Wall Street Opinion Journal November 2, 2006
Saving lives versus saving planet Earth.
Two scientific events of note occurred this week, but only one got any media coverage. Therein lies a story about modern politics and scientific priorities.
The report that received the headlines was Monday’s 700-page jeremiad out of London on fighting climate change. Commissioned by the British government and overseen by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, the report made the intentionally shocking prediction that global warming could eliminate from 5% to 20% of world economic output “forever.” Meanwhile, doing the supposedly virtuous thing and trying to forestall this catastrophe would cost merely an estimated 1% of world GDP. Thus we must act urgently and with new taxes and policies that go well beyond anything in the failed Kyoto Protocol.
The other event was a meeting at the United Nations organized by economist Bjørn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center. Ambassadors from 24 countries–including Australia, China, India and the U.S.–mulled which problems to address if the world suddenly found an extra $50 billion lying around. Mr. Lomborg’s point is that, in a world with scarce resources, you need priorities. The consensus was that communicable diseases, sanitation and water, malnutrition and hunger, and education were all higher priorities than climate change.
We invited Mr. Lomborg to address the Stern report, and he takes apart its analysis brick-by-brick here. To our reading, there isn’t much left of this politicized edifice. But we’d stress a couple of points ourselves.
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