What's the cost of global warming?
Doing the maths
Lomberg's Copenhagen Consensus, a direct response to Kyoto, concludes that direct mitigation costs might well be much better spent on nutrition, vitamins, development, health (immunization, parasites, malaria, heart attack, tuberculosis), biofortification, education, and family planning.
One must also consider, when making any economic decision, the alternative solutions. And capping carbon emissions as advocated by Kyoto and Stern is not the only possibility of mitigation.
Perhaps the problem can be bypassed instead by present or yet-unknown technology. It is difficult to speculate about what such an advance would be, since the nature of the future is that it is unknown. But such a solution might achieve climate stability at a much lower cost than one or two years' worth of the cost of Kyoto and Stern.
Lomborg estimates that solid-fuel air pollution effects could be reduced by a third for $2.4bn. $500m would save 500,000 lives per year, mostly children, lost to malaria. $200m for cheap drugs for poor countries would save 300,000 per year. Spending on education in poor countries would increase earnings by a factor of four. From the disease prevention/treatment portion alone, the proposals of the Copenhagen Consensus would save an estimated 3.8 million lives in four years.
Direct benefits from $800bn spent on direct mitigation of global warming would yield only 90 cents' benefit per dollar. In the UK alone, the government has granted carbon credits worth some $20bn.
The resources diverted to direct mitigation of global warming might be much better spent. ®
1 Margo Thorning, Park Leopold, Rue Wiertz: Kyoto Protocol and Beyond, Institute Molinari
2 Karsten Stumm: The EU's Carbon Trading Scheme, Killing Jobs to Save the Climate Der Spiegel, 7/17/08
3 Tom ML Wigley: The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate Implications, Geophysical Research Letter, 1998
5 Ibid., Part 1, p. 9ff
6 The Stern Review: an assessment of its methodology, xi Australian Government Productivity Commission,
7 Stern, p61 United Nations, The World at Six Billion, 2004, p. 5, 6
10Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren: Global Warming Insurance is a Bad Buy in National Review, 23/11/2006.
12 Hal Varian: Recalculating the Costs of Global Climate Change in The New York Times, 14/12/2006.
13 Nigel Lawson: An Appeal to Reason: The Economics and Politics of Climate Change, Center for Policy Studies [PDF, 101kb], 2006 and An Appeal To Reason: A Cool Look At Global Warming (Duckworth) 2008.
14 Bjorn Lomborg: The Other View on Global Warming, Environmental policy should rediscover the middle ground, p2