What AGW Worry Without Catastrophism?

Anthropogenic Global Warming proponents have an intrinsic need to chase the latest gloomier-than-thou reports and projections. 

In fact: is there anything to worry about AGW, when one removes its usual catastrophist baggage?

Or to phrase the question differently: is it possible to argue for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions without espousing the rather too common doom-and-gloom ideas of those that see the planet literally in peril, and civilization as-we-know-it ready to end in a decade or two?

The answer seems to be a resounding “no”, for a simple reason argued by Alex Cull in a comment to my “Discounting the Future” blog: since a slight warming is obviously beneficial, only a lot of demonization can paint it in an unfavorable light

[…] A different point, which follows on from your earlier blog re John Groome’s gloomy assessment of the ills of global warming. This may sound obvious but the projected deaths from global warming have to be very high for the whole argument to make sense, in fact they have to be inflated by any means possible, and the benefits of warming have to be minimised. Earlier springs mean a longer growing season, meaning in turn that fewer people die from starvation, and warmer winters mean fewer cold-related deaths. Obviously these are not catastrophic consequences, so the deaths will have to come from other causes, for instance as a result of more frequent and violent storms and from rising sea levels.

Now, if there is no well-established link between frequent violent storms and global warming, and if sea levels continue to rise by a few millimetres a year, as they have for well over a century, there’s a problem – no catastrophe. Hence the importance of Greenland and, of course, stubborn, recalcitrant Antarctica. Melt these, however long it may take, and you have your catastrophe. Which is why it is crucial for anyone advocating CO2 abatement that the ice caps must be projected to melt much faster than anyone has previously thought, that the resulting sea levels must be projected to rise far higher than anyone has previously thought, and the human casualties must therefore be far greater.

Because, if the number of people dying as a consequence of global warming is not very much different to, or is lower than, the number of people who would die if there were no warming trend, the CO2 abatement argument is dead in the water. If there is still a warming trend, and if it is caused by man-made CO2 but if it is not, on balance, going to kill more people than would otherwise die, and if we could stop this warming trend by reducing CO2 emissions, what on earth would be the point of doing it?