On Power

On Government-Run Projects

Lomborg opposes government spending on costly methods of climate mitigation and energy efficiency measures, but advocates government-sponsored investment in energy research and development of climate modification technology.  

To accelerate the development of alternative technologies, he proposes governments of all nations “commit themselves to spending 0.05 percent of GDP in R&D of non-carbon-emitting technologies.”  He claims it would cost a “relatively minor $25 billion per year (seven times cheaper than Kyoto)” and would “recapture the vision of delivering both a low-carbon and high income world.”  Cool It, 156

On Free-Market Competition

“Ensuring free trade would make almost everyone much better off.” Cool It, 45

Lomborg believes that a shift away from fossil fuels will be necessary in the long term, but shouldn't occur until alternatives become completely economically viable.  In the meantime, money should go towards raising the standard of life on a global scale (see On Prioritize Human Health and Equity).  And, he argues, we must strengthen market growth and government investment in R&D necessary to yield innovations that will eventually make climate mitigation cost-effective. 

For example, Lomborg argues that there is “compelling evidence that a tiny investment in climate engineering might be able to reduce as much of global warming’s effects as trillions of dollars spent on carbon emission reductions” and cites examples such as marine cloud whitening, where “boats spray seawater drop-lets into clouds at sea to make them whiter and thus reflect more sunlight back into space.” Cloud Control 
 
Without such improvements, Lomborg argues, it would be nearly impossible to expect a global adaptation of energy measures.  Thus ivestments in energy measure are not viable on a global scale: “We can't expect South Africa or any other nation to stop using coal or oil unless we can find practical, affordable alternatives. For example, if we had solar panels that could produce electricity more cheaply than fossil fuels, then of course South Africa would switch. But we need to develop green technology before we can ask any leaders to consign their people to poverty for the sake of the climate.” Obama Gets Reasonable on the Environment
 
To regulate this market behavior, Lomborg staunchly objects to strong carbon taxation, and a promotes minimal CO2 taxes to the “the economically correct level of about two dollars per ton, or maximally fourteen dollars per ton.”  Even still, he believes this will not make a major difference, cutting emissions by 5 percent and temperature by 0.16 F” Cool It, 152
 
“Neither such a small tax nor Kyoto nor the draconian proposals for future cuts will move us much toward finding better was for the future.   R&D in renewables and energy efficiency is at its lowest point in twenty-five years… we need to find a way that allows us to develop the science and technology in a beneficial way… to provide alternative energy technologies at reasonable prices.” Cool It, 152
 

On Government Regulation

“Climate models uniformly show that that for all the economic havoc that such carbon cuts would likely wreak, they would have a negligible impact on global temperatures.” Europe's Determination to Decline

“There are many circumstances in which environmental intervention is necessary if we are to prevent unnecessary pollution and avoid people shunning their responsibilities.  However, we should only intervene if it is reasonable to do so, not simply because myth and worries lead us to believe that things are going downhill.” Skeptical Environmentalist, 32

Lomborg is not entirely against government regulation in principle: “If you were a CEO and you had your responsibility to the stockholders, I think it's unreasonable to expect that they would have a huge amount of extra social responsibility. That's what societies have to regulate. That's why we have to make taxes, make environmental regulations, set boundaries, say, "No, you can't do that" or, "Yes, you can do that." Clearly you have to regulate that.” Bjorn Lomborg Feels a Chill
 
But to Lomborg, the dangers of carbon taxation are under-represented : “typical reporting on global warming tells us all the bad things that could happened from co2 emissions, but few or none of the bad things that could come from overly zealous regulation of such emissions.” Skeptical Environmentalist, 319
 
Lomborg takes as an example the EU’s “economically destructive” unilateral emission restrictions: they would be “likely to cost Europe an estimated $250 billion a year by 2020, but are also astonishingly ineffective.  The widely used RICE climate-economic model shows a miniscule drop of 0.05 degrees Centigrade over the next 90 years. Despite the huge outlay, the difference in climate by the end of the century would be practically indiscernible.” Europe's Determination to Decline
 
Regulations are particularly dangerous because of their lack of transparency: “To some, a cap-and-trade system might sound like a neat approach where the market sorts everything out. But in fact, in some ways it is worse than a tax. With a tax, the costs are obvious. With a cap-and-trade system, the costs are hidden and shifted around. For that reason, many politicians tend to like it. But that is dangerous. Don't Freak Out
 
And they would place an undue burden on consumers.  “The fact that business will have to use more expensive fuels… means that the same products and services will now be more expensive – a cost that will ultimately be borne by us, as consumers”… this perspective is worth contemplating.”Cool It, 27
 

On Territory

On Dense Urban Development

Dense urbanization has significant benefits to human health and well-being, argues Lomborg:   “In more densely populated areas, the most serious infectious diseases… become less of a problem the closer the buildings are together, because less space is left for the swampy areas…. Moreover water supplies, sewage systems and health services are considerably better in urban areas than in rural ones…  ‘cities are growing because they provide on average greater social and economic benefits than do rural areas” Skeptical Environmentalist, 49

On Lifestyle

On Reduce Consumption

The myths of green living, according to Lomborg, mask the true difficulty of changing our energy use: “Moral posturing about global warming is easy, and it feels good. Actually doing something to solve the problem—like committing serious amounts of money to green energy research and development will take real effort and sacrifice.” Obama Gets Reasonable on the Environment

Lomborg rejects the notion that consumer-led efficiency measures save energy.   “Although a large part of the energy-efficiency increases takes place in industry and organizations, we also experience the effect as consumers. … While the car’s engine gets more efficient, we get a car with air-conditioning. … as our total energy consumption increases, and so do our carbon emissions.” Cool It, 25
 
Attempts at taxing carbon and thus reducing energy consumption are a significant burden for the consumer, Lomborg argues.  “It’s misleading not to recognize that the costs of cap-and-trade — financially and in terms of jobs, household consumption, and growth — will be significant. Some big businesses in privileged positions could make a fortune from exploiting this rather rigged market — but their gain is no reason to support the system.” Don't Freak Out
 
At the same time, Lomborg does not see evidence that we are “over-exploiting” our renewable resources or see any problems with “non-renewable resources, such as energy and raw materialsSkeptical Environmentlist, 147 and 159.  He believes that we should not underestimate human ingenuity in finding substitution solutions once a given resource diminishes. 
 

