Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt suggested global warming could end up being beneficial to humanity, pointing out that civilizations tend to flourish during warm periods.
“Is it an existential threat, is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have?” Pruitt told Nevada’s KSNV TV on Tuesday.
“We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends,” Pruitt said in the interview. “I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing.”
While Pruitt’s comments sent liberal pundits reeling, his argument is not completely out of line with economic projections of global warming. Prominent environmental economist Richard Tol released a study in January that found “the initial impacts of climate change may well be positive.”
Tol looked at 27 different projections of the costs and benefits of future warming, which combined produced positive net benefits over the next 40 to 50 years. Economic costs didn’t go negative until temperatures hit around 1.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Current estimates indicate that climate change will likely have a limited impact on the economy and human welfare in the twenty-first century,” Tol wrote in his study. “However, in the long run the negative impacts dominate the positive ones.”
However, other economists and climate scientists often point to the alleged negative consequences of man-made warming, such as more extreme weather, higher sea levels and lower crop yields.
“Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 in the year 2018?” Pruitt said.