NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Myth of Green Energy Security

May 19, 2011

Against the backdrop of the financial crisis, and as public support for climate change policies scrapes new lows in many developed countries, we hear less from leaders about the threat of global warming and more about the supposed economic benefits of climate policies.  This shift is hardly surprising, given the increasing number of analyses that demonstrate that current -- unilateral -- climate policies will have virtually no impact on the rise in global temperature, says Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

The European Union offers a classic illustration of this point.  Its "20-20-20" climate plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, ensure that renewable energy delivers 20 percent of energy consumption, and cut primary energy use by 20 percent.

  • An analysis of the costs and benefits of the policy in 2010 by climate economist Richard Tol showed that the annual price tag would be around 210 billion euro (nearly $300 billion).
  • Running the policy through the RICE climate-economic model reveals that by the end of this century, it will reduce temperature rises by just 0.05 degrees Celsius (0.1 degree Fahrenheit).
  • Undaunted by the policy's utterly feeble impact on global warming, politicians have declared that the policy will at least enhance the EU's energy security.

In many Western countries, policies are increasingly being wrapped in promises of greater energy security rather than in threats of climate catastrophes.  But, because energy security is such a vague concept, these policies are seldom subjected to rigorous scrutiny to determine whether they will live up to politicians' claims, says Lomborg.

Source: Bjørn Lomborg, "The Myth of Green Energy Security," Project Syndicate, May 17, 2011.

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