Saturday, May 31, 2008

Solving the World's Problems

Earlier this week I wrote about the Copenhagen Consensus Conference, and its attempt to determine the most effective way to expend limited resources (money) to solve the world's biggest problems. The results are in.

Where in the world can we do the most good? Supplying the micronutrients vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the 140 million children who lack them in developing countries is ranked as the highest priority by the expert panel at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Conference. The cost is $60 million per year, yielding benefits in health and cognitive development of over $1 billion.

Eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, were asked to prioritize 30 different proposed solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The proposed solutions were developed by more than 50 specialist scholars over the past two years and were presented as reports to the panel over the past week. Since we live in a world of scarce resources, not all good projects can be funded. So the experts were constrained in their decision making by allocating a budget of an "extra" $75 billion among the solutions over four years.

Number 2 on the list of Copenhagen Consensus 2008 priorities is to widen free trade by means of the Doha Development Agenda. The benefits from trade are enormous. Success at Doha trade negotiations could boost global income by $3 trillion per year, of which $2.5 trillion would go to the developing countries.
Where did global warming come in?

The remaining top ten priorities addressed problems of malnutrition, disease control, and the education of women...

At number 30, the lowest priority is a proposal to mitigate man-made global warming by cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. This ranking caused some consternation among the European journalists at the press conference. Nobelist and University of Maryland economist Thomas Schelling noted that part of the reason for the low ranking is that spending $75 billion on cutting greenhouses gases would achieve almost nothing. In fact, the climate change analysis presented to the panel found that spending $800 billion until 2100 would yield just $685 billion in climate change benefits.

This is part of the reason why I don't support the Kyoto Protocols and why I'm against such bureaucratic "solutions".


Ellen K said...

I think the Kyoto Protocols were a ham-handed attempt to lower the economic engine of wester nations and send those jobs and businesses to developing nations such as India and China. Just look at the list of nations exempted from the more stringent requirements that would be laid on the U.S. and it's like a calling card of where the jobs and money are going to go. It's a type of forced collectivism. I think the restraint of the use of our own domestic resources plays into that scenario as well. Wheels within wheels Darren, just follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason Bjorn Lomborg got his ass kicked was doing just this sort of cost/benefit analysis of similar, globally-important issues.

It's also nice to see that free trade is intruding itself into this confab. There seems to be a rising tide of demands for freeing up market access from African nations much to the discomfort of EU, and American, politicians.

They're happy sending tens of billions of dollars to Africa to no noticeable effect but the notion of a bit of domestic political discord, as from the well-protected agricultural sector, has them trembling with fear.