Save The World, Ignore Global Warming

Lynne Kiesling

In Sunday’s Telegraph Bjorn Lomborg had a commentary on climate change policy that is well worth a careful read and consideration.

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.

He then goes on to discuss the prioritization of issues that the participants in the Copenhagen Consensus meetings in the spring established.

The Copenhagen Consensus gives us great hope because it shows us that there are so many good things we can do. For $27 billion we could prevent 28 million people from getting HIV. For $12 billion we could cut malaria cases by more than a billion a year. Instead of helping richer people inefficiently far into the future, we can do immense good right now.

We live in a world with limited resources, where we struggle to solve just some of its challenges. This means that caring more about some issues end up meaning caring less about others. If we have a moral obligation, it is to spend each dollar doing the most good that we possibly can.

So in a curious way, global warming really is the moral test of our time, but not in the way its proponents imagined. We need to stop our obsession with global warming, and start dealing with the many more pressing issues in the world, where we can do most good first and quickest.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My partner in the Center for Applied Energy Research at IFREE is Vernon Smith, who was one of the economists participating in the Copenhagen Consensus meetings.


9 thoughts on “Save The World, Ignore Global Warming

  1. Excellent point and well made … as an active modeler I would be thrown out of work if I presented models of the type used forecast global warming … calibration and testing is terrible at best

  2. Ditch Kyoto – do some real work…

    Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem points out an interesting article regarding the costs of the Kyoto Treaty and points to some other ideas: Save the World, Ignore Global Warming In Sunday’s Telegraph Bjorn Lomborg had a commentary on climate ch…

  3. I think the poor of Bangladesh are likely to be pretty badly done in by global warming as half the country floods, so it isn’t just a rich world problem.

    A great way to pay for the bed nets and other interventions suggested by the Consensus would be to give up on subsidies to energy use prevalent in much of the world and tax greenhouse gas emitting activities for their local negative externalities (tax cars for causing traffic jams through road tolls, for example). There are, in the ugly expression, ‘win-win’ opportunities to exploit.

  4. Save the World – ignore global warming

    …is the title of this review piece by Lynne Kiesling over at Knowledge Problem. Last summer I popped into the excellent Kilmartin museum in Argyll which charts the settlement of this part of Scotland over the last 10,000 years. In

  5. Save the World – ignore global warming

    …is the title of this review piece by Lynne Kiesling over at Knowledge Problem. Last summer I popped into the excellent Kilmartin museum in Argyll which charts the settlement of this part of Scotland over the last 10,000 years. In

  6. Save the World – ignore global warming

    …is the title of this review piece by Lynne Kiesling over at Knowledge Problem. Last summer I popped into the excellent Kilmartin museum in Argyll which charts the settlement of this part of Scotland over the last 10,000 years. In

  7. For another POV on the same article:
    http://www.johnquiggin.com/archives/002151.html

    Is Vernon Smith as angry with Lomborg as John Quiggin thinks he should be?

    Not stirring, honest!

    The point that there are much better things to spend money on than reducing global warming seems compelling — but so does the point that there is in practice likely to be little likelyhood that spending money on global warming will reduce the amount spent on other aid to developing countries.

    Tom

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