Matt Ridley: “Climate change is doing more good than harm”

Matt Ridley

“Carry on warming” is the message that Matt Ridley conveys in his latest article for the Spectator, challenging the widespread belief that climate change has had negative effects for the world.

Matt argues that information from the current scientific consensus is largely ignored by the mainstream media. If one were to aggregate all the economic effects of climate change, the overall situation appears to be positive – and is likely to stay so until around 2080.

Matt identifies the following net economic benefits of climate change:

  • Fewer winter deaths
    It is a global phenomenon that winter deaths exceed summer deaths; with a warmer environment comes a better chance of life. This benefit is tied to lower energy costs – global warming has so far cut heating bills more than it has raised cooling bills.
  • An increase in global plant growth
    Higher carbon dioxide (CO2) levels is actually good news. The increase in carbon dioxide over the century, from 0.03% to 0.04% of the air, has had a measurable positive effect on plant growth rates. To put this in a wider context, 31% of the global vegetated area has become greener as a result of this rise, whereas only 3% has become less green. This has a domino effect on our food supply: with more rainfall and higher CO2 levels our agricultural yields are greater, a phenomenon that is pronounced in the Sahel region of Africa, where levels of famine have recently been declining.
  • Fewer deaths from extreme weather
    There is no evidence that climate change has caused a higher rate of death due to extreme weather. This conclusion is backed up by the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). An independent study by Indur Goklany actually shows that the death rate from droughts, floods and storms has dropped by 98 per cent since the 1920s. This is not because weather has become less dangerous, but because people have gained better protection as they got richer. “That’s the thing about climate change”, Matt says. “…we will probably pocket the benefits and mitigate at least some of the harm by adapting.”

The trouble is that the mainstream media, and even the IPCC, cherry-pick the bad news whilst ignoring the good. This leads to damaging anti-climate change policies:

  • Negative economic and environmental impact
    Matt contends that these policies have “driven people into fuel poverty, made industries uncompetitive, driven up food prices, accelerated the destruction of forests, killed rare birds of prey, and divided communities”.
  • Large input – negligible returns
    Britain will spend around £1.8 trillion over the course of this century on climate policies, in the hope of lowering the air temperature by just 0.005°C.

For Matt, the key question is: is it worth trying to impede a change in the future at the expense of causing a great deal of harm in the present.

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