Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sure, tens of millions will die. But who cares?

Hard for me to wrap my head around this kind of moral degeneracy:
Yale University economics and environment professor Robert Mendelsohn lists a number of gains that Canada could expect from a 50- to 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."
So agriculture -- 2% of our GDP, huzzah! -- will benefit. That will be useful, because demand for food in the US, China, and India will skyrocket as crops fail. So we'll be better off, unless of course the Americans decide on a non-market based solution to the problem of high food prices. Or, if a global recession causes demand for industry (29% of GDP) to decline by 10%, we'll definitely see a net loss.

But the whole thing is kind of perverse: how, exactly, are Canadians better off if everyone else in the world is worse off, save Russia and maybe the Baltic states? Canada doesn't live in a vacuum, and if tens of millions of people are starving to death, it seems awfully inhumane to say "whee, my grain futures have paid double!"

3 comments:

Catelli said...

This is such a stupid argument. We don't KNOW what the effects will be.

Those areas only suitable for grain (i.e. out West) are also historically arid regions. You can't grow fruit if you don't get rain! I'm not sure of the exact number, but isn't 90% of Canada's farmland in areas that have experienced below average rainfall for the last 10 years?

Fuck, I bet a farmer knows more about economics than an economist knows about farming.

North of 49 said...

I think the BBC knows more about farming than that economist, too. There's an interesting map at the end of this article here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6200114.stm

...that shows that the wheat-growing region will move north, which would be fine (for us) if all that mattered was temperature, but there's the little matter of the soil quality and, as catelli notes, the rainfall.

The BBC article also points out that, even if we can grow lots more wheat, what's to say the then-warmer parts of the world, suffering agricultural and possibly economic collapse, can afford to buy it?

NonyNony said...

Um. Canada sits to the north of a highly aggressive country used to getting what it wants, when it wants, with the largest, most technologically advanced army in the world.

Now, theoretically, if said aggressive country's food production collapses due to a change in the world's climate, and their northern neighbor suddenly has the plum land for growing food - how bad do things have to get in said aggressive country before the demagogues in said aggressive country decide it's worthwhile to gin up a war with their notably less militant neighbor to the north?

Just saying - when you're making your economic calculations, make sure you budget in the extra military forces that you're going need to fend off folks whose land won't grow crops anymore...