Climate Science

Around the year 2000 I had a conversation with a friend about Bjørn Lomborg, who'd been thrown in the global spotlight thanks to his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist.

I haven't read the book, but I got his main points: Climate change is real, but a lot of the science out there is overstated, and the way we're trying to approach it is costly and ineffective. Let's apply a cost/benefit analysis to how we approach it. Let's invest in innovation, not subsidies or taxes. And let's spend some of this money addressing other more pressing issues, such as malaria, malnutrition, and AIDS.

I could never find fault with this argument, but my friend back then said to me: "Yes, that may be true, but we cannot allow that viewpoint to take hold, because then people wouldn't act". In other words, we have to be dishonest and scare people and make these big shows in order for people to take it seriously.

Well, here we are some 15 years later. Lomborg's pretty much sidelined, people seem to be taking it seriously, and what have we accomplished?

I decided to revisit Bjørn Lomborg this week, and found some interesting things, including this article which says that even if every member of the Paris Agreement honor their commitments, it would only amount to a reduction in global temperatures by 0.048 degree celsius by the year 2100. That's miniscule. And the cost would be what? I tried to look it up, but I didn't find any estimates at the global cost to all the nations that signed on.

Waybe Trump pulling the US out of the Paris agreement is not such a bad thing after all? At least, it seems worth it to have an honest dialogue on this. It was definitely news to me that the impact would be so small. Is Lomborg wrong in his peer-reviewed article? I don't know. But if he's right, that does seem like a very expensive way to achieve almost nothing.

Innovation is something I know something about, and I agree that's the only path forward. Humans are very creative beings. They're very good at coming together and solving problems given the right circumstances. They seem particularly good at it when they have their backs against the wall. So let's create the best possible environment for such innovation to happen.


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