Jan 14, 2010

Can Global Warming be good?

Here's an alternative view on global warming. The reporter shows that China has historically prospered during periods of warming. Of course the rub is that the results of the type of greatly man-induced warming that we are experiencing today do not really have historical precedent so in many ways the discussion is moot.

BEIJING — - In the debate over global warming, some historical meteorologists in China pose a contrarian view.

Their theory, in a nutshell: Some like it hot.

Looking back over the millennia, these scientists suggest that China has prospered during periods when temperatures are higher than usual. Conversely, they point out, cold spells have brought tragedies along the order of barbarian invasions, collapsing dynasties and civil war.

The proposition that global warming might actually be good for China, or at least a mixed blessing, has been quietly discussed -- and largely dismissed -- in academic circles here.

Those who see possible good in global warming for China rarely speak about it publicly, fearing that they will be cast as out of step with the global scientific mainstream.

But beneath the surface, the theory is not completely discounted.

"There are many different opinions in China about global warming, but people express them only in private," said Ge Jianxiong, director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography at Shanghai's Fudan University.

Whether politically correct to talk about or not, the Mongol invasions under Genghis Khan at the start of the 13th century were hastened by a sharp drop in temperatures and the phenomenon now known as desertification.

Higher temperatures, on the other hand, have marked periods of major progress.

During the Shang dynasty (1766-1050 B.C.), when China developed its writing system, average temperatures around the Yellow River basin where China was centered were about 52 degrees, slightly higher than today's temperatures.

The golden age of Chinese classics, epitomized by the life of Confucius (551-479 B.C.), and the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907), which many historians consider the high point of Chinese power and civilization, also coincided with warmer-than-average weather.

And then there's the start of the People's Republic of China. Temperatures have been rising since Mao Zedong's founding of the republic in 1949, most sharply in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Chinese economy exploded.

"Historically, when the temperatures were warmer, the dynasties were more prosperous," said Xie Zhenghui of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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