from a lecture given at Oxford 2001, discuss this dubious benefit.

“I've mentioned some of the deleterious impacts of climate change. Are there likely to be beneficial impacts as well? More very hot days will be difficult to cope with, especially in some cities but less cold days will tend to bring benefits. At northern latitudes in Siberia or northern Canada, a longer growing season is likely to provide for more and possibly different crops. Increased carbon dioxide also acts as a fertiliser for some plants and again, if other conditions are also right, could lead to higher agricultural production. This higher production is likely to occur in developed countries at mid-latitudes. By contrast, many developing countries may not be able to produce as much for their increasing populations. So there are factors which are positive; but careful consideration of the impacts demonstrates that negative ones outweigh the positive ones. Most of the reasons for this arise from the very rapid rate of change that is expected and the difficulties for both humans and ecosystems to adapt. In some cases, ecosystems cannot move or regenerate fast enough to survive, so the connection between global warming and biodiversity is also a serious issue. “


2) A warmer world means better health?

The following is the abstract for a paper assessing the effects of global warming on human health:

Health and Amenity Effects of Global Warming

Revised May 30, 1996    Source
(c)Thomas Gale Moore, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University



“A somewhat warmer climate would probably reduce mortality in the United States and provide Americans with valuable benefits. Regressions of death rates in Washington, DC, and in some 89 urban counties scattered across the nation on climate and demographic variables demonstrate that warmer temperatures reduce deaths. The results imply that a 2.5deg. Celsius warming would lower deaths in the United States by about 40,000 per year. Although the data on illness are poor, the numbers indicate that warming might reduce medical costs by about $20 billion annually. Utilizing willingness to pay as a measure of preference, this paper regresses wage rates for a few narrowly defined occupations in metropolitan areas on measures of temperature and size of city and finds that people prefer warm climates. Workers today would be willing to give up between $30 billion and $100 billion annually in wages for a 2.5deg.C increase in temperatures.”

There is clearly some benefit to some individuals, but this must be contrasted against the negative impacts to human health. These might include:

  • Pollution from the atmosphere
  • Polluted or inadequate water supplies
  • Poor soils leading to crop failure and inadequate nutrition
  • The spread of human disease
  • Extremes of climate killing humans (heat waves, extreme cold)
  • Extreme weather conditions (hurricanes etc)



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1. Read the following article (New Scientist) about human health and global warming:
 Cities swelter on summer nights

Locate two or three more articles from the Internet which support or go against the benefits of Climate Change and Global Warming to human health.

Try typing ‘human health and global warming’ into the search box on the
 New Scientist website.

2. Some crops are not benefiting from climate change.
Read the following  article on Rice production in Philippines.