Ever since man realized that there was money to be made by piling valuable things on a boat and selling them to faraway lands where they're even more valuable, we've had one huge problem: To get back and forth between two of the biggest markets--Asia and Europe--your boats have to sail this massive pain-in-the-ass route...
...during which basically everybody on board would be dead of scurvy or eaten by a kraken. Because of this and other reasons, explorers were continually sailing around Canada trying to find a way to do this instead:
We literally spent centuries trying to sail through the frozen Northwest Passage over Canada, even though expedition after expedition found themselves wedged in 20 feet of ice every time. Even after we built the Panama and Suez canals to make it less of a pain in the ass to get from one ocean to the other, it would still be hugely beneficial to have the Northwest Passage opened up.
Global warming is about to give it to us, because all of that ice is finally melting up there (for part of the year, anyway). If so, it'll shorten some shipping Europe-to-Asia shipping routes by half. Goods will get there faster, and cheaper.
On the Other Hand...
There are also massive offshore oil reserves ready to be exploited under that ice, and they will exploit them.
That sounds like great news until you realize it's oil that got us into this situation in the first place. Also, you know that horrific oil spill currently turning America's gulf coast black and brown? Drilling up there will be done with platforms just like the one that blew up, only with the added benefit that nobody is quite sure how to clean up a similar spill if it should happen in the Arctic.
Eh, we'll figure it out when it happens.
Right around Hurricane Katrina was when everybody started talking about how global warming would give us more hurricanes. The idea is that hurricanes are the result of heat energy getting released from the ocean, so warmer oceans means more hurricanes. Seems to make sense.
However a recent study suggests otherwise, a pair of oceanographers saying fewer hurricanes have struck the United States in the period when we've noticed the oceans getting warmer. They think they know why, too. Apparently warmer temperatures increase vertical wind shear that disrupts storms as they form in the Atlantic, before they can go howling toward Florida. Everyone owes global warming an apology, dammit!
On the Other Hand...
There will be fewer hurricanes, but the ones we have will be stronger. It's like some kind of cyclonic natural selection.
Oh, "CycloNIC." Never mind.
They expect the strength of the storms to go up by about 11 percent, which sounds like nothing until you realize that equals a 60 percent increase in damage--presumably because that next 11 percent lets the storm cross the "my house was built to handle this" threshold where your roof flies away.
Everybody worries about the future of the rainforest, since we're chopping it down just as fast as we can run the chainsaws. Plus, as warming changes rainfall patterns and diverts rain away from the equator, scientists have long feared a dryer rainforest would quickly die off. But it looks like the rainforest may be taking care of itself just fine. And by take care of itself we don't mean "conveniently falling over to make way for a Denny's."
Warmer temperatures and added nitrogen from acid rain have actually been good for the vegetation in rainforests. And, even weirder, rainforests seem to be doing better with less rain. The theory is that less rain means less cloud cover, and it looks like what the plants lose in water, they gain in direct sunlight.
Not a universal victory.
Now you might think, Well lack of water doesn't sound particularly good for plant life. Remember what we said about increased efficiency in photosynthesis due to higher temperatures? In fact, the plant life common to rainforests seems to be thriving in drought situations. And it goes around calling itself a rainforest? What a lying asshole.
You're living a lie! Also, take a bath!
On the Other Hand...
There's a pretty good chance that this simply means we'll work to chop it down faster. Humans have hacked away about 20 percent of the rainforest to make room for grazing cows we can turn into hamburgers for McDonald's, and we're still wiping out about 1,000 square kilometers a month. So global warming may help the rainforests recover faster, humanity usually just takes that sort of thing as a challenge.
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