The Skeptical Environmentalist's Plan for Global Warming

Bjorn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001), offers his thoughts on what are the cost-effective things to do about man-made global warming in an op/ed in the Washington Post. He points out that reducing the ability of people to create wealth blunts their ability to meet the challenges of future climate change. Unfortunately, the Kyoto Protocol turns out to be pretty effective at reducing wealth creation and not so effective at lowering global temperatures. To wit:

We shouldn't ignore climate change or the policies that could attack it. But we should be honest about the shortcomings and costs of those policies, as well as the benefits.

Environmental groups say that the only way to deal with the effects of global warming is to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions -- a project that will cost the world trillions (the Kyoto Protocol alone would cost $180 billion annually). The research I've done over the last decade, beginning with my first book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," has convinced me that this approach is unsound; it means spending an awful lot to achieve very little. Instead, we should be thinking creatively and pragmatically about how we could combat the much larger challenges facing our planet....

Even if the policymakers' earlier promises had been met, they would have done virtually no good, but would have cost us a small fortune. The climate models show that Kyoto would have postponed the effects of global warming by seven days by the end of the century. Even if the United States and Australia had signed on and everyone stuck to Kyoto for this entire century, we would postpone the effects of global warming by only five years.

Lomborg argues that there are far more cost-effective ways to address the problems exacerbated by man-made global warming:

The IPCC [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] tells us two things: If we focus on economic development and ignore global warming, we're likely to see a 13-inch rise in sea levels by 2100. If we focus instead on environmental concerns and, for instance, adopt the hefty cuts in carbon emissions many environmental groups promote, this could reduce the rise by about five inches. But cutting emissions comes at a cost: Everybody would be poorer in 2100. With less money around to protect land from the sea, cutting carbon emissions would mean that more dry land would be lost, especially in vulnerable regions such as Micronesia, Tuvalu, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

As sea levels rise, so will temperatures. It seems logical to expect more heat waves and therefore more deaths. But though this fact gets much less billing, rising temperatures will also reduce the number of cold spells. This is important because research shows that the cold is a much bigger killer than the heat. According to the first complete peer-reviewed survey of climate change's health effects, global warming will actually save lives. It's estimated that by 2050, global warming will cause almost 400,000 more heat-related deaths each year. But at the same time, 1.8 million fewer people will die from cold.

The Kyoto Protocol, with its drastic emissions cuts, is not a sensible way to stop people from dying in future heat waves. At a much lower cost, urban designers and politicians could lower temperatures more effectively by planting trees, adding water features and reducing the amount of asphalt in at-risk cities. Estimates show that this could reduce the peak temperatures in cities by more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Global warming will claim lives in another way: by increasing the number of people at risk of catching malaria by about 3 percent over this century. According to scientific models, implementing the Kyoto Protocol for the rest of this century would reduce the malaria risk by just 0.2 percent.

On the other hand, we could spend $3 billion annually -- 2 percent of the protocol's cost -- on mosquito nets and medication and cut malaria incidence almost in half within a decade. Malaria death rates are rising in sub-Saharan Africa, but this has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with poverty: Poor and corrupt governments find it hard to implement and fund the spraying and the provision of mosquito nets that would help eradicate the disease. Yet for every dollar we spend saving one person through policies like the Kyoto Protocol, we could save 36,000 through direct intervention.

Of course, it's not just humans we care about. Environmentalists point out that magnificent creatures such as polar bears will be decimated by global warming as their icy habitat melts. Kyoto would save just one bear a year. Yet every year, hunters kill 300 to 500 polar bears, according to the World Conservation Union. Outlawing this slaughter would be cheap and easy -- and much more effective than a worldwide pact on carbon emissions.

Wherever you look, the inescapable conclusion is the same: Reducing carbon emissions is not the best way to help the world. I don't point this out merely to be contrarian. We do need to fix global warming in the long run. But I'm frustrated at our blinkered focus on policies that won't achieve it.

In 1992, wealthy nations promised to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. Instead, emissions grew by 12 percent. In 1997, they promised to cut emissions to about 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Yet levels will likely be 25 percent higher than hoped for.

So instead of limits on greenhouse gases, what does Lomborg suggest?

Ideally, every nation should commit to spending 0.05 percent of its gross domestic product exploring non-carbon-emitting energy technologies, be they wind, wave or solar power, or capturing CO2emissions from power plants. This spending could add up to about $25 billion per year but would still be seven times cheaper than the Kyoto Protocol and would increase global R&D tenfold. All nations would be involved, yet the richer ones would pay the larger share.

I'm far less sanguine than Lomborg is about the efficacy of federal energy technology research programs. In any case, see what else Lomborg has to say in his op/ed here.

My Wall Street Journal review of The Skeptical Environmentalist is here. My discussion of the subsequent attacks by ideological environmentalists on Lomborg is here.

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  • ||

    Lomborg's strength is that he's not an environmental cool aid drinker. His weakness is that he's a big government guy. He favors government solutions, just thinks most enviro's are misguided and want the wrong solutions.

  • VM||

    His weakness is that he's a big government guy Danish

    there ya go.

  • ||

    rdkraus,

    While I agree with you that Lomborg is quite statist, I get the impression that he's a thinking guy, and that, if presented with free market solutions, he'd actually give them consideration.

    Any other "environmentalist" would begin shouting you down before you'd even finish.

