Help Set "The Copenhagen Consensus"!

Vote now to tell policymakers what global problems should be tacked first

(Page 2 of 12)

Option One: Improved Stoves

There are simple, cheap solutions to the problem of indoor air pollution.

More than 3 billion people are exposed to household pollution. Women and young children are especially affected because they spend more time indoors, near cooking stoves using solid fuels like wood, charcoal, peat, and coal.

The answer is surprisingly simple: improved stoves with good venting of smoke and the use of alternative fuels.

For $2.3 billion in U.S. dollars, we could provide a rocket stove to half the people using unhealthy, old-fashioned stoves. A rocket stove is easy to construct, and uses low-cost materials, and cuts out the negative health effects caused by solid fuel use by a third.

The economic spin-offs from improved health would be 4.6 times higher than the costs.

Option Two: Diesel vehicle technology

In many developing countries, road vehicles are generally found to be the major source of outdoor polution, partly because of high levels of diesel use, badly maintained engine, and little or no emission control technology.

Particulate emissions from diesel vehicles can be reduced by a diesel particulate filter, a device designed to remove diesel particulate matter or soot from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine. A diesel-powered vehicle equipped with functioning filter will emit no visible smoke from its exhaust pipe. Another option is to use a chemical process to break down pollutants in the exhaust stream into less harmful components.

Diesel vehicle particulate control technology is, unfortunately, very expensive, so the benefits are very low compared to the costs.

Experience from several developing city studies shows that retrofitting older and newer diesel-fuelled buses and delivery trucks with particulate control devices has economic benefits worth only 50 cents for every $1.00 spent.

2. Conflict

The food crisis is further increasing global political instability at a time when, according to research by Paul Collier, the risk of new civil wars is already rising. Many recently negotiated peace settlements have left nations fragile, while the commodity boom and the discovery of mineral resources in countries with weak governments have sown seeds for discord.

Since Iraq, the developed world has lost faith in using military force to reduce conflict. However, Iraq is a misleading guide to the effectiveness of intervention. Unlike the vast majority of conflicts, its civil war was sparked by an international war.

The far more typical scenario is a relapse of political violence within a small, low-income, low-growth nation already troubled by fighting. This is the real security challenge that developed nations must deal with this decade.

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  • ||

    "The Copenhagen Consensus project seeks to replace media-driven hysteria with sound science and rational cost-benefit analysis as the starting point in discussions of global policy."

    And we'll do that by conducting a poll of the laity to see what most makes them poop their pants.

  • ||

    Would it be possible to save or print the page so I can remember how I prioritized?

    I think memory enhancement should be one of the global problem areas... it is just as important (for me today anyway) as male organ enhancement!

  • The Chad||

    Interesting how free markets and capitalism, manifesting in Doha, have a BCA index over 1000.

  • AuH2O||

    What, exactly, is libertarian about setting global policy?

  • ||

    I love having an article like this handy. Whenever I run into some incoherent single-issue alarmist, I can toss them a link to that article. It should at least be good for making them think a little.

    I hope there's some site where we can track the results of this poll, for more than just viewers of this site. It would be rather entertaining to see how the priorities vary depending on geographic location, political persuasion, and similar factors.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Gender equity" is a "pressing global problem"?

    Nah.

    Not even close.

  • ||

    Bjorn Lomborg said, "There is unequivocal evidence that humans are changing the planet's climate."

    *listens*

    I can't tell if that's the distant sound of heads exploding or if someone's making popcorn in the breakroom.

  • Pottsy||

    Gilbert, I suspect you'd feel much differently if you were a widow in India, a muslim girl in Afghanistan trying to get an education, or a war widow in just about any third world country whose husband was dragged off to fight for some dirty warlord.

  • ||

    I ranked the femlib option pretty low, largely because I don't think it's doable in the places where it's needed most. You can't effectively impose those kinds of cultural changes from abroad with any consistency, and you can cause a lot of unintended painful consequences if you try.

    For similar reasons, I gave a low ranking to the idea of distributing pills to a huge target population on a regular basis, and on aid in general: I question how doable it is. Digging a well makes more sense; digging it is a one-time thing, and poor villagers can't steal the well and sell it to someone else.

