Debunking: "Global Warming Is GOOD For Us & The Environment!"

 

Thumbnail photos: Avtar Kamani/Pixabay; Gage Skidmore/Flickr

 

You'll sometimes hear it argued that, contrary to what so-called climate-change alarmists will tell us, global warming is actually going to be good—for humans and for the environment at large. Here, I'm going to point out the many flaws in these kinds of arguments, and I'm also going to examine the many harms that result from global warming to see how they stack up against whatever benefits might emerge. 

One example of this argument comes to us in an article written by Tim Worstall entitled: "Global warming: It's GOOD for the environment," subtitled "Don't forget: CO2 is PLANT FOOD." As he writes, 

 

"Climate change, this global warming thing, it's going to mean that the tropical forests frazzle up and then we all die, right? It will [mean] the death of the 'lungs of the planet' – such as the miles upon miles of Amazon jungle – which turn CO2 into the O2 that we inhale. . . . CO2 is . . . plant food and more plant food means more plants, more forests and thus we're all saved: or perhaps not quite as screwed as some seem to think at least. . . . These burgeoning forests will then rather neatly lock up in the biosphere all that extra carbon that we have been releasing into the atmosphere. Or some of it."

 

Before we deal with the claims about CO2 and plant growth, I would start out by asking: what climatologists or biologists are making the argument that global warming means the death of tropical forests, and therefore the death of all of us? Ah yes, come to think of it, I see it right here in the latest IPCC report, in the section entitled: "Shit your pants and have a panic attack!"

He doesn't quote any scientist or piece of research that actually makes this argument—and it's certainly not one that I've ever heard before—which leads me to believe that he's just setting up a strawman here to attack, and he's thus arguing against a position that nobody actually holds.

On top of that, there's a glaring problem with this line of reasoning that's explained in Prehistoric Life: Evolution and the Fossil Record by Bruce Lieberman and Roger Kaesler:

 

"One might predict that all things being equal, the rising CO2 levels should engender increasing plant activity which will partly act to counterbalance this; thus, we have less to fear from the effects of our own species on Earth's climate. Unfortunately, these hopes are dashed because of another major negative impact our species is having on the planet: everyday thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of acres of land are cleared due to suburbanization and deforestation. . . . We are thus removing some of the important forces that serve to counterbalance temperature change and buffer the climate system." 

Source: p. 233–234, Prehistoric Life: Evolution and the Fossil Record, by Bruce S. Lieberman and Roger Kaesler. 2010.

 

Worstall's argument completely fails to take into account the role of humans in deforesting the planet, and when this is added into the picture, what impact plants will have on mitigating rising CO2 and temperature levels becomes a much more open question.

And if it really was this simple and truly would work this way—if the increased growth of plants truly would not just act like a buffer, but cause CO2 and temperature levels to flatline—wouldn't climatologists account for this in their models and predictions? Or are the people who study this for a living so foolish and absent-minded that they've just never even considered this possibility and this brilliant guy in his 5-paragraph article is the first one that figured it out? The scientists over at the IPCC read his article and they're like "Fuck! Why didn't we think of that!" Not very likely, in my opinion.

His argument also fails to take into consideration one very obvious fact: temperatures and CO2 levels are steadily increasing. As we can see here in this graph, since 1860, CO2 levels have increased from about 300 to 400ppm. Over the same time period, temperature has increased about 1°C and continues to climb. Tree growth doesn't happen overnight, but if Worstall's hypothesis was correct, hasn't enough time passed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution that we would start to see some sort of a plateau in both CO2 levels and temperatures? The data reflects nothing of the sort, and if the observations flatly contradict your hypothesis, that's a pretty good sign that there is something wrong with your hypothesis.

To be fair, he does leave himself a back door to slip out of when he says that at least some of this CO2 will be captured by plants—not necessarily all of it. Yes, undoubtedly some will—but the data makes clear that not nearly enough is being captured to offset the steady increase that we're seeing.

