Friday, 23 March 2007

Bjorn Lomborg's testimony to the 'Gore' climate committee

Bjorn Lomborg is a rare creature, a leftie and environmentalist that seems to be able to deal with reality and prioritise issues with some semblance of common sense. His testimony to the Congressional hearing into climate change that featured as its star attraction Al Gore is truly inconvenient for the former VP and his hysterical supporters. Lomborg, of course, heads up the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, amongst other things. Check out the list of environmental priorities that are developed when those who are least well off in the world get their say.

In Lomborg's testimony he agrees that man is the cause of recent global warming and then indicates that it's no big deal. I encourage you to spend 20 minutes of your life reading his submission. He opens his testimony thus (I've reformatted a little for readability and bolded significant statements):

I will make 4 basic points.

1. Global warming is real and man-made. This point has been made in many places, but perhaps most strongly and convincingly by the IPCC (2007a).
2. Statements about the strong, ominous and immediate consequences of global warming are often wildly exaggerated, as I will show below.
3. We need a stronger focus on smart solutions rather than excessive if well-intentioned efforts.
4. We need – as this hearing asks for – to put global warming in perspective. Climate change is not the only issue on the global agenda, and actually one of the issues where we can do the least good first.Let us be frank. Al Gore and the many people he has inspired have good will and great intentions. However, he has got carried away and come to show only worst-case scenarios. This is unlikely to form the basis for a sound policy judgment. The problem is compounded in that if we follow Al Gore’s recommendations, we will likely end up choosing very bad policies to solve the many problems, we agree need attention. In short, following Gore’s logic, with its good will and fine intentions, will actually end up costing millions of lives.

When the issue of sulphur was dealt with it was recognised for what it was - a pollutant that needed to be managed, which was done through a successful cap-and-trade scheme. There were no hysterics, no doomsday predictions and no need for massive government involvement. The presentation of worst-case scenarios of CO2 increase and their associated trillion dollar remedies is not a valid way to frame public debate or government policy.

One of the pieces of scaremongering by Climate Fascists is that increased heat will lead to an increase in the number of heat-related deaths. I have pointed out the one-sided nature of this statement before and that they never highlight any of the positives of higher temperature. Lomborg deals with it well:

Very often, we only hear about the heat deaths but not the cold deaths – and sometimes this is even repeated in the official literature, as in the US 2005 Climate Change and Human Health Impacts report, where heat is mentioned 54 times and cold just once. We need to know just how much more heat deaths we can expect compared to how many fewer cold deaths.

Much has been made of the heat wave in Europe in early August 2003, which killed 35,000 people, with 2,000 deaths in the UK. Yet, each year more than 25,000 people die in the UK from cold. It can be estimated that every year more than 200,000 people die from excess heat in Europe. It is reasonable to estimate that each year about 1.5 million people die from excess cold in Europe. This is more than seven times the total number of heat deaths.
Just in this millennium Europe have lost more than 10 million people to the cold, 300 times the iconic 35,000 heat deaths from 2003.

That we so easily forget these deaths and so easily embrace the exclusive worry about global warming
tells us of a breakdown in our sense of proportion. The important fact, of course, is what will happen with future temperature increases. Let us for the moment assume – very unrealistically – that we will not adapt to towards the future heat. Still, the largest European study conclude that for at least for 2 degrees Celsius, “Our data suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short term declines in cold related mortalities.” For Britain it is estimated that a 2C increase will mean 2,000 more heat deaths but 20,000 fewer cold deaths. A paper trying to incorporate all studies on this issue (a socalled meta-study) and apply it to a broad variety of settings both developed and developing around the world found that “global warming may cause a decrease in mortality rates, especially of cardiovascular diseases.” For the US, the net lower death count from global warming in 2050 is estimated at 174,000 per year.

The fact that environmentalists take the one-sided approach to climate alarm that they do proves the dishonesty of their position. Why wouldn't they look at the good as well as the bad? That's what any assessment of policy is all about.

Lomborg dispatches the sea level rise argument in one paragraph:

In its 2007 report, the UN estimate that
sea levels will rise about 34.5cm over the rest of the century. While this is not a trivial amount, it is also important to realize that it is certainly not outside the historical experience. Since 1850 we have experienced a sea level rise of about 29cm, yet this has clearly not caused major disruptions. Sea level rise is a problem, but not a catastrophe. Ask a very old person about the most important issues that took place in the 20th century. She will likely mention the two world wars, the cold war, the internal combustion engine and perhaps the IT revolution. But it is very unlikely that she will add: ‘oh, and sea levels rose.’

Lomborg then looks at the hurricane argument, which is weak, and does what the Gore crowd doesn't and assesses the cost of past hurricanes if they hit the US today, which really puts things in perspective:A rise in malaria in warmer regions is given as part of the case for implementing Kyoto. Lomborg compares the effect of Kyoto on malaria with the impact of a specific campaign aimed at reducing it.

The cost and impact of implementing Kyoto are never brought to the public's attention. I wonder why that is? Lomborg presents the following graph, which might provide the answer:

The cost of Kyoto runs into trillions of dollars. The effect is marginal. Nothing highlights the fact that the Left is more concerned with symbolism over actual results than its feverish desire that all countries sign on to Kyoto. Lomborg then deals with a number of other issues before finishing off with:

To put it very bluntly, the Kyoto Protocol would likely cost at least $180 billion a year and do little good. UNICEF estimates that just $70-80 billion a year could give all Third World inhabitants access to the basics like health, education, water and sanitation. More important still is the fact that if we could muster such a massive investment in the present-day developing countries this would also give them a much better future position in terms of resources and infrastructure from which to manage a future global warming. What would we rather do first?

What would I rather do first? How about shutting down the United Nations, spinning off a non-corrupt UNICEF successor and spending the money on dealing with those things listed above? Sounds like a good first step to me.

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