    I loved the microfinance option, since it taps into local ingenuity instead of seeking to have first world bureaucrats imposing a solution from above.

  • ||

    everything is fine thank you...really

    but if I have name a number one threat its pseudo-state and state bureaucrat/politicos like the ones in this ding bat Denmark group who went to ivy league schools and thus never want a real job, want to pretend to be intellectuals the rest of their pathetic, meaningless lives (whoops, only become meaningful if they achieve some sort of state action in whatever problem they think is crucial), and who keep trying to control our lives thru garbage like this to begin with

    really, did Chapman ghost write this article?

  • Pottsy||

    Brambly, I would wholeheartedly agree with you on the gender issues, especially concerning our ability to affect change. I just have a problem with someone saying it's a non-issue.

    I ranked microfinance pretty high, too. I'm trying to remember the name of that business that couple started a couple of years ago that uses the internet to match up potential micro-lenders in the west with borrowers in the third world...

  • ||

    Good fargin grief. One false dichotomy after another. Where is the selection that says 'Laissez nous faire'?

    You'd think for a magazine touting free minds and free markets....

    yeah, yeah, I know the rulez...DRINK!

  • ||

    Even as a borderline anarcho-capitalist, I've always appreciated reason's rationality and willingness to set aside the ideological lens and offer objective analysis when appropriate. But come on, I do at least expect that reason be an actual libertarian magazine. There is nothing remotely libertarian about getting together a bunch of people to tell the governments of the world that they should spend all their money on Big Problem X. Isn't the whole idea that nine times out of ten, Big Problem X isn't something the government should be interfering with? And what's more- usually had a hand in creating?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I really don't give a shit about any of those things except trade barriers. Most of them are just "LETS DO SOMETHING!!!!!" bullshit that will only end up costing me freedoms and money.

  • mmo||

    The people going on about "this isn't libertarian!" need to stop for a minute and think. Whether we like it or not, governments are going to waste money on these programs, the least we can do is have them waste money on semi-free trade agreements like Doha rather than absurd things like foreign military aid. You might consider this "selling out" but realism, for me, trumps ideology.

  • ||

    Bjorn Lomborg said, "There is unequivocal evidence that humans are changing the planet's climate."

    Perhaps you should have read his book...

    It said the same thing 7 years ago.

  • Brandon||

    Pottsy:

    http://kiva.org/

    I believe eBay also has a microfinance subsidiary, but I could be mistaken.

  • Orange Line Special||

    The world's biggest issue is that we haven't yet risen up against the Oppressor... oh, I'm sorry, what I meant was that our problems go a bit deeper than those listed. They involve things such as a largely out of control elite and, let's face it, dumb sheeple (as they say) who have no clue how to do anything about it.

    For a tangible example, plently of RP supporters have wasted a lot of time on jokes like blimps, but they just can't figure out that going negative on his opponents is the only way he's going to get anywhere.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Gilbert, I suspect you'd feel much differently..."

    As far as I'm concerned, any problem that isn't a problem for me personally is no problem at all.

  • Bruce||

    Stating "There is unequivocal evidence that humans are changing the planet's climate." allows the argument to go forward on the best course of action from a results point of view. It is pure genius to move the discussion to what's really relevant. He spoke here in Alaska a month ago and his best comment was something along the lines of "If we really care about the polar bears, perhaps we should stop shooting them." He stated we shoot 300 - 500 per year and the best the Kyota protocols can accomplish is to save about 1 bear per year at enormous cost. It got resounding applause.

  • DS||

    Better living through larger, more expensive, intrusive, oppressive, global government, sponsored by the "libertarians" at Reason magazine.

  • ev||

    "As far as I'm concerned, any problem that isn't a problem for me personally is no problem at all" ~gilbert

    you sir, are a dick.

  • anon.||

    Sometimes "let's have no policy" isn't politically feasible. When that's the case, it's better to let your philosophy guide your policy, rather than simply sit out of the game.

