Don't blame climate change for Hurricane Harvey


Bjorn Lomborg

Making government smarter

Governments spread billions of dollars thinly across education, health, infrastructure and a host of other areas. How could we make this contribution work most productively?

Increase spending on vaccinations or sanitation? Improve school quality or provide legal aid to the poor? Maybe focus on issues that you've likely never heard of, such as limiting indoor air pollution, digitizing land registration, or implementing e-procurement?

In a nine-page essay with Foreign Affairs (here with exclusive, time-limited access), the leading magazine for analysis and debate of foreign policy, economics, and global affairs, Bjorn Lomborg shows how calculating cost-benefit analysis across a wide range of policy proposals can generate amazing returns on investment.

For Bangladesh, this process prompted effective policies, now being put in place. The cost-benefit analyses create a shopping-list for doing good. Not all smart proposals will get implemented, not all bad policies abandoned. But because it identifies some of the best policies available, the benefits can run to billions of dollars of improved lives. 

How extreme rhetoric warps climate policy

Wherever you look, climate campaigners are making dire forecasts for the planet. Even Stephen Hawking, the brilliant astrophysicist, recently declared that President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty “could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees (Celsius), and raining sulfuric acid.” This is just silly.

Lomborg argues in The Australian that climate scares have a real cost. They encourage us to engage in phenomenally expensive and unhelpful climate policies while ignoring the smaller, cheaper and much more realistic ways to respond to both this and challenges that are much more pressing.

Where should governments spend their money?

Bjorn Lomborg recently joined The Economist's podcast The Economist asks to discuss the question: "Poverty, health, education or climate change: where should governments spend their money?" Within each of these areas, some solutions are better than others: shouldn't we do the smart ones first?

In Haiti, for example, Copenhagen Consensus found that government and donors should prioritize reforming the energy sector, fortifying wheat flour, early childhood stimulation, and training first responders. You can listen to the 30-minute podcast here.

Does climate change cause more hurricanes?

A lot of people claim that Hurricane Harvey is caused by climate change. However, looking historically at the data of US landfalling hurricanes, in particular the major ones, it's clear that there are fewer, not more, hurricanes today than in the past. There is a chance that global warming will, in the long run, create slightly stronger hurricanes, but they are certainly becoming less frequent.

In order to help future victims of hurricanes, focusing on climate change is the most expensive way to help the fewest people. Instead, we should focus on better infrastructure, porous surfaces, drainage, levees and dams, better building codes, and better zoning, as Lomborg explains on France24.

A development investment for the ages

Malnutrition receives less attention than most of the world’s other major challenges. It is one area where a relatively small investment can have the most powerful impact. Copenhagen Consensus research has repeatedly shown that measures to combat malnutrition are among the most cost-effective options.

Fortunately, this research has made a real impact on policy: billions of dollars have been pledged to fight malnutrition in Bangladesh, Haiti and at a global level.

Read Bjorn Lomborg's new column for Project Syndicate in six languages. It was published by newspapers around the world, including Shanghai Daily (China), New Vision (Uganda), El Tiempo (Colombia), La Nacion (Costa Rica), New Times (Rwanda), Tageblatt (Luxembourg), My Republica (Nepal), Iran Daily,

One planet is enough

We often hear the story of humans voraciously exploiting the world’s resources and living way beyond Earth’s means. On “Earth Overshoot Day”, campaigners claimed that we have already exhausted this year’s supply of natural resources by August 2.

But such claims unreasonably assume that CO₂ emissions should be soaked up by forests (meaning we would have to plant forest on more area than there is earth). Yet, we could plant wind turbines, solar panels or nuclear power plants on a tiny fraction of that area, achieve the same thing, and not run out of Earth.

As Lomborg explains in an article for Forbes (also available in French language) and a TV interview with France24, instead of panicking over unrealistic prophecies of unsustainable footprints, we should focus on pulling millions more out of poverty while funding the sort of innovation that will eliminate future risks of pollution and make our land more productive.

Lomborg on social media:

Congrats to India: All-time record crop

Global child mortality over time

A wrong study timed just for great coverage

Organics use 70% more land to produce same amount of food

More energy means less poverty

It takes half as much farmland to feed one person as it did 50 years ago

World population living in extreme poverty, 1820-2015

Is climate change cutting crop yields in Africa?

Kyoto had no verifiable effect on CO₂ emissions

More global articles and interviews:

Pariser Klimaabkommen ist nicht die Lösung
Die Presse (Austria)

Sund ernæring til småbørn er verdens bedste investering
Borsen (Denmark)

Le «morti per caldo» fanno notizia, ma il freddo è un nemico peggiore
Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy)

Aprender de la malaria
El Pais (Spain)

Otra mentira incómoda del ex vicepresidente Al Gore
Milenio (Mexico)

To ni lažna novica: mraz je večji ubijalec od vročine!
Vecer (Slovenia)

Aprender com a malária
Jornal de Negocios (Portugal)

Zrobić więcej za mniej dla Haiti
Listy z naszego sadu (Poland)

La comida ecológica, hasta 660 euros más cara al año
El Comercio (Spain)

What Dhaka’s transport system might be like in 2019
Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

About Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus 

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg researches the smartest ways to improve the environment and the world, and has repeatedly been named one of Foreign Policy’s top 100 public intellectuals.

He is the author of several best-selling books, an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and works regularly with many of the world’s top economists, including seven Nobel Laureates.

His think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, was ranked by the University of Pennsylvania as one of the world’s "Top 25 Environmental Think Tanks".

Lomborg is a frequent commentator in print and broadcast media, for outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, CNN, FOX, and the BBC. His monthly column is published in 19 languages, in 30+ newspapers with more than 30 million readers globally.
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