    The only hope is that the socialists modern environmentalists continue to look more and more crazy, as they will become more and more irrelevant...

  • ||

    I've just started reading his newest book "Cool It". From what I've read, I highly reccommend it.

  • ||

    On a related topic, Global Warming is now on the menu in California's CEQA process.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CEQA

    ...in shorthand, before I can develop a site, I have to account for the impact my development will have on global warming.

    No, I'm not kidding.

  • ||

    The purpose of Kyoto is to use the emissions reductions targets to spur technological developments that will allow for future reductions to be accomplished that are greater in magnitude, at a lower cost. Doing a cost/benefit analysis of the reductions to be achieved in Kyoto Phase I is like noting the first Viagra pill wasn't worth the R&D costs.

    Lomborg knows this. Bailey knows this. But they keep flogging this obviously false argument, because being honest with their readers is simply not as important to them as winning a political fight.

  • ed||

    No, I'm not kidding

    We know you're not. It's California.
    That state has finally lost its ability to shock and surprise.

  • :-||

    not as important to them as winning a political fight

    Pot addresses kettle.

  • ||

    Politics of projection from the Inhofe crowd.

  • M. Simon||

  • Ashish George||

    "According to the first complete peer-reviewed survey of climate change's health effects, global warming will actually save lives. It's estimated that by 2050, global warming will cause almost 400,000 more heat-related deaths each year. But at the same time, 1.8 million fewer people will die from cold."

    Actually, the IPCC seems to disagree.

    http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2007/10/when-contrarian.html

  • ||

    The purpose of Kyoto[...]

    You know, joe, the "purpose" of a law isn't all that important, when you compare it to the outcomes actually created by said law.

    You seem to be talking about the former, and Lomborg about the latter. But don't let that stop you from suggesting that Bailey and Lomborg are liars or anything.

  • ||

    joe,

    So you're saying we should suffer the high costs and economic damage that Kyoto would incur, simply because the plan (see: centrally planned) assumes that the costs will come out to be less in the end?!?

    Assuming that's even true, and that's a big assumption, what do you think they'll do with all the money Kyoto would supposedly save?

    Give it back?

    Also, you cannot compare a private enterprise like Viagra, whose goal is to make money, with a public policy hoisted upon people, with their money no less, that may or may not work, and who's goal is more power over commerce...

  • ||

    No, Jake, we're both talking about outcomes. Lomborg is just talking about a smalll subset of Kyoto's outcomes, in order to demonstrate that, by themselves, they aren't sufficient.

    I, on the other hand, am not deliberately ignoring the most significant outcomes in order to misrepresent its usefulness.

    Because that would be grossly dishonest - and don't worry, I'm not going to be shy about noting that.

  • ||

    Sadly Lomborg is clearly intent on feeding the debate regarding fossil CO2 as being solely one of 'global warming.' If he were an honest environmentalist instead of a so called skeptic he'd realize that the direct effects on ecosystems is doing far more and more rapid harm than mere warming. Long before his flooded peoples might be endangered by sea level rise they will have starved to death from the collapse of the ocean ecosystem.

  • ||

    Taktix,

    Why else would anyone ever support a program or initiative that comes with a cost, if not for the expectation that it will result in a benefit of greater value?

    what do you think they'll do with all the money Kyoto would supposedly save?

    "They" who? The property owners and business owners and residents and governments who don't incur greater costs from environmental disasters? I imagine they'll put the money they don't have to spend on that to whatever uses they would put them to if global warming had never become an issue in the first place.

    Also, you cannot compare a private enterprise like Viagra, whose goal is to make money, with a public policy hoisted upon people, with their money no less, that may or may not work, and who's goal is more power over commerce...

    You can if you're comparing elements that are actually comparabe.

  • ||

    The purpose of Kyoto is to use the emissions reductions targets to spur technological developments that will allow for future reductions to be accomplished that are greater in magnitude, at a lower cost.

    Is it just me, or does this sound like the Laffer curve of ecology?

  • ||

    I, on the other hand, am not deliberately ignoring the most significant outcomes in order to misrepresent its usefulness.



    "They" who? The property owners and business owners and residents and governments who don't incur greater costs from environmental disasters? I imagine they'll put the money they don't have to spend on that to whatever uses they would put them to if global warming had never become an issue in the first place.



    So, joe, are you "deliberately ignoring" all the money that the Kyoto protocols would cost those folks in the first place? Or are you just "mistakenly ignoring" it?

  • ||

    Why else would anyone ever support a program or initiative that comes with a cost, if not for the expectation that it will result in a benefit of greater value?

    In the most general sense, sure, this works. But when we are talking about a specific program, i.e. Kyoto, for which the merits:

    A: were disputed from the onset

    B: have proven since implementation to not work

    then no, I see no reason to invest tax money (that is, money that was taken by the point of gun) into something that doesn't work just because a few experts say it might work.

    You can if you're comparing elements that are actually comparabe[sic].

    Explain to me how a private company's ventures, paid for by the company, are comparable to an international policy that's paid for by coerced collection of tax money from people who have no say in how it is spent.

    That's like comparing apples to penises.

  • ||

    See, look at Baked Penguin's comment. THAT is how an honest person who doesn't think that Kyoto's cost/benefit analysis is going to come out right contends with the issue.

    He acknowledges - as opposed to pretending never to have heard of - the basic premise behind Kyoto, and argues about that premise.

