Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Dollars and Sense of Global Warming

Bjorn Lomborg ask us to Save The World, Ignore Global Warming.

Global warming has become the obsession of our time. From governments and campaigners meeting for the climate summit in Buenos Aires right now we hear the incessant admonition: making global warming our first priority is the moral test of our age.

Yet they are wrong. Global warming is real and caused by CO2. The trouble is that the climate models show we can do very little about the warming. Even if everyone (including the United States) did Kyoto and stuck to it throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming by just six years in 2100.

Likewise, the economic models tell us that the cost is substantial. The cost of Kyoto compliance is at least $150billion a year. For comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve the most pressing humanitarian problems in the world: it could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education to every single person in the world.

The question becomes: Do we A) spend our resources on efforts to ameliorate poverty and suffering in this world, or B) spend our resources in a quixotic attempt to change global climate that can accomplish nothing but the damaging of the world economy? It stuns me that this is even considered a question. There is only one rational answer.

I'm a big fan of Lomborg. Invariably, when I mention any of his work I will recieve a dismissive "Oh he's been refuted" remark from somebody. But, also invariably, when I look at the so-called "refutations" all I find are rebuttal pieces from people directly criticized by Lomborg. For some reason the mere existence on another side to this issue is enough to qualify as a "refutation." Imagine if this standard was used in a criminal court.

Prosecutor: "Mr. Manson, I put it to you that you murderd Sharon Tate"

Charles Manson: "No way man, I was at the movies."

Prosecutor: "That's good enough for me. I stand refuted."

Judge: "Case dismissed!"


David Leftwich said...

An enlightening take on global warming. Global hunger is an immediate problem that is well documented, while Global Warming is still scientifically debatable and the potential dangers, if any, are further down line – not that we should ignore a problem just because it doesn’t effect us immediately (look where that has gotten us in the past). But still this has challenged my basic assumptions on this issue. The money would probably be better spent fighting world hunger, using a portion for further research on Global Warming, and spending some on good old fashion pollution control and research an alternative energy sources.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

I mostly agree. Investing in new technology that could cut CO2 emissions would never be a bad thing, as they would be energy efficiant as well.

The climate could very well do whatever it is going to do no matter what actions we take. We are best served by having robust enough world economies to be able to pump huge sums into relief efforts when needed. Kyoto would do little but hurt those very same economies.