Starving people to save them from starving


Policy-making, including in the area of environment (particularly in the area of environment) requires less emotion and more cost-benefit analysis, writes the “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg:

When a “solution” to a problem causes more damage than the problem, policymaking has gone awry. That’s where we often find ourselves with global warming today.

Activist organizations like Worldwatch argue that higher temperatures will make more people hungry, so drastic carbon cuts are needed. But a comprehensive new study published in Nature Climate Change led by researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis has found that strong global climate action would cause far more hunger and food insecurity than climate change itself.

The scientists used eight global-agricultural models to analyze various scenarios between now and 2050. These models suggest, on average, that climate change could put an extra 24 million people at risk of hunger. But a global carbon tax would increase food prices and push 78 million more people into risk of hunger. The areas expected to be most vulnerable are sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Trying to help 24 million people by imperiling 78 million people’s lives is a very poor policy.

Lomborg is not a “climate denier”, even if he is treated as such a pariah because he he doesn’t subscribe to the apocalyptic religion that so much of the contemporary environmentalism has become. He does believe that climate change in real and largely man-made, but he parts the way with the warmist mainstream when he considers their proposed remedies to be ineffectual and counter-productive.

The flawed Paris agreement, which is the closest we have to a global scheme, will achieve at best merely 1 percent of what would be needed to keep temperature rises under 2°C, according to the UN. It’ll cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually. This is money that can’t be spent improving nutrition, health or education.

We need to get smarter about climate change. My think tank asked 27 top climate economists to explore all the feasible policy responses, and the conclusion was that the best long-term investment is in green energy R&D. For every dollar spent, $11 of climate damages would be avoided.

This warms my heart (no pun intended) because for as long as I can remember I have been telling everyone who would listen that governments should stop messing around with carbon taxes, emission trading schemes, subsidising renewables and penalising traditional energy sources. All of these policies lead to higher power costs and damage the economy and living standards of average people, all for no measurable environmental benefit. According to TDC rule book, the only thing that any government should be doing with taxpayers’ money is to contribute funding to research and development, which over time and with enough resources will improve existing technologies and invent new ones, which will make the “green” energy – whether from wind, solar, biofuels, hydrogen or something else entirely – cheap and reliable enough to replace coal, oil and gas. I have no doubt this will happen, but it will happen faster if governments spend more money on science and technology and less on futile and self-harming posturing politics.

As Lomborg writes, $150 billion is being spent this year on subsidising renewable energy.  Subsidies perpetuate high prices under the guise of “helping” to make expensive things slightly less expensive. Research and development on the other hand lead to technological progress that permanently lowers prices. Imagine how much more good that $150 billion would do in labs around the world?