Bjorn Lomborg is not a skeptic of man-made global warming. But he is a skeptic of the millennialist views of Al Gore and other adherents. The world is not coming to an end, he says, and no, Kyoto will not solve the world’s problems. Nor is Global Warming the cause of all the world’s problems — it might actually solve some of them.
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…[F]or every dollar we spend saving one person through policies like the Kyoto Protocol, we could save 36,000 through direct intervention.
…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.
Lomborg’s excellent op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post is a must-read — a reductio ad absurdum for the Global Warming religion from someone who believes in man-made warming but sees through the hype. If you believe in Global Warming, then Lomborg is telling you that the only long term solution is economic growth (and government subsidies) that will result in development of non-carbon-based energy that is economical and practical enough to be used for industrial and residential electric generation, plus automobiles.
My own humble attempt last summer to explain the numbers on Kyoto went like this:
What exactly would it mean to meet the Kyoto targets? Let’s look at the numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States generated 5,802 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 in 2003. Naturally, this number has grown over the years as our economy has expanded. In 1990 we emitted just 4,969 MMT of carbon dioxide. If we had ratified the Kyoto treaty, we would have committed to cut emissions to levels 7% below that 1990 level — or to about 4,620 MMT.
…I’m looking at the Energy Information Administration’s table of all 50 states’ levels of carbon dioxide emissions. If we shut down all industry and electric generation in the 14 “Blue” States (the ones that went for John Kerry in 2004) east of the Mississippi River, then seize all automobiles, airplanes, and private land there, we would slightly overshoot the Kyoto goals…
…But the picture is actually much bleaker than all that…In November 2005, Professor Guy Brasseur, a Belgian scientist who runs the National Center for Atmospheric Research, addressed members of the European Parliament to inform them that…in order to stop human activity from raising the temperature, “we must reduce emissions not by five to ten percent, but by eighty to ninety percent.”
In other words, the proposed solution of dramatically limiting carbon emissions will do almost nothing to stop global warming anyway. So why bring the U.S. economy to a grinding halt and make millions suffer in order to accomplish…nothing?