Lomborg recently assessed some better anti-warming initiatives, like investments in low carbon energy research, and found those provided decent value for money.
Folks who haven't read Lomborg's prior work carefully enough paint this as Lomborg having recanted. He's not changed position; he's just evaluated the potential benefits of a less crazy set of policies.
The fact that I've always asserted the reality of man-made climate change never seemed to make an impression on my critics. What mattered was that I had the temerity to question two key tenets of the received wisdom about global warming: I was skeptical of the idea that we were facing the apocalypse, and I didn't accept that the only solution was to mandate drastic cuts in carbon emissions.Climate policy is too politicized for nuanced positions.
That's the way it is with heresy—there is no middle ground. Either you believe global warming is the worst problem mankind has ever faced and that cutting carbon is the only solution, or you are an antiscientific ignoramus who probably thinks the Earth is flat.
My reputation among climate activists worsened in 2008, when the Copenhagen Consensus Center, the think tank I founded, published the results of a wide-ranging cost-benefit analysis of solutions to 10 of the world's most pressing problems. We assembled a group of top economists and asked them to assess which solutions to which problems would deliver the most bang for the buck. In addition to global warming, we considered issues like malnutrition, unsafe drinking water, malaria and terrorism.
The main global-warming solution our experts analyzed was the carbon-cutting approach advocated by Al Gore and endorsed at the 1997 global climate summit in Kyoto. We found that compared to solutions to other problems, direct carbon cuts were woefully ineffective. For example, while every dollar spent on fighting malnutrition would yield nearly $20 in benefits, every dollar spent on cutting carbon would avoid much less than a dollar of global warming damage. When we published our list of investments we thought should be prioritized, cutting carbon was near the bottom. Once again, I was pilloried for being a global warning denier.
The Kyoto approach is not the only way forward. In 2009, we convened another group to look at a variety of potential solutions to climate change beyond simply cutting carbon. Our experts (including three Nobel laureates) identified a number of other approaches to the problem that were economically feasible and likely to have a quicker and more powerful impact.
The most promising involved massive increases in R&D funding for green energy technologies and geo-engineering. I spent a good part of last year and most of this year advocating for this sensible approach to solving global warming, which is "one of the chief concerns facing the world today," as I said in an Aug. 31 interview with the Guardian, the British newspaper.
What happened next was startling. The Guardian reported my commonplace observation as evidence of "an apparent U-turn" by "the world's most high-profile climate change skeptic." This set off a media stampede; news organizations around the world scrambled to report my so-called change of heart.
Here in NZ, we would do far far better by:
- Formally withdrawing from Kyoto
- Abandoning the ETS
- Pouring R&D funds into agricultural emission mitigation technologies that would then be shared with the world at zero charge.