Cool It

Patrick Gibbons

According to environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, the earth is indeed growing warmer, and humans are causing it. Bjorn believes that by the year 2100 the average temperature on Earth will be 2.6 degrees warmer than it is today.

Unlike many environmentalists, Lomborg is very interested in the cost-benefits of climate change. As a result, he has become something of an apostate among environmentalists, and that comes as no surprise after one reads his books, The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It.

In a recent lecture at the Reason Foundation, Lomborg quoted Al Gore asking, "How do you want your children and grandchildren to remember you?"

Lomborg said we could sign the Kyoto Protocol at a cost of $180 billion per year, and assuming the entire world signed on (and actually adhered to it), the 2.6 degree temperature increase would drop by 0.0007 degrees by 2100.

More recently, Europeans promised to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Lomborg calculated that the cost of compliance for England alone would be 100 billion British pounds – all to decrease the rise in global temperatures by 1/1600 of a degree by 2100.

Continuing, Lomborg said that if the entire world followed this plan, it would cost 5 trillion pounds (roughly 7.3 trillion U.S. dollars) and reduce global temperatures by 1/30th of a degree by 2100.  These reductions would be so negligible, it is doubtful anyone would be able to tell the difference.

Environmentalists are willing to dedicate billions of dollars to fighting what appears to be an inevitable increase in global temperatures by an insignificant amount.  Isn't there a more efficient way to proceed?

Bjorn doesn't come empty-handed; he offers some low-cost alternatives.  Urban centers, like London, could reduce surface temperatures in their city centers by as much as 18 degrees if they planted more trees, had more green space and painted roofs and streets a lighter color to provide shade and reflect light. If people really believe we must do something, at least these examples do something for considerably less money – while also producing results we could actually feel.

In the end, we agree with Bjorn Lomborg.  If we are going to be remembered by our children and grandchildren for something, it is better to be remembered for spending a few million to actually accomplish something than for spending trillions to accomplish nothing.