Bjorn Lomborg provides an interesting new prism through which we can analyze the ongoing climate change debate.
Dr Lomborg does not deny global warming though he does state that the climate change risk has been exaggerated. Irrespective of whether you agree with all the dooms day predictions of all the climate change activists in polar bear costumes in Copenhagen, Mr. Lomborg’s ideas related with climate change economics are innovative at the least.
Dr Lomborg argues that efforts towards cutting down carbon emissions which has been the central focus of the mostly unsuccessful Earth Summit in Rio, the Kyoto Protocol and now the Copenhagen Summit will not work. It will not work because carbon emission cuts are too expensive. This is not to say that we should not invest in mitigating climate change since its expensive. We should make the investment as long as we get good returns. Climate economist Prof. Richard Tol shows that for every dollar spent on carbon emission cuts we buy only 2 cents worth of avoided climate damage. Investing money (badly) to tackle future possibilities of damage will take away from essential investment requirements in battling the acute poverty, hunger and disease for today’s millions. That is just bad economics!
Instead Dr Lomborg suggests a cheaper but equally effective option (cheaper and therefore more likely to be implemented). He suggests that we should focus on climate engineering and non-carbon energy research rather than cutting climate emissions.
Climate engineering includes research like marine cloud whitening – spraying sea water droplets to make them reflect sunlight. I personally do not know all the climatic implications of such a technology but if the preliminary findings of its possible cooling effects are to be believed, it’s definitely something which should be taken seriously. Also, investing in research to make alternate fuels like nuclear, water, solar and geothermal energy simple to use and cheap seems like the best way forward. Investing in non-carbon energy research can give us returns of up to 11 dollars of averted damage for every dollar invested!
Some of Dr Lomborg’s critics suggest that he has oversimplified an extremely complex problem. This maybe true but I think his ideas and fresh perspective on how we can move away from false promises towards significant action have value. Start exploring his ideas from this interview.
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.