Even if you believe in global warming, reducing carbon emissions is a waste of time.
Posted by sanityinjection on April 25, 2009
So sayeth Bjorn Lomborg in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times. Lomborg identifies two problems with agreements to reduce emissions such as the Kyoto Agreement: 1) Nobody fulfills them, and 2) If they were fully implemented, they would still have only a tiny effect on global temperatures.
Instead, Lomborg argues that our focus should be on getting away from fossil fuels altogether. Of course, for much of the world at present, that’s an impossible task:
“The fact is, carbon remains the only way for developing countries to work their way out of poverty. Coal burning provides half of the world’s electricity, and fully 80 percent of it in China and India…”
So asking these countries to give up their dirty coal plants is like asking them to give up civilization.
Lomborg’s proposal is that the world should focus on pouring money into research to make clean energy technologies such as solar and wind power economically feasible as replacements for fossil fuels. He argues that these expenditures will still be less costly than the amount of economic growth that will be lost by tighter carbon emissions controls.
It striked me also that this strategy would be politically less difficult. If you were the head of an oil or coal company, for example, which would you react more positively to: laws that force you to comply with restrictive standards at your own expense, or government grants to facilitate research that will allow you to transition to clean energy? Many of these companies are already significantly invested in such research and could put grant money to use quickly.
Here in the US, our politicians are instead going to engage in a big debate about cap-and-trade legislation, the principal benefit of which is to allow said politicians to pat themselves on the back over how “progressive” and “green” they are while accomplishing little in the way of affecting global temperatures.