Our friend BjÃ¸rn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has an excellent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (subscription only) today taking on the Stern review of the economics of global warming:
Faced with such alarmist suggestions, spending just 1% of GDP or $450 billion each year to cut carbon emissions seems on the surface like a sound investment. In fact, it is one of the least attractive options. Spending just a fraction of this figure — $75 billion — the U.N. estimates that we could solve all the world’s major basic problems. We could give everyone clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education right now. Is that not better?
We know from economic models that dealing just with malaria could provide economic boosts to the order of 1% extra GDP growth per capita per year. Even making a very conservative estimate that solving all the major basic issues would induce just 2% extra growth, 100 years from now each individual in the developing world would be more than 700% richer. That truly trivializes Mr. Stern’s 10% to 13% estimates for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Last weekend in New York, I asked 24 U.N. ambassadors — from nations including China, India and the U.S. — to prioritize the best solutions for the world’s greatest challenges, in a project known as Copenhagen Consensus. They looked at what spending money to combat climate change and other major problems could achieve. They found that the world should prioritize the need for better health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education, long before we turn our attention to the costly mitigation of global warning.
We all want a better world. But we must not let ourselves be swept up in making a bad investment, simply because we have been scared by sensationalist headlines.
Hopefully BjÃ¸rn’s work will help keep the alarmist crowd from suggesting that Stern’s extreme predictions are now somehow part of the “consensus” on climate change we keep hearing so much about.