What They Don’t Want To Tell You About Kyoto By Betsy Newmark

Poor Bjorn Lomborg. He is engaged in what is probably a fruitless task – trying to use logic and a knowledge of tradeoffs to examine whether the Kyoto Treaty should be put into effect. First he looks at what scientists advocating action on Kyoto don’t tell us.

They do not tell us that even if all the industrial nations agreed to the cuts (about 30pc from what would otherwise have been by 2010), and stuck to them all through the century, the impact would simply be to postpone warming by about six years beyond 2100. The unfortunate peasant in Bangladesh will find that his house floods in 2106 instead.

Moreover, they should also tell what they expect the cost of the Kyoto Protocol to be. That may not come easy to natural scientists, but there is plenty of literature on the subject, and the best guess is that the cost of doing a very little good for the third world 100 years from now would be $150 billion per year for the rest of this century.

Even after the Brown/Blair exertions to extract more aid for Africa, the West spends about $60 billion helping the third world. One has to consider whether the proportions are right here.

This brings us to the question of tradeoffs. my husband recently reviewed a book, Trade-Offs: An Introduction to Economic Reasoning and Social Issues which should be required reading for all politicians and scientists before they take a move on Kyoto. They would learn an essential lesson: we can’t have everything in this world. If we spend $150 billion a year for the rest of the century, that is money that won’t be spent on other projects. And Lomborg, along with many prestigious economists, tried to figure out what are the most crucial needs that the world is facing today. And global warming is at the bottom of the list.

This brings us to the strongest evidence that the national academies are acting in a political rather than scientific and informational manner. Why do they only talk about climate politics? Surely this is not the only important issue with a considerable science component? What about the challenge of HIV/Aids? What about malaria, malnutrition, agricultural research, water, sanitation, education, civil conflicts, financial instability, trade and subsidies? The list goes on.

Lomborg’s group, the Copenhagen Consensus, recognize that the countries like the United States and Britain, which have the admirable desire to help the poor in the world, do not have unlimited means. They must make choices or trade-offs. And their list seeks to prioritize solutions for the needs facing the world. They rank the list of 17 possible projects from very good to bad. And fighting climate change ranks at the bottom. At the top are efforts to fight the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, malnutrition, and to increase free trade. I really wish that more in the world of science, politics, and the media would pay attention to the Coopenhagen Consensus. Let’s channel our limited resources into the solutions most likely to achieve favorable resources.

This content was used with the permission of Betsy’s Page.

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