And the plant response to increased temperatures and CO2 levels isn't actually as straightforward as he makes it out to be. We'll explore this in more detail later in the video, but for now, here's just one example of this from Campbell Biology:

 

"Scientists are concerned that increasing CO2 concentration and temperature may affect C3 and C4 plants differently, thus changing the relative abundance of these species in a given plant community. . . . In different regions, the particular combination of these . . . factors is likely to alter the balance of C3 and C4 plants in varying ways. The effects of such a widespread and variable change in community structure are unpredictable and thus a cause of legitimate concern."  

Source: p. 201, Campbell Biology, Ninth Edition. Jane B. Reece et al. 2010.

 

So we might be tempted to grant that—of the plants that won't be chopped down—growth all around the board will increase, yet it's not quite as simple as this: The effects of increasing CO2 and temperature levels could arguably disrupt ecosystems by changing the balance of which plants flourish in particular regions. Maybe this disruption will be mild and won't have much of an impact, but it's at least something to consider.

But let's set that aside and say: fine, CO2 levels and temperatures are still increasing, as the data make clear, but plant growth is also going to increase and that's great for the environment. Indeed, as we read in a 2016 NASA article,

 

"From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide"

 

When it comes to global warming, this is not the end of the analysis, however, because there are still all kinds of other harms resulting from climate change. It's not enough to just look at one benefit and call it a day; any serious analysis would compare the pros of climate change against the cons—and not just view one in isolation like Worstall does before reaching such a large conclusion.

I guess there is an additional benefit here that we shouldn't overlook: This tree growth might become so abundant that Tim Worstall actually gets lost in the woods and we never again have to read one of his articles!

We see more arguments like this being made in a PragerU video entitled "The Truth About CO2." By the way, as a rule of thumb, whenever PragerU purports to be telling you the truth about something, there's a very good chance that they're actually doing the exact opposite. In this particular video, Patrick Moore argues the following: 

 

"All life is carbon based, and the carbon for all that life originates from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All of the carbon in the fossil fuels we are burning for energy today was once in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide before it was consumed by plankton in the sea and plants on the land. Coal, oil, and natural gas are the remains of those plankton and plants that have been transformed by heat and pressure deep in the earth's crust. In other words, fossil fuels are 100% organic, and were produced with solar energy. Sounds positively green!"

 

Could this guy possibly sound any less interested in what he's talking about? It's like they put a gun to his head and said "Sound as boring as you possibly can!"

This is just a silly argument right here. He points out that fossil fuels are "100% organic". If by organic, he means the strictly chemistry-based definition "containing carbon," why should this have any relevance? The poison cyanide is technically organic; does that mean we should stir it into our morning coffee? 

Or if by organic, he means organic in the sense that certain fruits and vegetables are organic, then this is just a word game that he's playing. Many people view the term "organic" in the context of foods as synonymous with "healthy, good for us," and so forth, but that doesn't mean that everything that's plant-based is necessarily healthy. The poison hemlock comes from a plant; since it's 100% organic, does that mean it's good for us? I don't think so.

Yes, fossil fuels were originally produced by solar energy; that doesn't mean that they don't cause environmental harm. To describe these greenhouse gas– and pollution-emitting fuels as "green" is flat nonsense, because "green" means good for the environment; fossil fuels are the exact opposite of that. This is the kind of brazen propaganda that even oil companies would be ashamed to push. This argument is right up there with Donald Trump talking about "beautiful, clean coal." These people are living in a fantasyland, where the price of admission is the surrender of your critical faculties. 

Moore goes on to argue the following: 

 

"If there were no carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, the Earth would be a dead planet—period. Talk about catastrophic climate change! Take away CO2, and you'd have it. And yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed this essential ingredient for life a pollutant! But how can something that makes life possible be bad?"

