Skip to comments.Time for the climate doomsters to face reality (Lomborg)
Posted on 05/10/2004 5:25:00 PM PDT by Eurotwit
WHEN disaster strikes or a threat looms, our natural human response is to take drastic action. Instead of examining our options we embrace the first reasonable-sounding idea and rush to implement it. If somebody asks us to stop and consider another way, we are exasperated. This isnt the time for consultation or lengthy decision-making, we reply. Weve got to do something. Our reaction to climate change is typical of this intuitive desire to take drastic rather than rational action. The science is clear: although global climate change will not result in sudden catastrophe it will not decrease food production or increase the impact of malaria it is a reality. There is no doubt that mankind has influenced atmospheric concentrations of CO2, and that this will increase global temperatures.
I dont believe that the scientific data supports anything other than that an increase in CO2 will cause an increase in temperatures. The important scientific discussion centres on how much the temperatures will rise. Writing in The Guardian recently, the commentator George Monbiot ridiculed global warming deniers under the headline Fossil Fools. Such criticism is well founded. However, I would challenge those such as Monbiot supporters of a strong response to climate change likewise to stop denying the economics of global warming.
I am the exasperating person who is standing still in the face of a looming threat, asking whether we should stop and consider the rationale and suitability of our planned response. I ask that we look at what can be achieved and what it will cost and then see if our proposed solution measures up, or whether we would do better putting our efforts elsewhere. Humanity faces many other challenges: malnutrition, conflict and communicable disease are just three that we devote many resources to overcoming.
Estimates indicate that the total cost of global warming will be about $5 trillion (£2.8 trillion). This calculation is unavoidably uncertain, but is based on models designed to assess the impact on areas such as forestry, fisheries, energy, water supply, infrastructure, hurricane damage, drought damage, coast protection, land loss caused by a rise in sea level, loss of wetlands, forest loss, loss of species, loss of human life, pollution and migration. The damage will not be spread evenly around the globe. Developing nations will be the hardest hit. They are poor and have less capacity to adapt. Industrialised countries may even benefit from a warming of less than two or three degrees celsius.
The Kyoto Protocol aims to cut participating nations carbon emissions to 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010. Even if the United States joins in, the effect on the climate will be tiny, postponing temperature change by just six years at the end of this century. In other words, the Bangladeshi family who would have had to move to higher ground in 2100, would now have until 2106. This does a little good, but not much.
The cost of the Kyoto Protocol will be at least $150 billion a year, and possibly much more. If we were to go even further as many suggest and curb global emissions to their 1990 levels, the total net cost to the world would be about $4 trillion extra comparable to the cost of global warming itself.
For the price of just one year of implementing the Kyoto Protocol, we could instead provide clean drinking water and sanitation to the entire world. It is estimated that doing so would save two million lives and prevent half a billion people from becoming seriously ill every year. We would not just be helping future inhabitants of the developing world as the Kyoto Protocol will very slightly but benefiting people of the Third World today and, through them, their descendants. We would boost the economies of developing nations, and thus help them to respond to climate change.
I challenge those such as George Monbiot to explain how doing so little, at such a high cost, can possibly be the best idea around.
The harsh truth is that we dont have money for everything. I believe our spending should be prioritised on the basis of its costs and benefits aiming to do the most good in the world with every dollar spent.
Some find it blasphemous to set priorities when it comes to the grand challenges facing our planet. Comparing global warming and the spread of HIV-Aids is like comparing apples and oranges, they say. Besides, we ought to have money to handle it all. Prioritising does mean comparing apples and oranges, but every public policy decision requires choices. Governments compare healthcare with education spending and decide their priorities in annual budgets. Doing good for the world is no different; every dollar spent on one project is a dollar less for another.
This month a group of leading thinkers will attempt to provide the world with a rational basis for such decisions. Nine illustrious economists including four Nobel laureates will meet as part of the Copenhagen Consensus, organised by the Danish Environmental Assessment Institute.
The economists will examine ten of the greatest challenges facing the world, ranging from climate change and communicable disease to conflicts, malnutrition and trade barriers. They will look at the costs and benefits of solutions to each problem, and provide a prioritised list of how to do the most good with every dollar we spend.
Often critics point out that my messages are used or misused in the political process. Recently a leaked memo showed that the Bush Administration was using selected portions of my book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, as part of a media strategy to counter environmental concerns. It is true that politicians such as President Bush probably only pay attention to half of what I say about global warming. He hears that implementing the Kyoto Protocol is not a sound use of money, but switches off when I finish the sentence with, and that money should be used to provide clean drinking water and sanitation to the Third World.
Those on the other side of the political spectrum have similar hearing problems. They hear, global warming is a serious problem, but ignore the message that simple economics tells us that doing something about it is a pretty bad investment.
If, as I argue, the Kyoto Protocol is not an effective solution, it does not follow that we should do nothing about global warming. For example, a tenfold increase in funding for research and development for renewable energy sources would only amount to about 1 per cent of the costs of Kyoto, yet in the long term would achieve much more. The costs of energy sources, such as solar and wind power, have been dropping about 50 per cent a decade over the past 30 years. Even if costs decrease at a lower rate, say 30 per cent, these energy sources will start becoming competitive by mid- century. Increased research and development might bring that day forward by five to ten years.
We should remember that dealing with global warming is not about making expensive, symbolic efforts to cut carbon emissions now it should be about making sure that our children and grandchildren will stop using fossil fuels because we have provided them with better and cheaper alternatives.
By choosing a more rational answer to climate change than Kyoto, we will acknowledge the fact that the world is confronted not by one massive looming threat, but by a range of challenges. None of these will destroy the planet, but they destroy lives every day, particularly in the Third World. In an ideal world, we would be able to spend trillions of dollars combating global warming, and defeat every other cause of widespread human suffering too. But in a world where we cannot do everything, we must decide priorities. And in such a world, it is not clear that, however well-intentioned, the Kyoto Protocol survives a collision with reality.
The author is director of Copenhagen Consensus and Denmark's national Environmental Assessment Institute.
I know that's scientific because I just made it up.
That's BS. Bush has pushed the Congress for serious spending on Aids in Africa, and I don't doubt that he's pushed spending on third world aid for water and sanitation too. Bush is serious about his "compasionate conservatisim", much to chagrin of many older conservatives.
Why do ALL libs have to be SOOO stupid?
The important scientific discussion centres on how much the temperatures will rise.
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