On Risk

On Mutual Benefit

“It's like when your family has to decide where to live. It would be nice to have a great house and be close to a good school. But there's also a budget restriction.” Bjørn Lomborg feels a Chill

“It's clear that they [human health and climate change] are all interrelated. But one of the things that seems curious in the climate change discussion is the insistence that climate change is linked to all these other issues. But they are equally linked back. When we talk about how global warming is going to make people more vulnerable to malaria, that's absolutely true. At the same time, rampant malaria is going to make everyone much more vulnerable to climate change. In a perfect world, we should fix all problems. But in a world where we haven't fixed all the problems in the last 50 years, it makes sense to ask, 'If you fix a large chunk of malaria, how much good do you do?'” Bjørn Lomborg feels a Chill

On Prioritize Human Health and Equity

Only when we get sufficiently rich can we afford the relative luxury of caring about the environment… higher income in general is correlated with higher environmental sustainability.” Skeptical Environmentalist, 32-33

The WHO estimate of the distribution of Years of Life Lost caused by ten important risk factors. (source: The Skeptical Environmentalist)

Global Priority List for Spending Extra Resources, source: Copenhagen Consensus

For Lomborg, we will only be able to withstand climate change risks if we can effect greater human prosperity. 

“Most of this world's population is poor and they're ill-prepared to deal with any contingency that the world throws at them. What we need to focus on is not just adaption specifically for climate change, which is a small part of the problems most people live with right now, but simply making better lives for people that is focusing on getting them more food, getting them better healthcare and making sure their kids get educated.” Cutting Carbon Emissions Won't Stop Climate Change 
 
When asked if it was possible to separate climate change from issues like health, food security or a safe water supply, Lomborg responded: “We don't need to separate them in the sense that we probably all agree we should tackle some of the really big problems that are out there right now. I'm simply concerned that many people latch on to talking about global warming and that the most important this is spending money on adaptation to global warming
 
“But the main problem … is not future sea-level rises, it's the fact that the countries are so poor right now that they are already getting inundated. It's not about climate proofing it in 100 years, it's about dealing with the vulnerability to climate right now, which has nothing to do with climate change but simply something to do with them being very poor. It's more about an emphasis on focusing where you can actually deal with real problems right now rather than a possible problem in 100 years.” Cutting Carbon Emissions Won't Stop Climate Change 
 
Even if we invest, at today's costs, in coastal protection, “the environmental world will likely see more people flooded, simply because it will be poorer and therefore less able to defend itself against rising waters” Cool It, 69.  Lomborg puts the cost of this basic coastal protection at 0.1 percent of GDP for 180 of the world’s 192 affected costal countries.   According to Lomborg’s research, costly climate reforms would reduce sea-level rise in 2080 by one-third, at a cost of $20,000 per person.    
 
The priority, then, should be improving human health and prosperity.  “Most of this world's population is poor and they're ill-prepared to deal with any contingency that the world throws at them. What we need to focus on is not just adaption specifically for climate change, which is a small part of the problems most people live with right now, but simply making better lives for people, that is, focusing on getting them more food, getting them better healthcare and making sure their kids get educated.” Cutting Carbon Emissions Won't Stop Climate Change 

On Prioritize Market Growth

Lomborg staunchly advocates for prioritizing issues based on cost-benefit analysis, which asks whether the cost of revamping our energy systems is worth the benefit gained from curbing global warming.  

Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus (CC) uses a cost-benefit model to rank the most pressing human health concerns.  Control of disease, malnutrition and hunger appeared as the most cost-effective issues to tackle, while climate change ranked dead last.  As the majority climate change’s effects will not be felt until decades into the future, the model purposefully discounts the severity of their impact through its discount rate.  This ranking has led to controversy, with critics arguing both that the discount rate is too high, and that this type of ranking negates the fact that these issues are not mutually exclusive. Lombog's metric connect human prosperity with market growth, but portray environmental interests at odds with these other concerns.  
 
Lomborg's cost/benefit analysis reveals that the costs of dealing with climate are too great relative to the costs of addressing global human health crises: “When people spend 5 dollars to offset a ton of CO2 they do some good (probably providing about 2 dollars’ worth of benefits to the world). But the same 5 dollars donated to a different organization could have done 2 hundred dollars’ worth of social good if used for HIV/AIDS prevention of 150 worth of social good if used against malnutrition.”  Cool It, 162
 

Background

Bjorn Lomborg is a Copenhagen-basted statistician, economist and copious footnoter who advocates for a cost-benefit approach to environmentalism.  He is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, where he seeks to prioritize human health concerns and solutions based on their cost-effectiveness.  As author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," Lomborg argues that worries of environmental disaster are overblown in light of human ingenuity and progress.  In "Cool it," he suggests solving current human health issues will have a greater net positive than implementing expensive climate change policy.

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