Monday, October 26, 2009

Rant: Forget Your Carbon Footprint

With the looming threat of climate change, the primary method of combating it seems to be to reduce our carbon footprint, to cut CO2 emissions. From our governmental policy down to the efforts of concerned individuals, efforts are directed at ways in reducing those emissions. Such efforts, especially on the governmental level, can be quite costly. It may also be the wrong direction if we truly want to reduce the negative effects of climate change.

Rather than blindly accept that this is the proper path at preventing climate change, we should take the time and evaluate whether the positive gains are worth the cost. We also need to ask ourselves whether there is a better alternative. Maybe such an alternative exists but it has largely being ignored.

Bjørn Lomborg, the author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, believes that reducing carbon emissions is the wrong choice. His position is certainly controversial, but I believe warrants careful consideration.

In Esquire magazine (August 2009), Mr. Lomborg wrote an article, Mr. Gore, Your Solution to Global Warming Is Wrong. Essentially, the article states that there are better and more cost-effective ways to fight climate change, rather than simple CO2 reduction. Mr. Lomborg presents a persuasive case for his position.

He noted that recently at the Copenhagen Consensus, a meeting of some top climate economists, it was found that if "we spent $800 billion over the next ninety years solely on the Gore solution of mitigating carbon emissions, we would rein in temperature increases by just 0.3 degrees by the end of this century." That is a ton of money for an extremely low return.

This is even described in better detail with a specific example, malaria. With climate change, the threat of malaria will increase. Yet Gore's solution would only reduce malaria risk by 0.2 percent. But, if only $3 billion were invested in mosquito nets and medicine, we could reduce malaria cases by half within ten years. It is easy to see where the money should be actually invested. Malaria is but one example of a specific problem that could be better alleviated with an investment of money, gaining a far better return that simply reducing CO2 emissions.

Lomborg offers his own alternative to funding carbon emission reduction. Our money should instead be invested in researching and developing alternative energy, renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and wave. It would also include developing second-generation biofuel from biomass, investing in energy efficiency, fission and fusion, and carbon capture and storage. Lomborg believes the return on these investments would far outweigh any minor benefits derived from simply reducing carbon emissions.

So what are you doing about climate change? Are you blindly following the mantra of reducing your carbon footprint? Or are you really considering the alternatives that exist, which just very well could be a far better solution?

1 comment:

Couves said...

Too many environmentalists have a “stop global warming at all costs” perspective. Lomborg breaks the mold – he has common sense and makes human welfare his bottom line consideration. We need more environmentalists like him.