August 17, 2007

Lomborg's "Cool It"

An interview with author Bjorn Lomborg by Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, on the topic of the new Lomborg book, "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming".

Q: Will you give us a brief synopsis of your book?

A: It tries to tell us three things. It first of all says global warming is real. The second point is to say that the effects of global warming are very often vastly exaggerated and one-sided and that doesn’t lead to good judgments. So that’s the third part, where I try to point out that we need a much smarter, much cooler way of talking about climate change and thinking about how we can do something about it in the long run. What I try to say is that we need to focus on things that are both cost-efficient and will solve climate change. Right now we talk about cutting CO2 emissions, which is expensive and which quite frankly will do very little good.

What I talk about is cutting the cost of cutting emissions – that is, investing in research and development of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies like solar, like wind, like carbon-capture, energy efficiency – all these things. If we do that, we will leave a world where our kids and especially our grand kids will have a much easier time cutting their carbon emissions, simply because we’ve made it much cheaper. And therefore, both our kids and grandkids -- but also the Chinese and the Indians, who will be much richer in 2050 – will want to cut much more. So at the end of the day, it’s really, “Do we want to cut a little now at high cost or do we want to make sure the whole world will want to cut a lot at low cost because we’ve invested in research and development?”

Q: What is your position on global climate change?

A: I think it’s incontrovertible that it’s happening and that it’s at least partially caused by man. But it’s often vastly over-sold. The idea that we are going to see a 20-feet sea level rise is just simply not in the cards. The UN climate panel tells us it’s going to be about a foot. There’s a huge difference in telling us the sea level rise is going to be a foot over the next 100 years or it’s going to be 20 feet. One is a problem; the other one is a catastrophe. But it’s the problem that will actually happen.

To put it in context, remember over the last 150 years sea levels also rose a foot. Yet was it something we noticed very much? Ask a very old person who lived through most of the 20th century what were the important things that happened and she’ll likely talk about the two world wars, the emancipation of women, and maybe the IT Revolution, but it’s very unlikely she’ll say, “Oh, and sea levels rose.”

UPDATE 8/17: Jeff Jacoby appeals for sanity and civility in the global warming debate.

Posted by dan at August 17, 2007 9:30 PM