Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg On What Do After the Copenhagen Climate Change Collapse

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Fed Energy R&D

In today's Washington Post, Bjorn Lomborg, director the Danish think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, weighs in on what to do now that the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol process for addressing climate change has fallen apart:

Two points underlie the issue of global warming: First, developing nations have no intention of letting the developed world force them to stop using carbon-emitting fuels. They are understandably wary of any policy that might curtail the domestic economic growth that is allowing their populations to clamber out of poverty. And that is precisely what drastically reducing their carbon emissions would do.

Second, even for more-developed economies, trying to force drastic cuts in carbon emissions makes no economic sense. All the major climate economic models show that to achieve the much-discussed goal of keeping temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius, we would need a global tax on carbon emissions that would start at $102 per ton (or about 90 cents per gallon of gasoline)—and increase to $4,000 per ton (or $35.51 per gallon of gasoline) by the end of the century. In all, this would cost the world $40 trillion a year. Most mainstream calculations conclude that this is 50 times more expensive than the climate damage it seeks to prevent.

In other words, trying to force cuts in carbon emissions is a solution that will cost far more than the problem it is meant to solve. No wonder this option never gained real traction.

So what to do? Lomborg suggests spending $100 billion per year on green energy research and development with the goal of making green energy as cheap as fossil fuels. That's better than whacking the world's economy by greatly increasing the price of energy. However, the precedents for the efficacy of government energy R&D are not encouraging. So, to my mind, the real question is: Is what governments are likely to do about global warming worse than global warming? I tried to answer that question in this column:

… econometric models tell us that implementing smart policies could avoid some damage from climate change. But whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs depends entirely on the policies being optimally adopted. But will governments and international agencies be able to sustain smart policies over the next century? The tribulations of the European Union's cap-and-trade scheme and the current political jockeying over the 1,468-page Waxman-Markey climate change bill in the U.S. Congress are not promising…

Man-made global warming may simply be a negative externality for which the transaction costs are too high. In other words, any benefits achieved from trying to mitigate global warming will most likely be swamped by the costs of distributing the corporate welfare used to buy the political acquiescence of various industries. As much as one might hope to implement good public policy to deal with the problem, policy nihilism might be the only rational response to global warming.

Perhaps the Copenhagen collapse is an implicit global endorsement of global warming policy nihilism. Read the whole Lomborg op/ed here.

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  1. EOM

  2. I wonder if any new arguments will emerge on this thread.

    http://knol.google.com/k/clean-energy-2030#

  3. what to do now that the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol process for addressing climate change has fallen apart:

    Party?

  4. I wonder if any new arguments will emerge on this thread.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [wipes tear from eye]

  5. Economic growth is the answer.

    As our technology advances, more solutions will appear.

    If we dampen economic growth and thus technological advancement, then we might never be able to solve climate and other issues.

  6. No new arguments.

    AGW alarmists overreached.

    I’m glad they did.

  7. “Lomborg suggests spending $100 billion per year on green energy research and development with the goal of making green energy as cheap as fossil fuels.”

    Or we could just start building a lot of breeder reactor nuclear power plants.

    That should pretty much take care of it.

    1. For some uses, yes. But nuclear power is not portable enough to cover all the ways in which we currently use oil.

      1. I meant instead of windmills and solar panels – much less reliable – and more expensive – methods of generating electricity.

        Of course we should continue to use oil and gas for transportation.

        Also by converting more coal fired power plants to nuclear, that would free up coal supplies to be converted into synthetic gasoline – increasing gasoline supplies, driving down the cost and making gas powered cars even more economical.

  8. Playing the Devil’s Avocado: wouldn’t a tax that makes fossil fuels artificially expensive make *private* investment in non-carbon fuel R&D more attractive?

    1. That is technically true. If we really wanted a sensible climate change policy, we’d place a 5 percent tax on carbon emitting energy sources (we can all agree that that’s not enough to bankrupt anybody outright, so everyone can be asked to pay it; no soaking the rich or creative accounting necessary) to be used to subsidize r and d for non carbon emitting energy sources. No carbon trading schemes. No redistribution of wealth. No myriad of regulations and czars. Simple, straight forward, and to the point, how all government actions should be, if they should even be at all.

  9. How does good old Borg get away with saying that there IS and there ISN’T global warming? We have it or we don’t. Is my kid going to die an unspeakable death on a dying planet? Yes or no? You can’t possibly have it both ways because in order to do that it would require us to understand much more than we do. This disco science has the nerve to use the terms Natural climate and Man-Made climate but since we don’t understand climate in the first place, how are able to tell the difference of one from the other? If you for one micro second think we understand climate, just imagine the implications to society and science if we really did understand climate as much as these consultants, er, scientists say.
    How does melting prove all of a sudden that human monkeys are doing it now. Correlation and precaution spell superstition and Borg has milked this CO2 mistake and media hell long enough. That’s why he’s invited to the phoney debates the globull doomers stage because he’s a fence walker. He’s a doomer and a warmie.
    How is that there are thousands of MORE climate scientists than protestors? Shouldn’t these scientists be the ones marching? This modern day witch burning called climate change has been milked long enough by real scientists and consultants in lab coats.
    History will curse us all for this mass insanity.
    I want the scientists, journalists, politicians and lazy teachers charged with treason for this false enviro WMD war against a non existent enemy.

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