 

Yes, some greenhouse gases are good for the planet, because it warms it to an appropriate level for liquid water and the life that exists here. However, unless Al Gore has gone completely mad, nobody is calling for the complete removal of all greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. And just as there's such a thing as to little a concentration of greenhouse gases, there's obviously such a thing as too high a concentration. If we jacked up the greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere by a thousand times, the temperature on the planet would skyrocket and virtually all life on earth would quickly become extinct.

"How can something that makes life possible be bad?" Water makes life possible; you can also drown in water. Oxygen makes aerobic life possible; if humans breathe too high a concentration of oxygen, however, they'll soon develop irreversible lung damage and they might even die. The sun makes life on earth possible; move our planet a hundred times closer to the sun, however, and it will quickly become a scorching-hot, inhospitable wasteland for virtually all of the life that used to exist here. We could go on and on in this manner until we get so bored that we start to sound like Patrick Moore!

Yes, the appropriate amount of something can cause life to flourish; an excess of that same thing, however, can cause it to quickly die out. This is something that Moore concedes, in principle, but he rejects the idea that CO2 today is anywhere near that level:

 

"Can you have too much of it [carbon dioxide]? In theory, yes. That's what climate alarmists say is happening now: CO2 levels are getting too high. Are they right? Well, if we look at the big picture, we find something surprising: For most of the history of life on earth, carbon dioxide has been present in the atmosphere at much higher levels than it is today. During the Cambrian Explosion, when multicellular life first came on the scene, CO2 levels were as much as 10x higher than they are today. From a big-picture perspective, we're actually living in a low carbon-dioxide era."

 

Yes, CO2 levels have been higher in the past, but the organisms that lived back then were adapted to these higher levels. And as we can see in this graph produced by Alpine Analytics, when the levels fluctuated over time, for the most part, this happened relatively gradually—at least over a period of several thousand years, if not much longer. 

Compare CO2­ fluctuations from the recent past with what's happening today: as we can see in this graph provided by NASA, contemporary CO2 increases are depicted as a virtually straight, upward line—and this isn't just because they ran out of horizontal space on their graph.

On a geological timescale, what's happening today is happening almost instantaneously, and it's therefore going to be very difficult for much of life on Earth to adapt rapidly enough to withstand the accompanying environmental and temperature changes.

Moore then goes on to make that same argument we saw earlier: that increased CO2 levels will boost plant growth. As I already noted, it's not reasonable to just cherrypick one potential benefit of climate change and conclude that therefore there's nothing to worry about. Plant growth is not the only barometer of environmental health, and global warming is going to negatively impact the environment in a variety of different ways. In fact, this isn't just something that's going to happen in the distant future; many of these things are already happening as we speak.

Let's start off by taking a look at the impact global warming will have—and is having—on the oceans. As we read in the 2014 National Climate Assessment report,

 

"As human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) build up in the atmosphere, excess CO2 is dissolving into the oceans where it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid, lowering ocean pH levels ('acidification') and threatening a number of marine ecosystems.

The acidification of the oceans has already caused a suppression of carbonate ion concentrations that are critical for marine calcifying animals such as corals, zooplankton, and shellfish. Many of these animals form the foundation of the marine food web. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Ocean acidification puts this important resource at risk."

 

And here we see photos from the report which compare a healthy shell in normal waters to an unhealthy shell in acidic waters, and the contrast is startling.

In addition to carbon dioxide–induced ocean acidification, there's also the impact of oceanic temperature increases. As we read in The Diversity of Fishes: Biology, Evolution, and Ecology,

 

"Reef-building (hermatypic) corals generally exist in water close to their upper thermal limits. Increases of only a few degrees cause coral bleaching (loss of symbiotic algae) and death. Strong El-Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events in 1982–83 and 1998 killed 50–100% of the corals in many areas, often as a result of average temperature rises of no more than a degree. As the corals died, algae spread and covered all surfaces, followed by erosion and physical collapse of the limestone. These alterations to the basic, underlying biological and physical structure of the reef have had far-reaching impacts on the fish assemblages. Where coral death exceeded 10%, more than 60% of fish species declined in abundance, with losses strongest among species that relied on live coral for food and shelter."

