April 27, 2009

Is Bjorn Lomborg Dangerous or Helpful?

The beginning of this post is here, the rest is on Huffington Post here...

This weekend, the New York Times gave Bjorn Lomborg -- the self-proclaimed "skeptical environmentalist" -- more air time. Lomborg wrote an op-ed that railed against those who want to cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. He offered his opinion on a better solution: "make low-carbon alternatives like solar and wind energy competitive with old carbon sources."

As usual, Lomborg sets up a false straw-man to knock down. He says "we are often told that...we must cut emissions immediately and drastically." Then he worries that people just don't get that we actually need to make renewables cheaper. Really? So none of the major environmental NGOs, or country delegations to global climate negotiations, have thought of that? So to tackle obesity we shouldn't just talk about weight, but also about exercising more and eating right? So insightful...

Lomborg has a long habit of tilting at windmills that he mostly imagines. His most famous argument is that we shouldn't prioritize climate change over other pressing social priorities like poverty alleviation -- as if they're all separate. The poorest people in the world are energy poor and don't have access to clean water -- the two biggest environmental challenges of our time. He's always setting up false tradeoffs to establish his more "reaonsable" middleground.

I will say that one overarching aspect of his arguments is important. Of course we should constantly ask ourselves, "What's the cheapest way to solve that problem, and where should we allocate scarce resources?"...

More on HuffPo -- please go there to comment...

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