NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 18, 2007

In dealing with global warming, the world needs to think more rationally about how to tackle the challenge, says Bjorn Lomborg, professor at Copenhagen Business School.

Take flooding, for example:

  • After the 2002 floods of Prague and Dresden, European leaders argued that the floods proved the need for Western governments to commit themselves to Kyoto.
  • Lomborg agrees that global warming increases precipitation; yet to the extent that more precipitation has already increased river flows, it has done so largely in the fall, when rivers are at low levels and there is little risk of flood.
  • Truly bad floods have historically accompanied colder climates, since plentiful snow and a late thaw produce ice jams that block rivers and produce high water levels.
  • These sorts of floods have in fact decreased in the 20th century, at least in part because of global warming.

The picture is the same for other "disasters":

  • Sea levels will rise -- probably about a foot over this century; but they have already risen a foot since 1860, and the world has coped.
  • More people will die from heat; but significantly more people will not die from cold.
  • Glaciers will melt, but they'd be melting to some degree in any event, and in the meantime this melting provides extra water for some of the world's poorest people.

Such a nuanced look at the good and bad of global warming gives Lomborg a chance to pursue his bigger theme: Anti-warming policies (like those of the Kyoto Protocol) that require energy taxes or other checks on economic dynamism are inefficient and even harmful.  They serve as short-term ways of dealing with what is a complex and long-term problem.  They cost a lot now and yet do little to reduce global temperatures in 100 years' time.

Source: Kimberley Strassel, "A Calm Voice in a Heated Debate," Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2007.

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