    Baked Penguin, I tend to think that hard caps, investments in research, and a carbon tax would be more effective than Kyoto's cap-and-trade at spurring the creation of new technologiies and the dissemination of those that already exist. But the important thing to keep in mind is that getting that technology deployed - whether that means replacing old power plants with newer ones, retrofitting buildings, or phasing out gasoline-burning cars - is how the problem will get tackled.

    One could say that the cost of carbon taxes (Bailey's preferred policy) collected in the first two years are not going to be worth the small improvments in carbon emissions that would come about in those first two years. But that would be obviously dishonest, because the mechanism by which Bailey's carbon tax would work would be to spur innovations and practices that will allow people and corporations to reduce their carbon footprint IN FURTURE YEARS.

    Like Kyoto.

  • ||

    Jake

    If you've got an argument, make it. If you're just trolling, piss off.

  • ||

    Taktix,

    Kyoto calls for a system of cap-and-trades in carbon emissions. Not taxes.

    Explain to me how a private company's ventures, paid for by the company, are comparable to an international policy that's paid for by coerced collection of tax money from people who have no say in how it is spent.

    No. The comparison I made, and what I was comparing, is perfectly obvious. Waving your "Go TEAM!" flag for private industry vs. government is just a dodge. My point is obvious, no matter how much you wriggle.

  • ||

    Here it is again, Taktix.

    Doing a cost/benefit analysis of the reductions to be achieved in Kyoto Phase I is like noting the first Viagra pill wasn't worth the R&D costs.

    See if you can puzze out the point I'm making there.

    Heads up! If you think it has something to do with the ethics of spending tax dollars, you're missing the point.

  • Dumb Girl||

    I'm not very smart so somebody help me out here: How has a low-lying country like the Netherlands managed to keep the sea away all these years and even manage to grow their country? Was there some sort Netherlands equivalent of Kyoto that I missed? Are the Dutch using a form of magic? Or is it just human ingenuity at work, not coercion and carbon credits?

  • ||

    My argument:

    Your claim that Bailey and Lomborg are lying is false. They are not talking about the same thing that you are.

    Furthermore, your self-satisfied arguments on the subject are specious and misleading, as evidenced by the fact that you're concentrating on the money people might someday not pay due to global warming, while completely fucking ignoring the money they'd have to pay right now and forever to support Kyoto.

    It's even more impressive (in a highly douchebaggy sort of way) that you've done this immediately after smugly asserting that *you* aren't the one ignoring the "most significant outcomes" of the treaty.

    Lomborg actually appears to address the costs vs. the expected benefits. You don't bother; you apparently just wish really hard for the benefits and dismiss the costs. Maybe Lomborg is incorrect... but you certainly haven't offered anything aside from unsubstantiated claims to support your side. And your track record with unsubstantiated claims isn't very good.

    There. Satisfied?

  • ||

    If you think it has something to do with the ethics of spending tax dollars, you're missing the point.

    Forcing someone to do something, especially with their own money, especially when it doesn't work, is always part of the point.

  • ||

    If someone is looking for signers on for an investment, typically said someone would be on the hook for explaining the upside. What we know is that Kyoto is really expensive and its identifiable first order benefits are small.

    Okay, so there are second order effects postulated because we will invest in easy to scale carbon reduction technologies. Can I get an order of magnitude? On what basis do we choose a higher level of benefit instead of a lower one? We know that development works as a hedge against climate extremes, and we know that development is a casualty of Kyoto. For all this to pan out, we have to assume something pretty damned impressive will eventually happen AND that such wouldn't happen as a consequence of development anyway.

  • ||

    "How has a low-lying country like the Netherlands managed to keep the sea away all these years and even manage to grow their country? Was there some sort Netherlands equivalent of Kyoto that I missed? Are the Dutch using a form of magic? Or is it just human ingenuity at work, not coercion and carbon credits?"

    The more money that is spent on reducing CO2, the less money there will be available to set human ingenuity to work at damming back the sea or fighting malaria spending on air conditioning, etc.

  • ||

    Why else would anyone ever support a program or initiative that comes with a cost, if not for the expectation that it will result in a benefit of greater value?

    Because they will benefit personally from it.

    Because they believe that certain intangible values (morality, etc., which not everyone may share) are more important than the more tangible costs.

    Because they mistakenly believe that the benefits will outweigh costs.

    That's just for starters.

  • Guy Montag||

    C-SPAN2 replayed a talk he gave in September. Was quite good. I recommend it next time it runs.

  • ||

    RC Dean,

    I think all three of those things fall under the "expectation that it will result in a benefit of greater value" clause.

  • ||

    For fear of sounding like a Freeper, let me just say that I disaprrove of any international governing organizations. And no, trade is not "governing."

    That being said, does anyone with a sound mind really trust the UN to know what better to do with our money and research hours?

    Hasn't the UN proven time and time again that they are just as corrupt and mismanaged as any other large bureaucracy?

  • Dumb Girl||

    The more money that is spent on reducing CO2, the less money there will be available to set human ingenuity to work

    That's what I thought, but being a dumb girl amongst all the smart men like joe I thought I might have missed something. Thanks.

  • ||

    I had this economics professor, long time ago, who used to talk about a lot of crazy stuff like "incentives" and "marginal gain." What a wackjob that guy was.

  • ||

    That being said, does anyone with a sound mind really trust the UN to know what better to do with our money and research hours?

