Friday, December 21, 2007

Stop Fighting Over Global Warming by Bjorn Lomborg

See October 7, 2007 Washington Post op/ed piece Stop fighting over global warming -- here's the smart way to attack it by Bjorn Lomborg
■ “temperatures in Greenland were higher in 1941 than they are today. ..melt rates around Ilulissat were faster in the early part of the past century …the Kangerlussuaq glacier is inconveniently growing.”
■ “The Earth is warming, and we're causing it. But that's not the whole story, and predictions of impending disaster just don't stack up.”
■ “should be honest about the shortcomings and costs of those policies”
■ “Environmental groups say that the only way to deal with the effects of global warming is to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions -- a project that will cost the world trillions (the Kyoto Protocol alone would cost $180 billion annually). ..spending an awful lot to achieve very little”
■ “According to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ocean levels will rise between half a foot and two feet, with the best expectation being about one foot, in this century, mainly because of water expanding as it warms. That's similar to what the world experienced in the past 150 years.”
■ “let's remember that very little land was lost when sea levels rose last century. It costs relatively little to protect the land from rising tides: We can drain wetlands, build levees and divert waterways. As nations become richer and land becomes a scarcer commodity, this process makes ever more sense”
■ “The IPCC tells us two things: If we focus on economic development and ignore global warming, we're likely to see a 13-inch rise in sea levels by 2100. If we focus instead on environmental concerns and, for instance, adopt the hefty cuts in carbon emissions many environmental groups promote, this could reduce the rise by about five inches. But cutting emissions comes at a cost: Everybody would be poorer in 2100.”
■ “It seems logical to expect more heat waves and therefore more deaths. But though this fact gets much less billing, rising temperatures will also reduce the number of cold spells. This is important because research shows that the cold is a much bigger killer than the heat. 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.”
■ “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.”
■ “we could spend $3 billion annually -- 2 percent of the protocol's cost -- on mosquito nets and medication and cut malaria incidence almost in half within a decade. Malaria death rates are rising in sub-Saharan Africa, but this has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with poverty: Poor and corrupt governments find it hard to implement and fund the spraying and the provision of mosquito nets that would help eradicate the disease. Yet for every dollar we spend saving one person through policies like the Kyoto Protocol, we could save 36,000 through direct intervention.
■ “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.”
■ “In 1992, wealthy nations promised to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. Instead, emissions grew by 12 percent. In 1997, they promised to cut emissions to about 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Yet levels will likely be 25 percent higher than hoped for.”
■ “Even if the policymakers' earlier promises had been met, they would have done virtually no good, but would have cost us a small fortune. The climate models show that Kyoto would have postponed the effects of global warming by seven days by the end of the century. Even if the United States and Australia had signed on and everyone stuck to Kyoto for this entire century, we would postpone the effects of global warming by only five years.”
■ “Proponents of pacts such as Kyoto want us to spend enormous sums of money doing very little good for the planet a hundred years from now.”
■ “The typical cost of cutting a ton of CO2is currently about $20. Yet, according to a wealth of scientific literature, the damage from a ton of carbon in the atmosphere is about $2. Spending $20 to do $2 worth of good is not smart policy. It may make you feel good, but it's not going to stop global warming.”
■ “dramatically increase spending on research and development of low-carbon energy. Ideally, every nation should commit to spending 0.05 percent of its gross domestic product exploring non-carbon-emitting energy technologies, be they wind, wave or solar power, or capturing CO2emissions from power plants. This spending could add up to about $25 billion per year but would still be seven times cheaper than the Kyoto Protocol and would increase global R&D tenfold. All nations would be involved, yet the richer ones would pay the larger share.”
■ “embracing the best response to global warming is difficult in the midst of bitter fighting that shuts out sensible dialogue. So first, we really need to cool our debate.”


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