Source: p. 616, The Diversity of Fishes: Biology, Evolution and Ecology, by Gene S. Helfman et al. 2009.

 

And here we see an example of some bleached corals.

Here's another, even more disturbing example. Notice the stark absence of the vibrant marine life that we're used to seeing around coral reefs.

Coral bleaching is not something that's just going to happen in one or two little unlucky locations around the globe. As we read in Global Climate Change,

 

"Coral bleaching in conjunction with other factors, including the decrease in seawater pH . . . may cause irreparable damage to 40% of the reefs during the next few decades." 

Source: p. 146, Global Climate Change, by Arnold J. Bloom. 2010.

 

Take a look at this map which shows the projected frequency of coral reef bleaching events in the 2030s and 2050s.

As we can see, by the 2050s, a huge percentage of coral reefs worldwide are going to undergo Level 2 bleaching events during 90–100% of years. And the NOAA defines Level 2 bleaching events on their website as follows: 

 

"Alert Level 2 heat stress indicates widespread coral bleaching and significant mortality."

 

I truly do not understand how data like this doesn't instill in everybody that sees it a powerful desire to take drastic, immediate action to combat climate change. 

And here's something that I find extremely frustrating about climate-change deniers: they'll constantly use the phrase "climate-change alarmism", yet data like this makes absolutely clear that very serious, global consequences of climate change will materialize in just a matter of decades. There is nothing irrational or silly about becoming alarmed at things that are extremely alarming. 

Other ocean-based consequences of global warming are sea-level rise and the melting of Arctic ice. As we read in the NCA report,

 

"Sea ice in the Arctic has also decreased dramatically since the late 1970s, particularly in summer and autumn. Since the satellite record began in 1978, minimum Arctic sea ice extent (which occurs in early to mid-September) has decreased by more than 40%. This decline is unprecedented in the historical record, and the reduction of ice volume and thickness is even greater. Ice thickness decreased by more than 50% from 1958-1976 to 2003-2008."

 

And here we see these trends illustrated in a few different ways. According to the NCA, this figure and data are courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The figure on the left clearly shows how rapidly Arctic sea ice has been melting, showing that the 2012 extent is about half of what it was in 1980. And this is a trend that's confirmed in the data, which shows that in 1979, the average September extent was about 3 million sq km; as of 2013, this number has dropped down to almost 1.5 million sq km. And the average volume has also been reducing in extent, from about 2800 cubic miles between 2003–2008, down to about 1600 cubic miles between 2011–2012.

More ice, less ice, who cares? Why should we worry about this? One of the reasons this matters is that this rapid melting will affect the animals that live in the North Polar region. As we read in Campbell Biology,

 

"Polar bears have lost a significant portion of the ice platform from which they hunt . . . The alarming rate at which glaciers and Arctic sea ice are disappearing is posing an extreme challenge to animals that depend on ice for their survival." 

Source: p. 6; 50, Campbell Biology, Ninth Edition. Jane B. Reece et al. 2010.

 

Another reason this is crucial is because there's a positive feedback loop that occurs as oceanic ice melts: the ice is highly reflective, and when it melts, it exposes a larger percentage of the much darker ocean, which absorbs much more heat from the sun, thus accelerating the melting of the remaining ice, exposing even more ocean, which absorbs even more heat, and it just goes on and on like this, quickly melting the ice and quickly warming the temperature of the ocean.

The NCA report goes on to write that

 

". . . water expands as it warms up (this is referred to as 'thermal expansion') causing sea levels to rise. Melting of glaciers and ice sheets is also contributing to sea level rise at increasing rates."

 

This is yet another trend that we can simply measure and confirm: here we see NASA data which measures rising sea levels over time. Since 1880, sea level has risen 226 millimeters, or about 9 inches.