    Hell no.

    Hasn't the UN proven time and time again that they are just as corrupt and mismanaged as any other large bureaucracy?

    Yup. I trust the UN even less than the federal government, and thats saying a lot!

    Not that I think they are some uber-evil conspiracy designed to integrate us into the scary One World Government or some other Bircher crap, but mostly because the UN wastes tremendous amounts of money and is dominated by corrupt third world dictatorships who bitch about the west "stealing" their wealth.

  • ||

    So long as it's offset with deep cuts in marginal tax rates, both corporate and income, I have no problem in principle with taxing carbon emissions.

    Our economy would be stronger if we taxed pollution rather than economic activity. I don't see why it needs to be done within the framework of an international agreement.

  • ||

    I think all three of those things fall under the "expectation that it will result in a benefit of greater value" clause.

    I was just trying to help joe understand how things work in the sausage factory, that's all. Sometimes sausage makers are flat wrong, sometimes they don't mind sacrificing the greater good for personal benefit, and sometimes what they think is the greater good is not a value universally shared.

    In other words, sometimes Our Masters are idiots, sometimes they're greedy bastards, and sometimes they are idealists of either the utopian or religious persuasion. Of the three, the last is the most dangerous.

  • ||

    So long as it's offset with deep cuts in marginal tax rates,

    Look! A unicorn!

  • ||

    Taktix--yes, you sound like a Freeper. You also sound like you don't want a global economy.

    Think of the following international organizations: WIPO, IETA, WTO, IMO.

    Now think of the difficulty of doing ANY international business or travel if they didn't exist.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    There is nothing that can be done about global warming. It is natural. It has happened over and over in earth's history. And people do not cause it.

    The government better stay the fuck out of my business.

    Global warming is bullshit.

  • K.||

    Lomborg isn't very credible. He acts like the only opportunity cost for global warming efforts is humanitarian help while for a fraction of the budget of almost any bureaucracy we could do both.

  • ||

    "Why else would anyone ever support a program or initiative that comes with a cost, if not for the expectation that it will result in a benefit of greater value?"

    Because someone else will have to pay the cost.

    That pretty much sums up the entire politcal system.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    Kyoto is basically dead, right? So why are we still arguing about its merits?

  • ||

    "Look! A unicorn!"

    I've never seen a unicorn--doesn't mean they don't exist. I have actually seen deep cuts in marginal tax rates--in my lifetime.

    ...and if we sold marginal rate cuts (or the elimination of the income tax entirely) as a necessary requirement to introduce a tax on carbon emissions (a tax big enough to actually have an impact), who knows?

    We might even get help from some strange bedfellows.

  • ||

    So long as it's offset with deep cuts in marginal tax rates, both corporate and income, I have no problem in principle with taxing carbon emissions.

    Our economy would be stronger if we taxed pollution rather than economic activity. I don't see why it needs to be done within the framework of an international agreement.


    Ken, carbon dioxide is not a "pollutant", any more than oxygen is a pollutant. If you reduce carbon dioxide to negligible levels, we'd all be effing dead, because carbon dioxide is what plants "breathe" while emitting oxygen as a waste product of the process.

    And a warmer globe reduces the considerable risk of another ice age, seeing as how the current interglacial is due to end soon in geological time frames unless humans intervene and break the cycle.

    If you look at where people actually live on earth, the warmer parts are generally more desirable real estate.

  • ||

    grumpy realist,

    A global economy is ideal. I worry about the dangers of a global government.

    Each sovereign nation has it's own set of rules, just like each U.S. state has it's own rules. It doesn't need a body like the UN to tell it what's best for it's nation.

    A deregulated electricity company, for example, can profit well in some states and be completely banned in others. When the federal government controlled this before deregulation in the 1980's, no company could operate.

    It's the merits of local governance vs. central planning. Trade organizations don't really fit into that category, no matter how much the anti-globalist would like it to.

    Once we get over this "companies control your life" meme, we will be more able to make the distinction between global commerce and global government.

  • Mathew||

    Prolefeed carbon dioxide might not be a pollutant, but too much of it can still kill you. And on the flip side, so can too much oxygen, or too much of anything else.

    Anyway, we don't have to be certain about global warming to still take reasonable steps to protect against it. I'm not certain my house will ever burn down, but I sure have fire insurance. Moreover, many of those steps having higher upfront costs that traditional methods, but more than pay themselves off over the long term. For example, energy efficiency.

    I for one support a national goal to move towards a hydrogen economy. It would remove our dependency on foreign oil, not be based on a finite resource, provide millions of high tech jobs here in America, and have numerous other health benefits such as lower rates of asthma etc.

  • ||

    joe, I'm willing to accept that was the ratonale for Kyoto, just like I'm willing to accept that ending poverty was the initial rationale for creating welfare.

    My point, which I've made on other posts about Kyoto, is that if the bar is lifted too high, manufacturers will simply find it more economically feasible to move to third world countries where Kyoto isn't an issue (and labor is cheaper).

    Since these countries are often have generally much dirtier fuel in use for electricity production (e.g., high sulfur coal), Kyoto could wind up causing more net pollution than it stops.

  • ||

    Prolefeed carbon dioxide might not be a pollutant, but too much of it can still kill you. And on the flip side, so can too much oxygen, or too much of anything else.

    Anyway, we don't have to be certain about global warming to still take reasonable steps to protect against it. I'm not certain my house will ever burn down, but I sure have fire insurance.


