Readers who have seen my bio will know that I am an economist, not a very good one, that according to some of my friends, may not be such a bad thing.
Economists have, for the most part, earned their reputation as those whose prophecy is one of never-ending gloom and doom. Nothing it seems is ever right; largely, I suspect, because we have been taught to expect too much from too little effort.
I am not here to defend or praise economists, but rather to point out that once in a great while there appears from the mists of confusion and diatribe a point of view that is eminently sensible and worthy of examination. Such a world view can be found with Bjorn Lomberg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.
Professor Lomberg is not a climate change denier but he does have doubts about the all or nothing approach exhibited by the radical environmental movement, and their two degree celsius above pre-industrial levels, as a typing point for the future of the world. In his view, global warming is by no means our main environmental threat.
To his credit this view is not new, as he campaigned against the Kyoto Accord now seen as a disaster by just about all concerned. What he recommends in its place are moderate short-term solutions to carbon emissions (carbon taxes and an end to fossil fuel subsidies) and large R& D expenditures for longer term environmental solutions (innovation) and other important world problems.
It is at the Copenhagen Consensus Centre sponsored by the Danish Government and non other than the esteemed London Economist, that economic modeling seeks to bring into focus priorities and costs for advancing global welfare, that of course includes the environment.
As a so so economist, I must bow to the knobs of the science and economic modeling and assume that they can devise plans to spend $2.5-trillion in aid money over the next thirty years in the best possible way. What interests me much more is the development of a middle ground by enlightened intellectuals that has, at least, chance of succeeding.
It seems to me that at the present we have two intransigent sides drawn up for all out battle that neither side can win. On the one hand we have the global warmers who scare the hell out of everyone who will listen with tales of apocalypse now, or very soon, if we do not dramatically reduce carbon emissions. We must also transfer huge amounts to the less fortunate who will have to forgo the carbon economy thus dramatically lowering our standard of living
On the other side we have the politicos who represent a constituency that is equally scared of loosing their livelihood over something they can do nothing about. A better world for your children does not mean very much if it going to involve abject poverty for one or two generations.
A similar dichotomy is playing out in California, the her-to-for centre of environmental activism. A drought supposedly caused by climate change (evidence is scarce) has upset the apple-cart to the point where everybody has a solution provided it does not affect them. The farmers say the economy will collapse if they are not allowed to continue in their profligate ways by draining the aquifer, while others recommend enormous carbon emitting desalinization plants. All of this reminds me of the farce of Al Gore (“An Inconvenient Truth”) promoting his ideas along with the sale of his book from the deck of a huge diesel bus.
If the drought continues (who knows) Californians will have to find a middle ground, just as every one else will have to in other matters of the environment. The best chance of achieving this is through the leadership of champions such as Professor Lomberg.