Bjørn Lomborg has a great commentary up at Project Syndicate (great name) on the Waxman-Markey bill. I’ve been a fan of Lomborg‘s for some time (and had the pleasure to see him speak some time back), but it’s his last sentence that really resonates, “Wanting to shut down the discussion is simply treason against reason.”
You can get his books here. They’re worth reading. Lomborg is a left-liberal Danish scientist who set out to debunk the claims made by Julian Simon. When he found he couldn’t, he had the courage to admit as much and then took the time to re-examine environmental issues from a rational perspective. The result was The Skeptical Environmentalist, a book that incited enormous outrage. Lomborg was villified and even formally accused of scientific dishonesty. (Cleared of all charges.)
Lomborg’s arguments (heresy!) are relatively simple. In essenece, he’s argued that since we have limited funds and limited means, we should focus our energies where they could do the most good. Not surprisingly, his recommendations (clean drinking water) aren’t sexy or politically fashionable (apostate!). But if you’re interested in a scientific approach to environmental problems, check him out. (For the record, Lomborg is a staunch believer in anthropocentric climate change.)
For more, visit lomborg.com.
From the commentary,
Gore and Hansen want a moratorium on coal-fired power plants, but neglect the fact that the hundreds of new power plants that will be opened in China and India in the coming years could lift a billion people out of poverty. Negating this outcome through a moratorium is clearly no unmitigated good.
Likewise, reasonable people can differ on their interpretation of the Waxman-Markey bill. Even if we set aside its masses of pork-barrel spending, and analyses that show it may allow more emissions in the US for the first decades, there are more fundamental problems with this legislation.
At a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars annually, it will have virtually no impact on climate change. If all of the bill’s many provisions were entirely fulfilled, economic models show that it would reduce the temperature by the end of the century by 0.11°C (0.2°F) – reducing warming by less than 4%.
Even if every Kyoto-obligated country passed its own, duplicate Waxman-Markey bills – which is implausible and would incur significantly higher costs – the global reduction would amount to just 0.22°C (0.35°F) by the end of this century. The reduction in global temperature would not be measurable in a hundred years, yet the cost would be significant and payable now.
Is it really treason against the planet to express some skepticism about whether this is the right way forward? Is it treason to question throwing huge sums of money at a policy that will do virtually no good in a hundred years? Is it unreasonable to point out that the inevitable creation of trade barriers that will ensue from Waxman-Markey could eventually cost the world ten times more than the damage climate change could ever have wrought?
Today’s focus on ineffective and costly climate policies shows poor judgment. But I would never want to shut down discussion about these issues – whether it is with Gore, Hansen, or Krugman. Everybody involved in this discussion should spend more time building and acknowledging good arguments, and less time telling others what they cannot say. Wanting to shut down the discussion is simply treason against reason.