Cold periods have always meant human calamities and ecosystem disasters. For example, the last cold period, the so-called Little Ice Age, brought famine and epidemics to Europe and in Finland that contributed to the extinction of two thirds of the population. On the other hand, during the warm periods, plants, animals, and human communities thrived and prospered.
For many years we have been taught that climate warming will cause a series of disasters: ocean level rise, Arctic ecological disaster, droughts and floods, agriculture catastrophes, rising numbers and violence of hurricanes, epidemics of infectious and parasitic diseases, and so on. The impacts of warming, so it seems, must be always negative, never positive. But is it really so?
Let's take a look at the Arctic. At the request of the Norwegian government's Interdepartmental Climatic Group, together with three colleagues from the Norsk Polar Institute, I have studied the impact of a possible climate warming on the Arctic flora and fauna in the region of Svalbard. Special concerns involved possible polar bear extinction. Our report states that in the period from 1920 to 1988, the temperature on Spitsbergen and on adjacent Jan Mayen isle dropped by nearly 2°C, contrary to the predictions by Dr. Schneider and his followers. For the study's sake, however, we made an assumption that, by some miracle, the Arctic climate would be warmed up by a few degrees Celsius, with a higher carbon dioxide concentration in the air. Under this assumption, we investigated the fate of plants, sea plankton, fish, bears, reindeer, seals, and millions of birds inhabiting this region.
It turned out that at higher CO2 concentration and higher temperatures, the productivity of the Arctic ecological system always rises. Historic records and modern statistics show that in warmer periods, more fish have been caught in the Barents Sea, and the populations of reindeer, birds, seals, and bears also expanded. Over land, the mass of vegetation for reindeer increased, and in the sea, plankton became more plentiful. This allowed the fish population to increase, expanding food resources for birds and seals, which, in turn, are eaten by polar bears. In conclusion: Climate warming would be beneficial for the whole system of life in the Arctic, and polar bears would be more numerous than today.
Our interdepartmental sponsors then gave us a piece of their minds: "That's not the way to get the funds for research!" They were right.