Break Through

BREAK THROUGH….Bjorn Lomborg took to the pages of the Washington Post Sunday to tell us — yet again — how to react to global warming. Answer: don’t worry about it. We have lots of much bigger problems, and we should spend our money on those instead.

Personally, I’m pretty tired of Lomborg. He has a history of cherry picking his statistics. His whole schtick is based on the disingenuous notion that if Bangladesh gets flooded because of rising sea levels he’ll be the first one banging the drums for Western countries to spend trillions of dollars to help them out. (Sure he will.) And he ignores the small but definitely non-negligible possibility of catastrophic change if global warming enters a positive feedback loop bigger than current models predict.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to see him say this:

Proponents of pacts such as Kyoto want us to spend enormous sums of money doing very little good for the planet a hundred years from now. We need to find a smarter way. The first step is to start focusing our resources on making carbon emissions cuts much easier.

….We need to reduce the cost of cutting emissions from $20 a ton to, say, $2. That would mean that really helping the environment wouldn’t just be the preserve of the rich but could be opened up to everyone else — including China and India, which are expected to be the main emitters of the 21st century but have many more pressing issues to deal with first.

The way to achieve this is to dramatically increase spending on research and development of low-carbon energy. Ideally, every nation should commit to spending 0.05 percent of its gross domestic product exploring non-carbon-emitting energy technologies, be they wind, wave or solar power, or capturing CO2 emissions from power plants. This spending could add up to about $25 billion per year but would still be seven times cheaper than the Kyoto Protocol and would increase global R&D tenfold. All nations would be involved, yet the richer ones would pay the larger share.

Why is this interesting? Because last night I started reading Break Through, by “bad boys of the environment” Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, and that’s pretty much their message too. Environmentalists should quit guilting everyone out in an effort to accomplish the impossible, and should instead devote their energies to promoting paradigm-busting new technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases without hurting economic growth.

So does this mean that N&S will be teaming up with Lomborg in an all-star global warming tour soon? They don’t mention him in the book, so I don’t know. But it’s an interesting thought.

The book itself, by the way, is pretty good so far. N&S have an in-your-face style that, I imagine, has made them plenty of enemies, but that also makes their writing considerably more entertaining than your usual environmental tome. Plus they don’t like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. much, which is a plus in my book. I won’t say anything more about Break Through until I’ve finished it, but at the halfway mark it’s a good read.