Not only that, but the data indicates that the rate of sea-level rise is increasing. As the NCA report continues,

 

"Since 1992, the rate of global sea level rise measured by satellites has been roughly twice the rate observed over the last century, providing evidence of additional acceleration. . . . In recent years, 'semi-empirical' methods have been developed to project future rates of sea level rise based on a simple statistical relationship between past rates of globally averaged temperature change and sea level rise. These models suggest a range of additional sea level rise from about 2 feet to as much as 6 feet by 2100, depending on emissions scenario."

 

The negative impact this will have on human civilization is considerable. We read the following in Global Climate Change:

 

"A rising sea level will put coastal regions of the world at great risk. Cities with large populations, such as those along the Gulf and East coasts of the United States, will be inundated. Bangladesh, one  of the world's poorest yet most populous countries, is perhaps the most vulnerable to sea-level changes: about 80% of this country is below 10m in elevation, and so a 0.5m to 1.0m rise in sea level will permanently flood between 6% and 10% of its land area and displace between 3.4 million and 17 million people. In addition to worldwide flooding, the rising sea level may contaminate the freshwater supplies of many coastal regions with seawater."

Source: p. 98, Global Climate Change, by Arnold J. Bloom. 2010.

 

Rising sea levels? Sounds to me like more space for oceanic organisms to swim around in! The remaining whales that we don't hunt to extinction will be doing backflips out of the water trying to thank us! And what do we really have to worry about here on land? If the sea-level rise ever really gets bad, we can always just climb some of the many trees that are prospering thanks to increased CO2 levels! Problem solved!

Global warming will also extend the range of a variety of pathogenic organisms—both those that impact the animal world and the human world. As we read in Global Climate Change,

 

"A pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infects many amphibians. Within 6 months after B. dendrobatidis initially arrived at a site in Panama, approximately 80% of the individuals from over half of the amphibian species had died from the resulting infections. Temperatures at many tropical highland localities are warming, and as they approach the growth optimum of the fungus, outbreaks occur and extinctions increase." 

Source: p. 147, Global Climate Change, by Arnold J. Bloom. 2010.

 

And it's not just amphibians that will suffer in this way; certain human pathogens will also thrive in a warmer world. As Global Climate Change continues, 

 

". . . warmer temperatures not only extend the range of cold-sensitive bloodsucking insects, but also increase their egg production and thus the frequency of their blood feeds. All of these factors serve to expand the range and to accelerate the spread of epidemics. . . . Extrapolating [computer] models to the warmer world of the future predicts that 50% to 60% of the human population will be at risk of dengue infection, versus 35% today. . . . Some studies predict that global warming will promote outbreaks [of malaria] at higher altitudes, whereas others find no such trend." 

Source: p. 148, Global Climate Change, by Arnold J. Bloom. 2010.

 

But perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong: Is this not yet another example of how global warming is actually good for the environment? You say deadly, pathogenic organisms are expanding their range; I say fungus and insects are flourishing! And if you think about it, what is better for the environment than the killing off of humans—what with all of our resource-exhausting demands? Perhaps there's a silver lining here that the Al Gores of the world should be applauding?

Global warming is also causing an increase in the severity and frequency of hurricanes. As we read in the NCA report

 

"There has been a substantial increase in most measures of Atlantic hurricane activity since the early 1980s, the period during which high-quality satellite data are available. These include measures of intensity, frequency, and duration as well as the number of strongest (Category 4 and 5) storms. . . . The recent increases in activity are linked, in part, to higher sea surface temperatures in the region that Atlantic hurricanes form in and move through."

 

Need I go into detail describing the thousands of lives lost as a result of hurricanes, and the immense damage that they cause, costing billions and billions of dollars to repair? Look on the bright side, though: When the gale-force hurricane winds are hurling debris in your direction, at least there's a chance that you'll be killed by a tree branch that was (up until that point) thriving thanks to increased CO2 levels.