    We can allow environmental hysteria to drive governments toward policies that will impoverish the world, or we can try to guide government towards policies--like fighting malaria--that are a fraction of that cost and are actually likely to unleash "the ultimate resource" of human capital in the Third World. Given that government is going to do something whether I sit out or not, I know which course I'd prefer.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Jesus, I'm all for helping the oppressed people throughout the planet, but almost all of these solutions involve robbing me at gunpoint to pay for them. How about we get government out of the way so people like Bill Gates can cure Malaria already. Or how about we all pool our money voluntarily to form a Freedom Brigade to stop genocide. We use to do this, back in the day, if you remember the Greek War of Independence. Also, I second the person who saw the False Dichotomy fallacy in these proposals.

  • Jorgen||

    When did this say that the $75 billion comes from first world governments? and what's so terrible about having people lay out solutions for pressing world problems? Don't you think Bill Gates might find this interesting?

  • Egosumabbas||

    @Jorgen asked:
    When did this say that the $75 billion comes from first world governments?

    Well, it's stated plainly in the header:

    "the Copenhagen Consensus Project, which seeks to prioritize global policy decisions" (emphasis mine)

  • Geotpf||

    Wouldn't the libertarian position be to spend zero dollars on all of this stuff, because free markets will fix it all magically?

  • Egosumabbas||

    "Wouldn't the libertarian position be to spend zero dollars on all of this stuff, because free markets will fix it all magically?"

    I don't presume to speak for all libertarians, but I'll attempt at a Classical Liberal explanation. Let people spend money and form voluntary contracts as they wish. If there's a serious problem, people will spend money to fix it. If a government steps in to solve a "big problem", it will either screw it up, be incredibly wasteful in fixing it, or it will be too little and too late. Also keep in mind that if the government decides to fix something, it extracts funds from the populace under threat of violence. Also, some things aren't worth fixing and should be allowed to fail. This doesn't apply to world hunger, but it does apply to people living in areas that are prone to natural disasters. Never underestimate humanity's ability to persevere in dire circumstances.

  • ||

    Geotpf

    Can you actually name anyone (libertarian or otherwise) who actually believes that free markets work magically?

  • DannyK||

    Cut-and-pasted from the blog's recent posts list:

    Help Set "The Copenhagen Consensus"!
    Vote now to tell policymakers what global problems should be tacked first.
    --Bjorn Lomborg

    Does Fashionable Beat Rational When It Comes to Solving the World's Biggest Problems?
    -- Ron Bailey

    Fixing the world's problems? $ 75 Billion.

    Using American Idol as a blueprint for world governance? A few bucks.

    Making Bjorn Lomborg look like a tool? Priceless.


  • ||

    "Can you actually name anyone (libertarian or otherwise) who actually believes that free markets work magically?"

    Well there are some libertarians for whom the answer to every single problem mentioned is "more free markets." Global warming, discrimination, poverty, hunger, health care quality and coverage, homelessness, etc., ...Just have more free markets! Anything that is such an all purpose solution to "everything" seems a bit, well, magical to non-believers...

  • ed||

    Nothing quite spells futility like an internet poll.

  • ||

    World's Number One Problem

    Pronounced lack of rise n' shine blowjobs.

  • ||

    I don't know. I think I need to tour Sierra Leone, get a feel for things.

  • Taktix&#174||

    How come I don't see "Bears!" as one of the options. That clearly should be #1...

  • Hawkish Amish||

    #1 problem: The existence of government. Solution? Get rid of government.

  • ||

    Anarchists: the only people more bankrupt of legitimate political theory than myself.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Come on everybody, rock the vote! When's the last time you could decide on the fate of billions of world's downtrodden at the click of a button?

  • Kirk||

    Space colonies are the answer to most of those problems. I don't see any space colonies being offered by Al Gore.

  • ||

    Just got a look at the Human Development Index map. Very, very interesting. esp. Haiti, Mongolia, India, Papua New Guinea and Gabon.

  • ||

    Shocked to see these good folks didn't include my vote--overpopulation. Hand out the condoms, with instructive illustrations if necessary, along with all the aid and weapons distribution.

  • ||

    NotMr.NiceGuy,

    why not just put that RU486 medicine in the water supply for a couple decades? That would be much more efficient.

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