Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Cool It" Changes the Climate Change Debate

“Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming” by Bjorn Lomborg (2008) is a debate changing book about climate change. He takes an entirely different approach from arguing whether global warming is real and whether mankind’s activities are a cause of the warming (although his starting point is “Yes” to both questions).

Bjorn’s approach is different because he asks, “Even if global warming is real and man is causing it, is focusing on reducing CO2 emissions the best way to improve the lot of mankind?”

He posits that even if we take the most aggressive measures to reduce emissions, the impact would be modest at best, although it may “feel good”. Further, he debunks many of the exaggerations made by the promoters of the hysteria about climate control, including claims about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, penguins in danger, polar bears becoming extinct, more extreme weather, rivers flooding, a new Ice Age over Europe, malaria in Vermont, more starvation, and water shortages. He decries the politicizing of science and the ignoring of solutions other then reducing carbon emissions.

Bjorn lists many of the claimed benefits of containing/reducing carbon emissions, and contrasts the costs of that approach with alternative approaches to facing the problems of rising sea levels, rising temperature, providing clean drinking water to impoverished nations, etc. The costs are significantly and dramatically less implementing these more direct methods and the benefits are generated now, rather than at some distant point in the future.

This clear headed cost-benefit approach to the climate change debate comes from an economist’s perspective, looking at the “opportunity costs” of trying to control carbon emissions. Because we can’t do everything we would like to do, we must prioritize what we do, and controlling carbon emissions does not come close to the top of the priority list once the politics and hysteria are swept away.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the climate change debate.

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