Probably the most obvious consequence of global warming will be an increase in global warming. We read the following in Global Climate Change:

 

"As global maximum temperatures rise, heat waves are becoming more pronounced. Europe experienced the hottest summer on record in 2003, with average temperatures 3.5°C above normal. During a 2-week period in August 2003, between 30,899 and 49,004 Europeans died from heat-related causes. . . . Under the warming anticipated during the next 40 years, similar heat waves will be 100 times more likely to occur."

Source: p. 150, Global Climate Change, by Arnold J. Bloom. 2010.

 

But as Bjørn Lomborg points out in an article for The Telegraph, there is a flip side to this that we need to consider: 

 

". . . .we know that many more people die from cold than from heat. The biggest study on heat and cold deaths, published last year in Lancet, examined more than 74 million deaths from 384 locations in 13 countries from cold Sweden to hot Thailand. The researchers found that heat causes almost one-half of one percent of all deaths, while more than 7 percent are caused by cold.

As global warming pushes temperatures up, more people will die in heat waves; a point emphasized by campaigners like UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres. What we don’t hear from her is that fewer people will die from cold. . . . Only mentioning the negatives distorts and degrades the political conversation. . . . In the real world, we should look at all the available information."

 

This is a very fair and reasonable point and he's completely right about this. I would point out a few things here, however: Number one, I'm not sure how representative of the entire world data from 13 countries is, and it's worth considering that this ratio might differ across the entire world. Setting that aside, and assuming that this heat-to-cold death ratio is accurate, heat is not the only source of death from global warming; just to give another example, recall that many pathogenic organisms will increase their range as the planet warms. (And if carbon taxes are truly going to be as draconian as some on the right wing make them out to be, suicide or death-by-foolish-revolution will probably also skyrocket.)

And crazy as it might seem, if it is true that "Under the warming anticipated during the next 40 years, similar heat waves will be 100 times more likely to occur," it's not inconceivable that in the future, if we keep going in this direction, more people could be dying from the heat than had previously been killed by the cold. 

But on the general point that "we should look at all the available information," obviously this is correct, and in the spirit of this idea, let's return to that PragerU video featuring Patrick Moore.

 

"The optimum level of CO2 for plant growth, for example, is 4 to 5 times what is currently found in our atmosphere. That's why greenhouse growers worldwide actually inject additional CO2 into their greenhouses: they want to promote plant growth. Likewise, higher CO2 levels in the global atmosphere will boost food and forest productivity. That will come in handy, since by mid-century, we will have to feed 8 to 10 billion people. In fact, we're already seeing the positive effects of increased carbon dioxide now: satellite measurements have noted the greening of the earth, as crops and forests grow due to our higher levels of CO2." 

 

While, on the surface, this may seem like a convincing presentation, there are so many things wrong with what he says here. He's presenting an extremely oversimplified account of how things will play out. As noted earlier, because of the differing responses of C3 and C4 plants to increased CO2 and temperature, these changes could actually disrupt the balance of ecosystems in a way that could decrease biodiversity. As David Chandler and Michael Le Page write in an article for NewScientist.com

 

". . . some plants already have mechanisms for concentrating CO2 in their tissues, known as C4 photosynthesis, so higher CO2 will not boost the growth of C4 plants."

 

Another flaw in Patrick Moore's logic is that CO2 is not the only ingredient that plants require for growth, as Chandler and Le Page point out in their article: additional limiting factors include water and a variety of minerals. If plants don't have access to these things in sufficient quantities, growth won't just continue to increase linearly along with CO2 levels.

Moore is correct when he says that a greening of the earth has been detected. Something he fails to point out, however—and something that we read about in a NASA article on the subject—is that:

 

"The beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide on plants may also be limited, said co-author Dr. Philippe Ciais . . . 'Studies have shown that plants acclimatize, or adjust, to rising carbon dioxide concentration and the fertilization effect diminishes over time.'"

 

Things are also not so simple for crop growth, either. As Chandler and Le Page continue, 

 

"The crops most widely used in the world for food in many cases depend on particular combinations of soil type, climate, moisture, weather patterns and the infrastructure of equipment, experience and distribution systems. If the climate warms so much that crops no longer thrive in their traditional settings, farming of some crops may be able to shift to adjacent areas, but others may not. Rich farmers and countries will be able to adapt more easily than poorer ones."

