Thursday, November 30, 2006

Interview with Bjorn Lomberg at TCS - climate change and environment via Instapundit

"TCS: To what extent do you feel global warming overshadowing the debate on other environmental challenges?

LOMBORG: It clearly does. Global warming is an important issue and one which we should address. But there is no sense of proportion either in environmental terms, or indeed in terms of the other issues facing the world.

If you just take the environmental problem first, it's very clear that what causes by far the majority of deaths is lack clean drinking water and lack of sanitation. Millions of people are dying each year from this. Also taking the new WHO estimates of what really kills people, these are the huge issues.

The second biggest problem is indoor air pollution, which probably kills somewhere between 1 and 3 million people each year, basically because people are too poor to use good fuels and end up using dung or cardboard or whatever they can find. Only a very distant third comes climate change, which the WHO puts at 150,000 to die right now.

This of course ignores those people that are no longer dying from cold-related deaths. For some inexcusable reasons, I would argue, they have the idea that they will only look at things that are going to be bad and don't have to look at will be good from climate change.

One of the top climate change economists has modelled - and several papers that came out a couple of weeks ago essentially point out - that climate change will probably mean fewer deaths, not more deaths. It is estimated that climate change by about 2050 will mean about 800,000 fewer deaths.

There is a total lack of a sense of proportion about where we are in terms of the environment but also on non-environmental issues, which is of course what I am looking at now with the Copenhagen Consensus, where we try to look at what are the big issues of the world, and where can we do a lot of good, and where can we do a little good. And the bottom line is there are many problems in the world where we can do much more at much lower cost. So presumably, if our goal is to help people, then there are many other things we should do first. If our goal is to help the environment, then there are also many other things we can do first."

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