Exaggerated Global Warming Claims May Lead to Poor Policy

January 31, 2013

President Obama doubled-down on his commitment to "respond to the threat of climate change" during his second inaugural address, which included powerful references to the scariest and most salient examples of what we think to be global warming's effects. However, Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, takes exception to President Obama's rhetorical exaggerations and advocates for more sensible thinking in the global warming discussion.

Consider this:

  • The number of global wildfires has decreased by 15 percent since peaking in 1950.
  • A Nature in November study states that the incidence of drought has not changed substantially in the past six decades. The U.N. Climate Panel in 2012 notes that while droughts are more intense and frequent in some places, they are weaker and less frequent in other places.
  • Despite the massive damage inflicted, the United States is actually at the lowest point of hurricane activity, measured by total energy, since the 1970s.
  • The Nature in November study estimates that global damage cost as a percentage of gross domestic product will drop by 0.02 percent by 2100, despite global warming.

Lomborg is clear when he states that climate change is an important issue that should be addressed. However, he believes that the fear-mongering often employed by global warming advocates when they mention out-of-control natural disasters does not contribute to a useful discussion on how to formulate our response to changes in our climate. Instead, policymakers should consider these options:

  • Better building codes, improving infrastructure and eliminating subsidies for hurricane insurance could reduce hurricane storm damage.
  • Subsidies for wind and solar power cannot drive demand for renewable energy and need to be eliminated. The International Energy Agency estimates that wind energy will generate just 2.4 percent of the world's energy while solar will generate just 1 percent.

Source: Bjørn Lomborg, "Climate-Change Misdirection," Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2013.

 

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