Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bjorn Lomborg on Global Warming

I've written a few times about Bjorn Lomborg; here's an opinion piece he recently wrote.

Man-made climate change is, of course, real, and constitutes a serious problem. Yet the current cut-emissions-now-before-it-is-too-late mindset neglects the fact that the world has no sensible short-term solutions.

Bjorn and I are going to have to agree to disagree on the first statement above, but the rest of the article still has some interesting information. Global warming adherents, Lomborg apparently agrees with you! But look what else he says:

This seems to be why we focus on feel-good approaches like the Kyoto Protocol...

Some countries, like the United States and Australia, chose to opt out of its stringent demands; others, like Canada, Japan, and a raft of European states, pay lip service to its requirements, but will essentially miss its targets. Yet, even if everyone had participated and continued to stick to Kyoto's ever more stringent commitments, it would have had virtually no environmental effect: The treaty's effect on temperature would not have been measurable by mid-century and would only have postponed warming by five years in the 21st century. Nonetheless, the cost would have been anything but trivial - an estimated $180 billion per year...

But nobody sees fit to reveal the agreement's dirty little secret: It will do next to no good - and again at very high cost. According to one well-established and peer-reviewed model, the effect of the EU cutting emissions by 20 percent will postpone warming in the 21st century by just two years, yet the cost will be about $90 billion annually. It will be costly, because Europe is a costly place to cut carbon-dioxide, and it will be inconsequential, because the EU will account for only about 6 percent of all emissions in the 21st century. So the new treaty will be an even less efficient use of our resources than the old Kyoto Protocol.

We will not be able to solve global warming over the next decades, but only over the next half or full century. We need to find a viable, long-term strategy that is smart, equitable, and doesn't require inordinate sacrifice for trivial benefits. Fortunately, there is such a strategy: research and development. Investing in the research and development of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies would leave future generations able to make serious and yet economically feasible and advantageous cuts. A new global warming treaty should mandate spending 0.05 percent of GDP on research and development in the future. It would be much cheaper, yet do much more good in the long run.

He makes sense.

Update, 3/22/07: Lomborg spoke to the same Senate hearing that was previously drooling all over Al Gore. Ker-Plunk updates us:

Bjorn Lomborg is a rare creature, a leftie and environmentalist that seems to be able to deal with reality and prioritise issues with some semblance of common sense...In Lomborg's testimony he agrees that man is the cause of recent global warming and then indicates that it's no big deal. I encourage you to spend 20 minutes of your life reading his submission.

I encourage you to do so as well. Seriously. Just click on Ker-plunk's link.


Cameron said...

"No big deal?" Even when you've just quoted, from Bjorn himself, that it is "a serious problem"? You agree with any criticism he has of current liberal policy, but when he talks about global warming being real, you ignore it. The stuff that Al Gore is recommending in An Inconvenient Truth is not going to cost billions. It's stuff that will cut down on our own energy bills, while at the same time doing our share in helping the environment.
Personally, I absolutely believe that more money should be spent in R&D than in enforcing loosely-researched regulations. It would help, however, if the Bush administration would help out with any such programs. Their earlier hydrogen research has been limited to hydrogen concept vehicles and the extraction of hydrogen from fossil fuels, which is hardly environmental. More money can be saved on energy once more is spent.

Darren said...

You obviously didn't spend 20 minutes reading what he said to Congress.

allenm said...

If Gore's recommendations will cost so little maybe he could lead by example. As it is the only example he's setting is for the hypocrites of the world and I'm not even referring to his jetting around to tell everyone to stop jetting around. The son-of-a-bitch lives in a house that uses more electricity in a month then the average house does in a year.

Let the doctor partake of his own prescription.

allenm said...

Oh yeah, Lomborg's an economist.

Prices, costs, markets, etc. are his specialty and that's where his voice carries some weight. Outside the area of economics his opinions are just as worthwhile or not, as the next person's.

The cost of all the myriad enviro proposals are what got him started in this and related enviro-oriented issues. But having gotten into the issue he was moved to reveal some of the less talked about well-springs of various enviro articles of faith.

As an economist the thrust of his argument is that the various human resources that can be brought to bear on a problem are finite. That being the case Lomborg is just framing the debate in terms of determining which problem is most amenable to solution while posing the greatest danger.

That's the problem we ought to attack first since we're much more likely to solve it.

But that sort of pragmatism doesn't set too well in the enviro community. In the enviro community every problem has to get emergency priority and every available resource has to be committed to the solution. It doesn't matter whether by solving one problem, or even attempting too, you make the solution of other problems impossible.

That, in a nutshell, is Lomborg's central position. Everything else has had to do with the epidemic tendentiousness common among enviro activists and Mr. Lomborg's refusal to bury the evidence of the lies.