NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 2, 2009

In the West, campaigners for carbon regulations point out that global warming will increase the number of malaria victims.  This is often used as an argument for drastic, immediate carbon cuts, says Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

Warmer, wetter weather will improve conditions for the malaria parasite:

  • Most estimates suggest that global warming will put 3 percent more of the Earth's population at risk of catching malaria by 2100. If we invest in the most efficient, global carbon cuts -- designed to keep temperature rises under two degrees Celsius -- we would spend a massive $40 trillion a year by 2100.
  • In the best case scenario, we would reduce the at-risk population by only 3 percent.

In comparison:

  • Research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the number of those infected with malaria within one decade.
  • For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives.

Malaria is only weakly related to temperature; it is strongly related to poverty, says Lomborg.  It has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years not because of global warming, but because of failing medical response.  The mainstay treatment, chloroquine, is becoming less and less effective.  The malaria parasite is becoming resistant, and there is a need for new, effective combination treatments based on artemisinin, which is unfortunately about 10 times more expensive.

Spending money on global warming would do very little for sub-Saharan Africa.  However, for a lot less, we could achieve a lot more, says Lomborg.

Source: Bjorn Lomborg, "Climate Change and Malaria in Africa," Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2009.

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