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Beware climate change Any local global warming benefits could be overhelmed by disruptions

Personal income rose significantly and the demand for skilled workers, in professions from banking to medicine, soared. Food was plentiful, if not always cheap. The availability of raw materials was unrivaled and innovation exploded in everything from mass communications to fashion. All in all it was a wonderful time to be alive.

If, that is, you were still alive. If you had not been among the maybe 38 million people who had just been killed off by The Black Death.

You know -- the Plague, which had just killed, as far as anyone can guess, about half the European population of the time. The time being the 14th century, and the ensuing economic explosion being the result of a whole lot of money left to relatively few survivors who spent the next century or so divvying up the inheritances and plowing them into newfangled toys like the printing press and voyages of discovery.

Like all historical allusions, this one is not perfect. But it certainly springs to mind when one examines the list of potential positive side-effects of global climate change. In a recent Associated Press story published in this newspaper, various thinkers and experts consider what might be on the bright side of our overly hydrocarboned future.

Buffalo's snowy winters, and autumns, might be a thing of the past, so much so that it could become a popular resort. The rural lands of Canada, Russia and Greenland, as well as the fishing grounds of the North Atlantic, could become more productive than ever.

The assumptions of the benefits of global climate change do come with two huge weasel words. In Latin. The words, used a lot by economists and practitioners of sciences not so dismal, are "ceteris paribus" and translate to something meaning, "All other things being equal." In this case, rising global temperatures could result, ceteris paribus, in more food and less money spent on heat.

But all other things are never equal. Warmer springs and falls in Manitoba and Ukraine don't mean more wheat if there's also a hemispheric drought. There won't be a lot of Americans who feel like lolling about the beaches of Lake Erie if much of the East Coast from Miami to Portland is submerged in a rising Atlantic, just as the water levels in the Great Lakes take a fall.

Meanwhile, Wall Street analysts are putting big pharmaceutical companies on their buy list because they assume that warmer climates will mean a lot more sales of drugs that fight malaria and other tropical diseases.

A silver lining to climate change? Sure, for some. But assuming the benefits would outweigh the costs is foolishness on a global scale.

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