    Mathew -- carbon dioxide IS NOT a pollutant. Please don't use weasel words like "might not be" to avoid conceding a point you know is true, but you'd rather not admit. It's intellectually dishonest.

    And yeah, too much of anything can kill you. You can die from drinking too much water (or alcohol, or ...) That doesn't mean you should panic when someone offers you a margarita.

    I don't have flood insurance on my house, because it isn't in a flood zone. And I don't purchase insurance to protect me against the chance of winning the lottery, because winning the lottery isn't a bad thing.

    A little bit of warming will benefit some people, and harm some people, and will cause us to slowly adapt, just like we adapt to everything else that changes over time. We can deal with that. But the big picture is that another ice age is imminent in geological time, and that a slightly warmer earth would be insurance against that surely catastrophic and predictable event. Steps to cool down the earth (while killing the economy) would, in the long run, be counterproductive and stupid, once you grasp that looming catastrophe.

  • ||

    Prolfeed wrote
    "carbon dioxide is not a "pollutant", any more than oxygen is a pollutant."

    Pollutants are whatever people declare them to be. Much like Light, Salt, and Sound are iniimcal and even necessary for life; but these are still called Pollutants when we don't like some quality or quantity of them.

    I declare CO2 to be a pollutant because that is why I exhale it instead of inhaling it, and its why my car does not use it as an air intake, and its why smoke stacks dump it into the air instead of keeping it. Looks like a pollutant to me. Plants don't think of it as a polllutant, but humans aren't plants.

    "And a warmer globe reduces the considerable risk of another ice age, seeing as how the current interglacial is due to end soon in geological time frames unless humans intervene and break the cycle."

    There is no evidence supporting the notion of a naturally occuring immenant Ice Age within the next 20,000 years. It's more like 50,000 years away. And that is excluding human influence.

    The purpose of the Kyoto Protocol was to re-orient society in a better direction. Given it's short time span it cannot have been reasonably expected to do much else. Once oriented society would have an easier time moving down the better path over the next centuries. This orientation would be a new experience for all and much stumbling, bumbling, and other necessary learning experiences would be expected as we re-orient.

    So Stop bitching and help figure our better ideas of re-orienting to a better path and the moving down that path.

    Here are mine...again:
    "I don't like too many regulations, as the climate change future will require flexibility with which to adapt to the coming changes. Regulations get in the way.

The best start is to stop providing corporate welfare to the fossil fuel companies. In the U.S. this is peanuts at $15 billion a year in various monies and protections, but even doing away with that is an important signal to industry. Elsewhere, this would be harder, as fuels are often directly subsidized.

Next end subsidies and many regulations in the agricultural industries; not all, but these things prevent the freemarket development of biofuels. And the subsidies do hurt the development of other developing nations; and if they don't develop, we may likely get pulled into nasty expensive wars that would otherwise be avoided; this would be due to panic response to climate change s they did not/could not prepare for. On that note, helping to end corruption in foreign lands would help them be willing to prepare.

Third, don't require consumers/producers to be more efficient/use renewables etc.; but do require that our governments to be effectively carbon-neutral. We need is real leadership with a critical mass of demand and supply. The purchasing power of our governments can provide this.

Lastly, it is more or less the right of governments to control their borders. So simply require that all persons, products, and possibly services crossing borders be effectively carbon neutral via a carbon-tariff. This will boost local economies, at the expense of the global. But it will not destroy civilization.

All the above is not anti-capitalist at all, and provides a balanced solution to our near term climate issues. (it could use some improving though)"

  • ||

    Please, please, let's use federal funding to create the Scientist Full Employment Act solve the global warming.

    Seriously. I'm a government scientist. This would kick ass for me.

  • Guy Montag||

    This issue is why I finally converted to metric.

    I was already using organic hydrocarbon fuel and only use synthetic hydrocarbons for engine and gear lubricants.

    Now that I have switched to metric organic hydrocarbon fuel I produce about 73% fewer greenhouse gasses than with US standard units.

    Many thanks to Ezra Klein and his threadjackers who have brought me to the light.

  • ||

    There is no evidence supporting the notion of a naturally occuring immenant Ice Age within the next 20,000 years. It's more like 50,000 years away. And that is excluding human influence.

    Really? Got a link to back up that assertion? Take a look at the temperature chart

    here

    and ask yourself: what happened during all those other peaks in temperature similar to the one we have now? Did the temperature stay at the current unusually high level for 60,000 years or so (as you're asserting), or did the interglacial end and temperatures plunge time after time due to cyclical changes in the earth's orbit and inclination toward the sun?

  • robc||

    joe,

    Some of us dont give a flying fuck about the cost-benefit of Kyoto because it is immoral to begin with.

    Ends dont justify means. Ever.

    Before I will even look at a cost-benefit analysis of Kyoto, someone first needs to justify it on a moral basis. Murder may be cost beneficial but Im not going to consider it either.

  • Mathew||

    Well, if the earth does start cooling precipitously after we move to renewables, at least we will know how to warm it up real quick, we can just fire up all those coal power plants again.

    Anyway, I would think the scientific and economic thing to do, is make sure the price of fossil fuels contains its hidden externalities. If it did, then the amount consumed would be the efficient amount. As it stands, people consume too much of a scare resource because its price is lower than it should be. Therefore, placing a carbon tax (the horror) would actually be an improvement because we would now be consuming the efficient amount.

