Bjorn Lomborg has been invited by the Australian government via the University of Western Australia to relocate the Copenhagen Consensus Center to the lucky country. I wish him well in his new surroundings.
News of this has revived the muttering and outright ranting about how Evile!!! Lomborg is. This is because the policy conclusions of the Consensus Centre (and Lomborg in his writings prior to the CC being established) shows that investing in renewable energy and other mitigation and adaptation measures regarding climate change is less effective at improving health and raising living standards in the developing world than other measures, such as insuring access to micro nutrients, suppressing and treating malaria, etc.
Obviously, Lomborg and the CC are right. Nicholas Stern estimates the cost of dealing with climate change at between 1% and 5% of global GDP. Providing micro nutrients for the poor costs pennies per person. The only real question is are healthy poor people more important than reducing CO2 emissions?
Although Stern and a few other economists argue that eliminating or reducing the threat of climate change for people in 2100 is more important than providing sustenance to today’s poor, not many agree, which is why the argument is rarely put in such stark terms.
However, the argument is clearest in discussions about provision of power to the poor. Those most alarmed about climate change wish to push the developing world into using renewable energy sources instead of the much cheaper and more available fossil fuels, especially coal. As Matt Ridley notes over at his blog, “In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.”
This argument is not actually new–those of us who remember the Greenpeace thug who threatened skeptics saying “We know where you live and we be many while you be few” know that the subject under discussion was Greenpeace and the WWF’s efforts to stop World Bank funding for a coal plant in South Africa.
The average household income for someone with solar panels on their roof in the USA is $150,000. The capital costs of renewable energy make it unaffordable for Africa and India in most cases.
There are numerous exceptions, of course. In areas where it is expensive to extend the transmission grid to villages, Rural Electrification Programs using solar power have been used effectively since the 1980s. However, these don’t provide enough power to truly power a village–at most they provide radio and some lighting. These are hugely valuable and I support the expansion of such programs.
But they are insufficient for powering the light industry the region needs to truly improve their lot and they cannot power the refrigeration needed for improved health outcomes.
Lomborg is right that the poor of today need more concrete aid than they do emission reductions. Ridley is right to point out that coal fired power plants are what they are crying out for and would make possible the concrete aid that we all know they need.
And the manic Alarmists have forgotten that coal, bad as it is (I am no friend of coal), is a denser fuel than dung and firewood, emitting less than what it will replace. Obviously, because of the potential to provide more power to more people, emissions will rise as it saves lives, but dung burnt indoors kills millions and the relentless search for firewood denudes forests and exposes the women who undertake the daily search to threats of attack from animals and unscrupulous men.
The developing world has found an unlikely savior in China, who are well-pleased to help them build the infrastructure that Africa and Southern Asia need, want and are crying out for.
Because the argument is truly clear, alarmists are reduced to insinuations about Lomborg’s motives (does he really want to help the poor?) and the horror of his being offered a post in Australia, while Ridley is attacked because he used to serve on the board of a bank that went broke some years ago. Phoney arguments such as this keeps the alarmists occupied, the water muddied and the Greens still dictating policy to western governments. Alarmists agonize over whether or not climate scientists should fly (coming to the conclusion that they should), but after sober reflection they call helping Africa a ‘serious and complex issue’.
Perhaps the clearest example of their hypocrisy is their accusation that people like “Lomborg and Ridley, if they were serious, would be encouraging dialogue, not trying to demonize” their opponents.
After ten years of a concerted effort by Greens to demonize Lomborg and Ridley, the very people who have demonized Lomborg and Ridley say they shouldn’t demonize their opponents. But Lomborg and Ridley do not. They don’t make attacks on people or even organizations. They just show quite clearly that stringent caps on emissions that are enforced first on the poor and loosely or not at all on the rich kill, sicken and immiserate the poor. It is the Greens that have vigorously pursued a policy of vicious and calculated demonization of those like Lomborg and Ridley.
At some point, future generations will have a different color code–and they will say that Greens have no right to advocate policies that trap Black and Brown people in poverty. They may use a different ‘G’ word to describe the net effects of what Greens are doing today.
Update: No, I’d better be explicit, rather than dropping coy hints. As a D level blogger what I write won’t make any difference, but to be agonizingly clear, there is a case to be made for saying the aggregate effect of Green policy in the developing world is perilously close to being complicit in genocide. At the very least they are showing an appalling indifference to the plight of people in the developing world. I wonder if the skeptics will mention that while they’re touring the Vatican?
China is doing more for the world’s poor than Greenpeace. Go figure.