 

And as I've already pointed out, plant growth is not the only measure of environmental health; take one look at what's happening in the oceans as a result of global warming and your pants should be immediately filled with piss.

Let's finish up by taking a look at another variant of this argument made by Scott Pruitt—who, believe it or not, is the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One look at his resume makes me think that perhaps we should rename it the Environmental Destruction Agency. In a recent interview, Pruitt shared the following words of widsom:

 

"'We know humans have most flourished during times of warming trends. There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing. . . . Do we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 or year 2018? . . . It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.'"

 

Something to note about the people who make these arguments is that it doesn't seem appropriate to call them "climate-change deniers," because in order to make these arguments, they need to grant (at least for the sake of argument) that climate change is occurring. So it seems like there's been a bit of goal-post shifting: First it was: "Global warming is not occurring." Now—perhaps because the evidence is so undeniable—some of these people are making the argument that: "Global warming is occurring, but it's actually not going to be such a big deal; in fact, it might even be good for us and the biosphere." Perhaps we can view this as a sign of progress in the right direction.

Pruitt points out that "humans have most flourished during times of warming trends." Assuming he can hear me in his soundproof phone booth, or all the way up there in first class, perhaps I should remind him that humans are not the only organisms on this planet and that other organisms will be impacted by global warming?

You know what, though? I think he's right about something: Who's to say what the ideal surface temperature is? Who are you to tell me that 110, 130, or even 10 million degrees Farhenheit is not an ideal temperature? Isn't it all just a matter of arbitrary preference, like to what temperature we should program the thermostat in summer? No, it's not. 

Here's the problem with his argument, and here's why we can say that the increasing temperatures we see today are undesirable: a rapid rise in temperatures will have severe consequences for life on Earth. As I noted earlier, many of the temperature increases that we can measure throughout Earth's history have taken many thousands of years to materialize; what's happening today is taking place at a much more rapid pace. Thus, many organisms will simply not be able to adapt quickly enough to the changing temperatures and environmental conditions brought about by our greenhouse gas emissions—and they will go extinct. And as the saying goes, extinction is forever.

As we read in Ecology: Concepts and Applications:

 

"Based on observations of response to existing warming and modeling studies, scientists predict . . . widespread extinction of plant and animals species."

Source: p. 522, Ecology: Concepts and Applications, by Manuel C. Molles Jr. 2013.

 

Just how widespread are we talking about? Well, we read the following in Global Climate Change:

 

"A common assumption is that global warming is more disruptive to species having narrow geographical distributions. Survival of a species would therefore vary with the geographical area of suitable habitats. Based on this assumption, 20% to 30% of all species will face extinction during this century. Other researchers question the applicability of species-area relationships for predicting extinctions, especially in response to climate change." 

Source: p. 136, Global Climate Change, by Arnold J. Bloom. 2010.

 

So unless your notion of an ideal or acceptable surface temperature features widespread extinction, you should be opposed to the rapid increase in temperatures that we are witnessing and that our greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for. And despite the rosy, nostalgic picture of global warming that Pruitt paints for us, as we've seen throughout this video, for many reasons, humans will be doing the opposite of flourishing as a result of global warming.

Arguments of this sort are extremely one-sided, misleading, and inaccurate. Yes, it is true that there are some ways in which humans and other organisms will benefit from climate change: these include a boost in plant growth as well as fewer deaths from the cold. However, these benefits aren't nearly as straightforward as they're sometimes made out to be, and they, in fact, come with many qualifications. 
Furthermore, when you compare these benefits against the many harms of climate change—which include coral bleaching, ocean acidification, an expansion of the range of pathogenic organisms, and the outright extinction of a wide range and large percentage of species—it's clear that we should not be singing the praises of greenhouse gas emissions or cheering on the warming of our planet.