  • Mathew||

    Robc, are you really comparing the Kyoto to murder?

  • robc||

    Just felt the following needed to be linked for some reason:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Coase+theorem&btnG=Google+Search

  • robc||

    are you really comparing the Kyoto to murder?

    In only one sense. Both are immoral. I could have compared Kyoto to burglary, but I was just trying to pick a random clearly immoral act that could have a postitive cost/benefit analysis. Why murder was the first I thought of? Maybe just the mood Im in.

  • ||

    "Really?"

    AFAICT yep

    "Got a link to back up that assertion?"

    Yep: http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/

    "Take a look at the temperature chart"

    Past performance is no guarantee of future earnings. A careful looking at the behaviour of Milankovich cycles shows none of the necessary combinations of factors which trigger Ice Ages will be happening anytime soon.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovich_cycles
    "The future
    Since orbital variations are predictable[6], if one has a model that relates orbital variations to climate, it is possible to run such a model forward to "predict" future climate. Two caveats are necessary: that anthropogenic effects (global warming) are likely to exert a larger influence over the short term, and that the mechanism by which orbital forcing influences climate is not well understood.

    An often-cited 1980 study by Imbrie and Imbrie determined that "Ignoring anthropogenic and other possible sources of variation acting at frequencies higher than one cycle per 19,000 years, this model predicts that the long-term cooling trend which began some 6,000 years ago will continue for the next 23,000 years."[7]

    More recent work by Berger and Loutre suggests that the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years.[8]"


    Even if the Imbries are right, a 'cooling trend' is not an Ice Age; triggers are needed for that.

  • Seraphym||

    ALL of this discussion PRESUMES that the climate models used by the IPCC and other Global Climate Change activists are correct. They are NOT. This has been proven time and again, but everyone just keeps on going with the conclusions like they were set in stone.

    Here's a refresher on the properties of CO2 in the atmosphere and in the oceans:

    "Catastrophic theories of climate change depend on carbon dioxide staying in the atmosphere for long periods of time - otherwise, the CO2 enveloping the globe wouldn't be dense enough to keep the heat in. Until recently, the world of science was near-unanimous that CO2 couldn't stay in the atmosphere for more than about five to 10 years because of the oceans' near-limitless ability to absorb CO2. This time period has been established by measurements based on natural carbon-14 and also from readings of carbon-14 from nuclear weapons testing, it has been established by radon-222 measurements, it has been established by measurements of the solubility of atmospheric gases in the oceans, it has been established by comparing the isotope mass balance, it has been established through other mechanisms, too, and over many decades, and by many scientists in many disciplines.

    Then, with the advent of IPCC-influenced science, the length of time that carbon stays in the atmosphere became controversial. Climate change scientists began creating carbon cycle models to explain what they thought must be an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These computer models calculated a long life for carbon dioxide.
    Amazingly, the hypothetical results from climate models have trumped the real world measurements of carbon dioxide's longevity in the atmosphere. Those who claim that CO2 lasts decades or centuries have no such measurements or other physical evidence to support their claims. Neither can they demonstrate that the various forms of measurement are erroneous. Instead, they substitute their faith, constructing a kind of science fiction or fantasy world in the process.

    In the real world, as measurable by science, CO2 in the atmosphere and in the ocean reach a stable balance when the oceans contain 50 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere. The IPCC postulates an atmospheric doubling of CO2, meaning that the oceans would need to receive 50 times more CO2 to obtain chemical equilibrium. This total of 51 times the present amount of carbon in atmospheric CO2 exceeds the known reserves of fossil carbon- it represents more carbon than exists in all the coal, gas, and oil that we can exploit anywhere in the world.

    Also in the real world, isotope mass balance calculations - a standard technique in science - show that if CO2 in the atmosphere had a lifetime of 50 to 200 years, as claimed by IPCC scientists, the atmosphere would necessarily have half of its current CO2 mass. Because this is a nonsensical outcome, the IPCC model postulates that half of the CO2 must be hiding somewhere, in 'a missing sink.' Many studies have sought this missing sink - a Holy Grail of climate science research- without success. It is a search for a mythical CO2 sink to explain an immeasurable CO2 lifetime to fit a hypothetical CO2 computer model that purports to show that an impossible amount of fossil fuel burning is heating the atmosphere." (from Tom V. Segalstad, noted geologist and climatologist and former expert reviewer for the IPCC - visit his discussion of these facts here: http://folk.uio.no/tomvs/esef/esef0.htm)

    Sound like a theory you're willing the economic powerhouse nations to dump nearly $200 BILLION a year into? Not to me...

    But then, I'm an engineer. I've learned through school and professionally that correlation != causation. CO2 rises as temperatures rise. There is little evidence that it actually DRIVES the temperature rise.

    Does that mean we should just abandon clean energy efforts? Of course not, they reduce the pollution that we cause to our own environments; pollution which, if you're paying attention to Hong Kong and Shanghai in the past few months, is detrimental not only to our health but the health of the ecosystem. I'll all for economic incentives by the government for ethanol, nuclear, solar, wind, and hydroelectric power all over the place. Using solar energy to heat water to steam that drives turbines that produce Hydrogen for using in vehicles? Great idea! However, trying to take that localized pollution we produce and say that it is also "breaking the planet" is BS... the Earth is never stable. Ever. Full stop, end of discussion. It is, and always has been, always going through some sort of climate change. There was the "Little Ice Age" just a few hundred years ago... before that, the Medieval Warm Period. It has been hotter than it is now. It will be colder again... studies of the geological record show this clearly.

