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.