Speaker says find smart solutions
Casper – Bjorn Lomborg doesn’t question if global warming is occurring or if it’s partially man-caused. What he does question is if the responses under consideration make sense.
“We should be focusing on doing what’s rationale, not just what’s fashionable,” said Lomborg who was the keynote speaker at the Wyoming Heritage Foundation’s annual forum in Casper Nov. 21. Lomborg is author of three books including the Skeptical Environmentalist and is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. Time Magazine named him one of the world’s 10 most influential people.
Looking to the United Nation’s Climate Panel, which Lomborg described as the best source of information on the topic of global warming, temperatures can be expected to rise between 2.9 and 6.8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
Its economic impacts, said Lomborg, will be a half of a percentage point of what he described as the “21st Century’s net worth.” He said it’s not going to be the century’s defining factor and is one of many problems in need of addressing. “We need a smart strategy,” said Lomborg.
Lomborg said the global warming debate is often one-sided and “vastly over exaggerated.” He took a look at four key areas — killer heat waves, more flooding, malaria epidemics and more extreme weather — as examples. “Let’s take a look at what will actually happen and how do we best deal with those problems,” he said.
If we look at the United Kingdom, said Lomborg of mid-century heat waves that have been predicted, about 2,000 more people will die per year. “If temperatures rise, we’re also going to see fewer cold deaths.” Global warming advocates mention the 2,000 additional heat-related deaths, but fail to mention the 20,000 fewer cold deaths outlined in the same study. “You need to hear both sides of the studies,” said Lomborg.
“Is cutting carbon emissions the best way to help poor, elderly women in Paris, France?” asked Lomborg of the potential heat waves. “If we actually care about elderly women in France why don’t we give them air conditioners instead of cutting carbon emissions?” said Lomborg. He also said simple solutions like painting tar white and adding water and greenery to cities can reduce urban temperatures by as much as 14 degrees at a far lower cost than regulating carbon emissions.
After walking through similar scenarios in other areas Lomborg summarized that malaria would be better addressed through malaria specific policies. “Why don’t we care about actual victims of hurricanes by ensuring there are better levies around New Orleans instead of focusing on climate change policies that will do virtually nothing even by mid-century?”
“Kyoto solutions and the like are very high cost with minimal gain,” said Lomborg. By the end of the century the difference would be less than a degree. “We’re essentially saying let’s spend an enormous amount of money to do virtually no good.”
Take the icon of global warming — the polar bear — as another example. “The polar population over the last half century has quadrupled,” said Lomborg. Realizing that doesn’t mean there won’t be a problem in the years to come, he asked, “How much would the Kyoto protocol help polar bears?” The answer: If everyone did the Kyoto protocol it would save about one polar bear per year. He said he’s okay with that, but questions costly carbon regulations while between 300 and 500 polar bears are shot each year. “Maybe we should stop shooting polar bears and it would be better for at least 299 polar bears,” he said not as an anti-hunting statement, but to show that many of the approaches lack logic.
“Instead of cutting carbon emissions right now, which costs a lot and does very little good, we should start investing in research and development to get much better technologies in the future,” said Lomborg. “Instead of putting up inefficient solar panels now, we should invest in making those solar panels better.”
“If we’re going to talk about global warming, we really need to get back to saying, ‘What it is that we want?’ Presumably global warming is not about cutting carbon emissions per se, or even about creating a lower temperature. Presumably this is about making a better world. So, we’ve got to ask ourselves is what we’re doing when we’re thinking about carbon emissions, is that really the best way to help make a better world.”
Lomborg said Al Gore’s question of “How do you want to be remembered by your kids and grandkids?” is right on the mark. He contends, “I find it very amusing that so many well meaning people around the western world want to be remembered for spending $180 billion to do virtually no good even 100 years from now.” For much less than that Lomborg said we can fix all basic needs around the world. “How do you think your kids would like you best?”
If you’d like to listen to Bjorn Lomborg’s views some of his presentations can be found online at www.youtube.com. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.