    Furthermore, if WE are causing the increase in global temperature, and WE can reduce or eliminate the increase in temperature... then why are other planets in our solar system getting warmer, too? Could the VERIFIED increased solar output we've been seeing in the last few decades have anything to do with that? A study by Duke University concluded: "We estimate that the sun contributed as much as 45-50% of the 1900-2000 global warming, and 25-35% of the 1980-2000 global warming." (http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2006/03/21/solar-warming/)

    Furthermore:

    "Three papers in the May 6 issue of Science Magazine argue that the amount of incoming solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth has increased dramatically in the last two decades. While the values vary from paper to paper, in total the new studies suggest that the increase in solar radiation absorbed at the earth's surface had almost 10 times as much warming power during that time as the concurrent increases in carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.

    Therefore, the warming observed over the past 20 years must have little to do with changes in greenhouse gases."

    Sounds to me like there is no causation that can be firmly established by any theory yet. Any model should be able to predict the null state to be worth a damn... it should be able to take data from, say, 1950, and predict the OBSERVED state as witnessed in 2000. None of them currently do, and even many that over-embellish effects still show little change that WE can make.

    To be clear - I think clean, renewable energy is a great idea, so long as it doesn't break the bank or prevent developing nations from achieving good growth. But there is a whole lot of understanding missing from our analyses of the evidence at hand for drastic, centuries long conclusions that, even if they worked perfectly, barely do anything... and might end up doing exactly nothing but wasting money and damaging the future of societies around the globe.

  • DannyK||

    Lomborg always uses the same argument: "You are worried about climate change, but problem X would be cheaper to fix."

    Problem X is always different: malaria in Africa, polar bear hunting, overheating urban landscapes. Does Lomborg actually care about Problem X? Who knows! It seems like a convenient rhetorical strategy to me.

  • ||

    Sam-Hec -- Ice ages are not "triggered" -- much colder temperatures than what we are experiencing now are the default. Interglacials such as what we are living in are abnormally warm periods that need a confluence of favorable occurances to happen -- several peaks overlapping, in effect. Human civilization, in effect, has occurred exclusively at the end of the high summer of a cycle that most of the time is in late fall or winter mode. Those temperatures collapse, we'll likely slide back into barbarism.

  • ||

    Go Sam-Hec,
    Go Ken Shultz.
    GO K.

    Lomborg, eh, not much of a climate scientist.
    Seraphym, eh, pretty impressive troll.

  • ||

    Sam-Hec -- take a better look at the link you provided -- interglacials only occur briefly when several of the Milankovich variations peak at once at "the observed 100 kyr cycle in ice ages". The peaks corresponding to the temperatures in which human civilization has flourished reflect perhaps one percent of the time over the last million years. To say that this peak will last for 60,000 years, when it has never done anything remotely like that in the last million years, is to defy common sense and be in denial of this stark reality.

    The detailed diagram of global temperatures over the last million years

  • ||

    Another, longer-term view of climate change -- note the dotted line represents the temperature around which human civilization has thrived.

    5.5 million years of temperature changes

  • ||

    1) Look up the percentage CO2 is of the greenhouse gasses.
    2) Look up what percentage of CO2 is man made
    3) Profit

  • ||

    Someone is forgetting that the #1 greenhouse gas is WATER.

  • James||

    "Of course, it's not just humans we care about. Environmentalists point out that magnificent creatures such as polar bears will be decimated by global warming as their icy habitat melts. Kyoto would save just one bear a year. Yet every year, hunters kill 300 to 500 polar bears, according to the World Conservation Union. Outlawing this slaughter would be cheap and easy -- and much more effective than a worldwide pact on carbon emissions"

    Ok, I cannot take this guy seriously. There is a huge difference between killing off 90% of polar bear populations (and walrus, etc) due to changing habitate verses the sustainable hunting of a small proportion of the existing population.

    If you stopped hunting but took no other action the species will still go extint (or near it)

  • James||

    btw, we could have built dozens of ITER type fusion power plants with the money we've blown on the Iraq war.

  • ||

    Well, I am not a notably intelligent, nor politically active/concerned, but here are some issues I have noticed; Firstly, the dude was talking about the lives that will be saved BY global warming. I have a problem with this; is it not the PLANET, not just human life, we're looking at here? Aren't we concerned about the rest of the living world? Secondly, this may be a bit..ambiguous(?) but isn't global warming humanity's fault? Should we not now sacrifice something to prevent, and possibly cure damage we have caused?

  • Some liberal guy.||

    The problem is that global warming is cumulative and will be near impossible to engineer a reversal. All this stuff he talks about, malaria etc will come and go. Global warming isn't going away and will never get "better". Those 300 dead polar bears come back if their environment supports them. Global warming will continually get worse and worse and things we do not yet understand may (and will) come into play.

    I don't understand his analysis anyway. If you save 1 polar bear a year via kyoto, would that not mean you save 1 additional every year after that for the year of kyoto enforcement? So in 10 years, you're saving 10 bears ?

    these "scientists" and their "numbers".

  • ham||

    I don't know where he gets his kyoto cost numbers but lets make this clear; reducing carbon emissions does not mean hurting the economy. It simply means shifting it from one place to another. Thousands of jobs will be lost in some industries, and thousands more in industries related to carbon reduction and environmental protection. Its a needed shift and one that the global economy can adapt too without missing a beat. Lets not mess around with a threat that we don't fully understand. The cost is minimal but the consequences could be dire.

  • Guy Montag||

    Lomborg always uses the same argument: "You are worried about climate change, but problem X would be cheaper to fix."

    No, he is saying that you are justifying your radical climate change remedies because of problem X*, but problem X can be fixed easily with what we already know works. So what is the big climate change issue?

    *Stop shooting polar bears and that solves the climate change polar bear problem, per his talk on C-SPAN2 in September.

  • Guy Montag||

    I don't know where he gets his kyoto cost numbers but lets make this clear; reducing carbon emissions does not mean hurting the economy. It simply means shifting it from one place to another.

    Translation: shifting from proven, inexpensive fuel to some crackpot idea that the author likes for some emotional reason.

  • Guy Montag||

    James,

    Do you ever bother reading what you quote?

  • ||

    Didn't you see the movie? Global warming is going to make the earth freeze over!

  • ||

    I don't know where people get the idea that fixing the symptoms is better than fixing the causes. The Iraq war is costing us more than the worst projections of Kyoto worldwide. I think fixing the climate is a little more ethical than killing people to little or no benefit, and dealing with the natural disasters caused by global climate change will ultimately be MORE expensive than dealing with climate change itself. You're trading a one-time expense (and the long-term benefits that will result) for an ongoing cost that will simply get worse with time. The danger is not that the climate will change to something different, but that it will change to something more hostile to human life (like an ice age) or in the very worst case scenario, that the environment will be completely destroyed, and you want to bet on the outcome like you KNOW what's going to happen? At least the climate scientists are honest about what they don't know. Yes.. I said they are honest. I haven't seen anything here that is a NEW argument against climate change, and I haven't seen anything here that tells me things are getting anything but worse in the next hundred years.

    Kyoto immoral you say? Unless we put domes over our country, what we do to "our" air will affect other people. That means we have a responsibility to keep it breathable and relatively pollution-free. How moral is that? No one should tell anyone else what to do, but when we're all breathing the same air and we're all dependent on the same environment, NOT doing something about the things we put in it is the same as walking up to someone on the street and gassing them. The morality is simple: We broke something. We need to fix it. Yes, it will cost a lot. Yes, it will require help from people who are already hurting, but if we continue as if the environment will only get so bad or will somehow correct itself are fatal to EVERYONE if we're wrong.

    If Lomborg wants to fix the symptoms and he thinks it will be so cheap, then we should be doing that AND trying to fix the environment itself. Anything else is playing russian roulette with the future of humanity.

    No.. I'm not a climate change activist and I don't think that Al Gore is a god. I happen to dislike the man quite a lot. But I have a brain and some background in chemistry. I was convinced by the evidence, not by a statistician with a political axe to grind. Lomborg has some really good ideas about fixing the wrong problems. Good luck with that.

  • ||

    I think that this is one of the dumbest articles ever written.

    First of all, global warming and pollution go hand in hand. Pollution is responsible for making species go extinct, and endangering countless others. This article suggests treating the symptoms rather than the actual problems for the most part.

    The actual problem is pollution. Stop pollution, you cure the symptoms. But good luck telling 1.2 billion Chinese people that, along with the rest of the world. We are learning, but probably too slowly to help us.

    Our only hope is to have a diversified energy portfolio, and use it wisely. 25% clean coal, 15% nuclear, 10% coal, and 15-25% ethanol/wind/solar/other, with the rest being gas, but make all gas powered cars more efficient. Start making all cars battery powered and fast and easy to charge. Electricity is the universal currency of energy, and we already have the network to distribute electricity. It will also help curb other geopolitical problems (Iran, Venezuela, etc.). We will see electric cars a lot more often in 5-10 years. Will it be too late? If it is....Mother Nature is going to retaliate, just all of you watch.

  • ||

    "I don't know where people get the idea that fixing the symptoms is better than fixing the causes."

    That is too simplistic a view. If I take one gram of carbon out of the atmosphere, I'm treating the causes but doing literally nothing. If I'm able to remove 10% of atmospheric carbon, but doing so costs me the GDP of the US every year for a hundred years, I'm almost certainly wasting money.


    "The Iraq war is costing us more than the worst projections of Kyoto worldwide."

    It is? I don't think that pans out. That's 180 billion for how many years again?

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,
    Eh, not much of a Mexican.

  • ||

    Wow... It looks like Jake Boone has discovered a link that joe reacts to the way a vampire does to garlic!

    Apparently if you want to run joe off of a thread you just have to link here: http://www.reason.com/blog/show/117239.html#610868

    Unlike global warming, I'd say this is pretty decent evidence that joe has reached the tipping point for his comments on HNR - the point at which enough people are hacked off at him and his rhetorical dirty tricks that he is starting to get called out for his past sins.

    The really bad news for joe is that, since this all takes place on the internet, his dirty laundry is basically hanging around for anyone to point to and laugh.

  • ||

    I think the movie "The day after yesterday" or whatever the hell it's called is the dumbest friggin movie i've ever seen.

  • ||

    frankly it was INSULTING.

  • ||

    My sentiments exactly. How dumb do they think we are?

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